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Future models - Chery - J1

Chery almost here

Coming January: Chinese car-maker Chery's J1 will be launched in Australia in January by Ateco, which also has another Chinese brand in the pipeline.

Australia’s first Chinese passenger car nears as Chery passes ADR hurdle

Chery logo27 Sep 2010

By MARTON PETTENDY

CHINA’S largest vehicle exporter has finally received official federal regulatory approval to sell its first wares in Australia, paving the way for the release of Australia’s first Chinese passenger car and the nation’s second Chinese vehicle brand.

However, the Australian distributor of vehicles from Chery and Great Wall Motors – which last year became the first Chinese brand to be launched in Australia – will delay the local release of Chery’s J1 city-car and J11 mini-crossover until January at the earliest.

Ateco Automotive signed its original distribution agreement with Chery in November 2005 and had planned to launch the first Chery cars here in early 2009, but was scuppered by the global financial crisis, a weak Australian currency and delays in obtaining Australian Design Rule certification.

Now, after deciding not to launch Chery at the Sydney motor show in October and postponing its planned November release date, Ateco says it is on target to introduce its first two Chery models here by February, following the receipt of ADR homologation for the J1 and J11.

“It has been a long road, but things have now moved on well with Chery” Ateco spokesman Daniel Cotterill told GoAuto.

62 center imageFrom top: Chery J11, Great Wall V240, Great Wall X240.



“Given we would have pushed right up against Christmas, we decided it’s better to launch in January or early February. We want to make sure we’re not up against the holidays.”

Great Wall was the first Chinese vehicle brand to be sold in Australia, in the form of two cut-price dual-cab utilities released in mid-2009. The cheapest ute – the SA220 – was criticised for its sub-standard two-star ANCAP crash rating and was subsequently recalled to repair faulty seatbelts.

The newer and more expensive V240 dual-cab, however, has since been joined by a single-cab rear-drive variant priced at $20,990 drive-away, with both models consistently attracting more than 200 sales per month this year.

Released last December, Great Wall’s X240 compact SUV ($23,990 drive-away) has proved even more popular, with more than 2200 sold to August this year, bringing Great Wall’s 2010 sales total to 4267 vehicles.

Great Wall plans to broaden its Australian range this year by releasing cab-chassis and diesel variants of the V240, a diesel-engined X240 and its first passenger car, the Voleex light-car, which was previously known as the Phenom and will come with a 1.5-litre petrol engine and both manual and CVT automatic transmissions.

Several other Chinese brands – including Lifan and Geely – were expected to be launched Down Under this year, but Lifan's local importer has now confirmed to GoAuto that it has cancelled plans to launch the small 520 sedan, despite having already received ADR approval.

Now, Ateco hopes its first Chinese passenger car – known as the A1 in China – and the small J11 crossover (based on the Chinese domestic market Tiggo3) will launch the Chery brand with a bang in Australia, before being joined by the larger J3 small-car later this year.

As with the passenger cars from Great Wall, which is also assessing its Corolla-sized C30 small-car for sale in Australia, expect the pricing of Chery models to undercut their most direct rivals from Korean brands like Hyundai and Kia, without sacrificing standard equipment levels.

The Yaris-sized J1 five-door hatchback – aimed directly at entry-level three-door versions of the Hyundai Getz, priced from $12,990 drive-away – will be powered by a 62kW 1.3-litre petrol four-cylinder engine matched exclusively with a five-speed manual transmission.

It measures a pint-sized 3713mm long, 1578mm wide, 1575mm high and rides on a 2390mm wheelbase.

Meantime, the J11 five-door wagon – which will compete with small SUVs like Great Wall’s X240 and front-wheel drive versions of Nissan’s Dualis and Mitsubishi’s new ASX –will offer 100kW 2.0-litre petrol power with both five-speed manual and four-speed automatic transmissions.

The front-drive-only J11 measures 4285mm long, 1765mm wide and 1716mm high, and rides on a 2510mm wheelbase, with ground clearance of just 168mm – only 8mm more than the J1.

Both models will come standard in Australia with twin front airbags and ABS brakes, while Mr Cotterill said electronic stability control would be fitted “in line with whatever the legislation is”, referring to the Victorian government’s mandate for standard ESC in all passengers cars sold in that state from February 2011.

Both the J1 and J11 will also come standard with air-conditioning, power windows and mirrors, remote central locking and alloy wheels – 14-inch for the J1 and 16-inch for the J11 – while front foglights will be one of the few options.

The Corolla-sized 1.6-litre petrol-engined J3 small-car will arrive within three to four months of the J1 and J11 launch, with manual and CVT transmissions, standard ESC and twin front and side airbags.

Ateco expects Chery – which will be represented by about 50 dealers nationally – to become Australia’s largest Chinese vehicle franchise as it targets the highest-volume vehicle segments here with a range of 28 cars, people-movers, utes, vans and trucks.

It has projected about 7000 Chery sales in the first full year of sales, with possible annual sales of up to 50,000 within five years.

Both Chery and Great Wall are also developing all-electric passenger vehicles and Ateco has committed to releasing a Chinese EV in Australia in 2011.

While Chery is China’s largest vehicle exporter, Great Wall – China’s largest manufacturer of pick-ups and SUVs – has annual production capacity for 500,000 vehicles and hopes to expand that to 800,000 by 2011.

Australia’s new-vehicle market topped one million for the first time in 2008, but more than 13 million vehicles were sold in China last year, when it replaced North America as the world’s largest vehicle market.

This year, more than 16 million vehicles could be sold in China.

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