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Ateco locks in third Chinese brand

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.

Third unnamed Chinese vehicle brand to join Great Wall and Chery in 2011

19 Oct 2010

THE company that brought Great Wall Motors (GWM) to Australia last year and plans to introduce Chery here in January has confirmed it will launch a third Chinese vehicle brand Down Under next year.

Independent new-vehicle distributor Ateco Automotive has confirmed a January 19 release date for the Chery range, which as we’ve previously reported will comprise the light-sized J1 hatchback and J11 compact SUV from launch.

Chery’s Toyota Corolla-sized J3 small car will join the Australian line-up next year, when Chery becomes the second Chinese brand to become available here nation-wide.

While Lifan has aborted its planned release of the 520 small sedan this year, the fledgling Geely brand has received federal design approval for its first passenger vehicle but will start only in West Australia before expanding into the eastern states next year.

Also in the Chinese pipeline for Australia in 2011 via importer White Motor Corporation are vans and buses from the Higer brand and Cummins-engined trucks from JAC.

Now, Ateco Automotive governing director Neville Crichton has confirmed his company will launch its third unnamed Chinese automotive brand in Australia next year, this time with a range of five-tonne and seven-tonne trucks.

62 center imageFrom top: Chery J1, Chery J3, Chery J11, Ateco Group governing director Neville Crichton.

“We will launch a third Chinese brand in Australia in the third quarter of next year,” said Mr Crichton, who would not reveal the name of the brand.

Before then, Mr Crichton said the local availability of diesel engines and automatic transmissions for both the X240 compact SUV and V240 utilities in the first quarter of 2011 – plus the release of Great Wall’s first passenger vehicle, the 1.5-litre Voleex light-car, in June – would see Great Wall reach 20,000 sales here next year.

“Right now Great Wall plays in about five per cent of the market, but soon we’ll play in 100 per cent,” Mr Crichton told GoAuto.

“We feel it (Great Wall) will do at least 20,000 next year. No other brand has done that in two years. We’re very proud of that. We’re very, very excited with the new products.”

The Toyota 4Runner-based X240 is currently available only with a 2.4-litre Mitsubishi-sourced petrol engine, but has already earned a three per cent share of Australia’s booming compact SUV segment.

In China, where the $23,990 (drive-away) X240 is known as the Hover, two TCI turbo-diesel engines are offered, in 2.5-litre and 2.8-litre displacements. One of them will be offered with an automatic transmission in Australia’s X240 by the end of March.

Sales of the V240 ute, meantime, slipped back a little to 375 units in September, but the petrol-only light commercial vehicle still helped Great Wall to a 2.7 per cent share of the LCV market last month – well above its 1.8 per cent average this year.

The availability a GWM-designed 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine, to be matched with an automatic transmission for the first time a month later, is expected to significantly broaden the appeal of Great Wall’s dual-cab V240 and its single-cab derivative launched in January.

Mr Crichton said Ateco remained on target to launch Australia’s first Chinese-built electric vehicle (EV) by the end of 2011, but would not name the brand behind it.

He said the Chery brand would be represented by 60 dealers nationally from late January, in addition to the 67 dealers that now retails GWM vehicles.

“We’re happy with the (Australian) dollar the way it is,” he said. “All of our dealers profitable and extremely happy.”

So far this year GWM has sold just under 5000 vehicles in Australia, including almost 2500 X240s, nearly 1200 V420 4x2s, close to 1000 V240 4x4s and 300 examples of the discontinued SA220 ute, which was recalled for seatbelt repairs after a sub-standard two-star ANCAP safety result before being discontinued in July.

Mr Crichton said warranty claims from Great Wall customers had so far been “not a problem”, partly because of their proven Mitsubishi powertrains and partly because, typically, those buyers had lower expectations than other new-vehicle purchasers.

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