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Corolla challenger: Next year's Chery A5 sedan should set new price and equipment standards in the small-car class.

Chery’s Australian line-up firms up for early 2009, as new model avalanche nears

29 Apr 2008

ATECO Automotive has confirmed the starting line-up for Australia’s first Chinese vehicle brand – fresh from returning from pricing negotiations and last weekend’s Beijing motor show in China, where Chery brandished a future product portfolio comprising no fewer than 16 new models.

While the all-new Faira small-car range unveiled at Beijing will not be part of the three-model range that will launch here by March 2009, Chery’s initial line-up will swell beyond the light-sized A1 hatch, the small A5 sedan and the compact Tiggo crossover before the end of next year.

But GoAuto can also confirm they won’t carry those nameplates here – not because Audi can prevent Ateco from using them, but because they will be dropped in favour of another “less confusing” alpha-numeric model naming convention.

Commercial vehicles are also part of Ateco’s plan for Chery in Australia, but the brand’s launch range, which will make its Australian public debut at the 2009 Melbourne motor show, will be opened by the manual-only 1.3-litre A1 hatch.

Ateco Automotive managing director Ric Hull told GoAuto that it will not import the least-powerful 1.1-litre version of the A1, and that sales of the A1 1.3 would be limited by the unavailability of an automatic transmission.

“I worry when we get down to 1.1 litres and those sorts of things, but I think 1.3-litre and up is certainly acceptable in this market,” he said.

“I don’t believe the 1.3 is available with auto at this juncture. Yes, the non-availability (of an auto) is always restrictive in this market.” Mr Hull again moved to pre-empt speculation of a price war with Korean brands like Hyundai and Kia, which Ateco distributed in Australia until 2005, by saying the A1 would not be a $9990 proposition.

62 center imageTop to bottom: A1, Tiggo, Faira SUV and YY.

Currently the cheapest car available in Australia is Holden’s Korean-built Barina three-door manual ($13,690), with Hyundai’s Getz 1.4 S three-door manual and the Malaysian-sourced Proton Savvy 1.2 five-door manual both also priced at $13,990. Asked if the A1 would undercut the likes of Barina and Getz, Mr Hull said: “I’d love to think it could, but I really don’t know at this point.

“What I’m really trying to say is I’m not expecting to wildly undercut the market – I’m not expecting a $9990 car from China.” Mr Hull said the A1, like all Chery models, would carry a “similar” price to its rivals, but would offer a superior level of standard specification. “We haven’t finalised any negotiations on pricing with Chery, but that’s my guess – that’s where I think we’ll end up,” he said.

As we reported more than a month ago, when GoAuto exclusively revealed the arrival of China’s number four car-maker next year, the Bertone-designed A1 was revealed at the 2007 Shanghai auto show as one of Chery’s key export models – and the model to be sold as a Dodge in the US.

The front-drive five-door hatchback’s SQR-series 1.3-litre four-cylinder 16-valve DOHC petrol engine produces 61kW at 6000rpm and 114Nm at 3800-4500rpm. Paired with the standard five-speed manual gearbox, the 3700mm-long, 1040kg A1 returns fuel consumption of around 6.0L/100km.

In China, ABS with EBD are available as an option. Other safety equipment includes dual front airbags, a tyre pressure warning device and reverse parking radars, but Mr Hull was unsure of the availability of side curtain airbags or electronic stability control (ESC), which is available on the Getz as an option.

“I don’t know the answer to that (ESC), to be honest – we’re just not that far down the pike on spec.

It’s always a combined negotiation – pricing and specification. We’re just not at that point yet.” Further upstream, both the A5 sedan and Tiggo SUV will come powered by 2.0-litre engines, mated to both five-speed manual and four-speed automatic transmissions.

The A5 four-door is 4552mm long, features four-wheel disc brakes, standard ABS/EBD and should come powered by a 95kW/180Nm SQR-series 2.0-litre four that returns around 7.2L/100km. China’s A5 can also be had in 1.6 and 1.8-litre forms.

The Tiggo is available in China with four petrol engines and late last year became the first Chinese vehicle to be assembled in Europe, where it is sold with a Fiat-built 1.9-litre common-rail turbo-diesel engine. Its Australian fate is not known, but the Tiggo 2.0 offers 92kW and 168Nm. Another non-SQR SOHC engine is available in China (a Mitsubishi-sourced 2.4), as are 1.6 and 1.8-litre SQR engines, which are manual-only.

Both 2WD and 4WD versions of the Tiggo are available in China, where it measures 4285mm long and weighs up to 1475kg. The monocoque-chassis Tiggo scores all-independent suspension, twin front airbags and ABS/EBD as standard in China.

Mr Hull said the A1, A5 and Tiggo were currently being complied with ECE standards, which are about 85 per cent compatible with Australian Design Rules.

“ADR is a procedure that takes several weeks, but it won’t be a factor that delays our launch,” he said. “We’ll get into that now and there’s plenty of time to still meet a first quarter next year launch.” Asked if Ateco would employ the A1, A5 and Tiggo model names in Australia, Mr Hull said: “Probably not. It’s too confusing with other things that are in the marketplace.” He said Audi was likely to object to the use of the A-prefixed model nomenclature, “but you can actually register or preserve nomenclature like A1 or A3 or A anything by itself.

“We’re not thinking of persevering with those names anyway. I think there’s got to be some logic to it and names like Tiggo probably don’t gel with buyers either.

“We’ll come up with some form of nomenclature. They may not be names – we may go for some other sort of alpha-numeric identification,” said Mr Hull.

Asked if they were the only Chery models Australians would have access to in 2009, Mr Hull said: “I don’t think so – I think there’s more.

“They’re taking a lot about 16 new models coming in a fairly short space of time. They’re got to be right-hand drive and so on for us as well. I don’t know what we’ve got available to us after those initial three models, but there’s plenty coming.” Mr Hull said more Chery passenger cars would be launched in 2009, but that Ateco was also keen to expand the range to include commercial vehicles, including the Toyiota HiAce-rivalling F22, which is believed to be a commercial version of the Riich8 people-mover.

“They’ve got quite an attractive van but I don’t know if it’s available in right-hand drive.

We would love to see it here as a blind van, based on the success of the (Kia) Pregio when we had it.

“And they’ve got a smaller van, that’s a bit more conventional. The Chery A18 is a small, passenger car-derivative with sliding side doors and we’d love to get that, but again I’m not sure it’s going to be available in right-hand drive,” he said.

Mr Hull said the all-new Faira range of small cars revealed at Beijing was an interesting proposition for the future.

“I thought they were interesting vehicles. Some might be a little bit small for our market but some may be appropriate. They haven’t been offered to us at this point, although no-one’s saying they won’t be available, but certainly they’re not in the initial offering of models.

“We’d certainly look at them,” said Mr Hull.

Ateco will not reveal its sales ambitions for the Chery brand here, but expects to launch with 50 to 60 outlets before expanding the national Chery dealer network to an eventual 120.

Read more:

Beijing show: Chery to get Faira

Chinese cars here in a year

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