Future Models - Foton 2012 P201
Foton aims high with ute
Coming soon: The Foton ute - codenamed P201 - will be much closer to matching its Japanese rivals on safety and performance than those currently available from other fellow Chinese brands.
Chinese truck giant Foton to target Japanese utes with new range here in six months
21 June 2011
THE Chinese-made Foton utility that will break the ice for the Beijing-based company’s light truck range in Australia in January 2012 is being benchmarked against the best Japanese one-tonners and designed specifically for western tastes.
Mindful that other Chinese brands have struggled to achieve more than marginal safety standards and basic quality in foreign territory, Foton Motor Co set out to engineer its new light truck to western standards from the ground up, targeting a four-star NCAP crash safety rating and Euro 5 exhaust emissions from its diesel engine.
In doing so, the company has tapped major American, Japanese and European suppliers to provide the entire powertrain, from the engines and transmissions to the 4x4 transfer case and axle assemblies.
About halfway in size between traditional Japanese one-tonne utilities – such as the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger – and full-sized American pick-ups such as the Toyota Tundra and Ford F-Series, the Foton load-lugger (codenamed P201) is claimed to be a class above the likes of Great Wall Motors’ V240 in both size and engineering, and will likely be priced accordingly.
While Great Wall offers single-cab and double-cab configurations, Foton will go one better with an extra-cab as well in its three-body range, along with a diesel option alongside a standard four-cylinder petrol engine right from launch.
Dual airbags, ABS brakes and electronic brake-force distribution will be standard fare, as will passenger-car-style cabin amenity, according to Australian importer WMC Group.
The Foton ute – which is still cloaked in secrecy in China, where it is in final testing – will be billed as a rugged workhorse with high levels of durability, particularly models powered by the new-generation Cummins ISF diesel.
This 2.8-litre four-cylinder powerplant – the newest engine from the world’s biggest diesel engine maker – is said to generate 120kW of power and about 360Nm of torque.
That puts it in the same league as most mainstream diesels available in Japanese one-tonners, such as HiLux’s 126kW/343Nm 3.0-litre and Mitsubishi Triton’s 136kW/400Nm 2.5-litre, although well short of Nissan’s 170kW/550Nm range-topper in the European-made Nissan Navara ST-X.
The Foton ute is thought to be the world’s first pick-up application of the Chinese-made Cummins ISF engine, although six-cylinder light-duty Cummins diesels power variants of the Dodge Ram.
Foton is expected to apply the same engine to an SUV spun off from the ute, as well as a delivery van that it has under separate development. Both of these new-generation vehicles are destined for Australia, too.
The ute’s Cummins engine will be available in two states of tune – 96kW and 120kW – with the latter powering Foton’s flagship pick-up, the 4x4 double-cab.
This vehicle, aimed at weekday tradies and weekend warriors, will feature electronically controlled 4x4 selection, as well LSD axles from US specialist Dana, which also supplies other major motor companies.
Ground clearance is a handy 220mm, and payload capacity is said to be “up to 1000kg” – presumably for the workhorse single-cab model.
Braked towing capacity is claimed to be 3000kg – superior to the HiLux’s 2250kg and similar to most versions of the Navara.
The petrol engine to be offered in the Foton ute is the ubiquitous Mitsubishi 100kW 2.4-litre four-cylinder that is the motor of choice for many Chinese ute and SUV manufacturers.
This engine not only powers the Great Wall range offered in Australia but also the upcoming ZX Auto utes and SUVs to be offered around Australia from later this year.
Foton is said to be working on its own petrol engine, although that remains unsighted.
It is also working on other export quality models to be built at its all-new factory that is nearing completion near Beijing.
These are expected to include at least one small passenger car – Foton’s first – but that is not a certainty for Australia.
WMC Group CEO Jason Pecotic told GoAuto that his company’s commitment to Foton was only for the light commercial vehicles.
“I haven’t got many details on the car yet because all we have done is tie ourselves to the actual pick-up range and the SUV and van,” he said.
Mr Pecotic said his company would watch developments in Foton passenger cars before considering expanding the range.
He said WMC was also not considering importing a bus and people-movers made by Foton, saying not all vehicles were suitable for Australia.
“If you look at JAC, Higer and Foton, they all manufacture buses, but the buses that Foton and JAC make are years away from the Australian market,” he said.
Mr Pecotic said that while WMC was always looking at what was available in China, it had no plans to seek out other brands, and would concentrate on Higer, JAC and Foton.