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Chinese Chery not on top yet

Waiting: The Chery A1 is bound for Australia this year, as long as design certification is completed.

Slimmer Chery range still due here this year, pending ADR approval for A1, Tiggo3

30 Mar 2009

AUSTRALIA’S first taste of cars from China’s largest vehicle exporter, Chery, will come in the form of just two models that could be delayed by up to 12 months.

The fourth-largest – and biggest independent – Chinese automotive brand was to have sold its first vehicles in Australia by now, but is yet to submit the Australian Design Rule (ADR) documentation required for it to do so.

Ateco Automotive owner and governing director Neville Crichton signed a memorandum of understanding with Chery Automobile Company to distribute its vehicles in Australia and New Zealand more than three years ago in China, in November 2005.

The distribution agreement was executed 12 months ago, in March 2008, when Ateco officially announced it would import two small Chery passenger cars and a small SUV by early 2009.

This year’s Melbourne motor show was widely expected to have hosted the launch of Chery as Australia’s first Chinese car brand, but that plan – and another to import a subsequently revealed Great Wall Motors utility late last year – was put on hold when the value of the Australian currency began to decline.

The weaker Aussie dollar also forced the indefinite postponement of plans by another Sydney company to import Lifan cars here this year.

Ateco managing director Ric Hull revealed last month that Chery had yet to submit the necessary ADR paperwork to DOTARS, but said the brand was still on target to be launched in the third quarter of this year.

Volkswagen was the first car-maker to sell a Chinese-built car in Australia (the Polo sedan in 2004), but the honour of being the first Chinese branded vehicles to be sold here now goes to Great Wall Motors, after confirmation this week from Ateco that two ADR-complied utilities from its other Chinese automotive partner would arrive in June (see separate story).

62 center imageLeft: Chery Tiggo3.

Now it seems there is no guarantee Chery will even be launched here this year.

“We’re still very keen to have Chery on the marketplace by the end of the year,” Mr Hull told GoAuto this week.

“They have not yet completed the paperwork for ADR submission, so the timing is really more in their hands more than ours. They’re making progress, but they’re still not anything like the level of completion that Great Wall has achieved.” Ateco this week also confirmed Chery would launch with just two models in Australia. As previously reported, Ateco had targeted the light-sized A1 hatch, small A5 sedan and Tiggo3 SUV, but now it appears the A5 is off the menu.

“I think we’d try and have at least a couple of models in the line – the A1 certainly and the small 4x4 codenamed T11,” said Mr Hull.

“We’re not sure about the A5 at this stage. We’re keeping our options open on the A5.” Mr Hull suggested the most likely Chery models to be sold in Australia were yet to be exported, but would not comment further.

“They’re launching a lot of new models – we’d want to have a look at them too.” Chery plans to increase its annual production capacity from 650,000 in 2007, when China was the world’s second largest automotive market with 8.8 million new-vehicle sales, to more than a million within a few years. Last year it revealed it would release 38 new models over the next five years as part of an ambitious export program.

Less than two weeks ago on March 19 the company announced the establishment of two further sub-brands in addition to its Karry light commercial nameplate: the Riich luxury brand and the Rely business fleet brand.

The Riich marque was launched with its first model, the G6 – a five-metre-long sedan powered by Chery’s own EU4-compliant petrol engines, including a 143kW 3.0-litre V6 and a 125kW 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder. A total of 18 engines are also due to be developed with Austria’s AVL under the Acteco name, including a turbo-diesel.

Chery’s first rival for the likes of BMW and Audi will feature adjustable damping for its double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension systems, bi-Xenon headlights, LED tail-lights, “a slew of” airbags and a standard equipment list including tyre pressure monitoring, a rear-view camera and powered seats.

Chery demonstrated its hybrid technology at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where a fleet of petrol-electric A5s developed with supplier Ricardo were used as official vehicles and revealed its first plug-in hybrid model, the S18, in February.

As we reported then, Ateco is in talks about introducing the S18 once Chery is established here, if right-hand drive production and local recharging infrastructure can be assured. Chery says the S18, the second EV to be announced by a Chinese car company, is capable of 120km/h and a range of 150km on its lithium-ion batteries.

Last year a subsidiary of rechargeable battery maker BYD Co, BYD Auto, launched its plug-in hybrid car, the F3DM, and is scheduled to launch its first all-electric car, the E6, in China in the second half of 2009.

Meantime, China’s largest auto-maker, SAIC Motor Corp, said last November it would develop hybrid and electric vehicles in a joint-venture deal with its state-owned parent company.

Chery used the 2008 Beijing motor show to reveal the new Faira small-car family comprising seven B-segment models including the Faira BB entry-level two-seater hatchback, its Faira NN five-door sibling, the light-sized Faira HH sedan, the Faira JJ compact crossover and the lower-roofed Faira YY three-door coupe and cabrio.

Founded in 1997 by the Anhui Provincial Government and now scheduled to be privatised, Chery built its first car in December 1999, and in 2007 produced a total of 381,000. Chery became China’s first (and remains its largest) car exporter in 2001, and in 2007 shipped 120,000 vehicles abroad.

As previously reported, Chery’s A1 front-wheel-drive five-door hatchback was unveiled at the 2007 Shanghai auto show as “epoch-making” export product styled by Italian design house Bertone.

The 1040kg A1 rests on a 2390mm wheelbase and is 3700mm long, 1578mmm wide and 1527mm high. It is available in China with a 1.1 and two 1.3-litre DOHC four-cylinder petrol engines.

The Tiggo3, meantime, rides on a 2510mm wheelbase and is 4285mm long, 1765mm wide and 1705mm high. Kerb weights range between 1375 and 1475kg and both two-wheel-drive and 4WD versions are available in China.

Read more:

Chery electric car on importer’s Chinese wishlist

Chinese off the menu – for now

Reputation of Chinese cars at risk

Exclusive: China's Lifan 520 now ADR-certified

First look: Chery set for global hybrid car rollout

Great Wall case dismissed

Chinese whispers

Chinese cars here in a year

Geely for Oz

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