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Future models - JAC - Reni

Four-way battle looms in Chinese utes

And JAC makes four: The Chinese ute rush shows now signs of waining with confirmation that the JAC Reni pick-up is on its way.

JAC to become fourth Chinese ute brand in Australia with Reni pick-up

JAC logo19 Dec 2011

AUSTRALIA will have four Chinese ute brands within 18 months, with JAC Motors’ Reni pick-up confirmed to join the local fray against similar offerings from Great Wall, ZX Auto and Foton.

The JAC ute will be imported by Sydney-based WMC Group under a deal done personally with JAC Motors chairman Zuo Yan’an when he visited Australia last month.

Chairman Zuo also put the seal on plans to export not one but two JAC vans – the Hyundai iLoad-style M2 and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter-like Sunray – to Australia from the second half of next year.

The JAC ute – sometimes known as the Reni in China – will be offered in double-cab and single-cab guises with 4x4 and 4x2 drivetrains when it hits Australian showrooms in the first half of 2013.

The ute import rights door was opened when WMC tore up its distribution agreement for the rival Foton ute range after failing to come to terms on pricing for the Foton Tunland that will now be handled by Gold Coast start-up company FAA (Foton Auto Australia).

WMC already has an agreement to distribute JAC’s light-duty truck range – to be launched at the Melbourne truck show in March – and next year’s two JAC vans.

WMC CEO Jason Pecotic said the JAC pick-up would fill the void left by Foton in the WMC portfolio, which also includes an expanding Higer bus line-up and a Joylong van range that is set to go on sale in March.

He said that when JAC learned that WMC had severed its agreement with Foton recently, the JAC company chairman quickly offered to begin preparing a right-hand drive version of its pick-up for Australian distribution.

Timing for the JAC ute range is yet to be locked in, but a launch in the second quarter of 2013 is most likely.

JAC Motors – full name Jianghuai Auto Company – is China’s biggest producer of light-duty trucks, but also builds a full range of passenger cars, people-movers, utes, buses and vans.

63 center imageFrom top: JAC M2 van exterior and interior, JAC Sunray van exterior and interior, JAC light-duty truck.

In 2010, the state-owned company turned out 460,000 vehicles from its factories in Anhui province – west of Shanghai – placing it in China’s top 10 auto manufacturers.

In China, the JAC pick-up is offered with a choice of four-cylinder 68kW/210Nm 2.8-litre diesel and 78kW/190Nm 2.3-litre petrol engines with a five-speed manual transmission.

For Australia, a 2.8-litre Cummins diesel is likely to be offered, along with JAC’s own smaller diesel and petrol engines, with the petrol engine going up against the Mitsubishi-sourced 2.4-litre powerplant favoured by Great Wall for its existing V240 ute range and ZX Auto for its Grand Tiger, which is expected to touch down in the new Geely distribution network in the first half of 2012.

The JAC ute – which the company’s official website says is built on the “newest D-Max pick-up wide-body design” – has styling reminiscent of a Chevrolet Silverado pick-up, although the Chinese ute is smaller, in line with rivals from Great Wall and ZX Auto.

WMC is preparing to announce a 26-strong JAC dealer network across Australia in the New Year.

The network includes many dealers who already handle the existing Higer bus range, but not all of these dealers will get the full JAC truck/van/ute model line-up.

WMC says the dealers are all keen to get the whole range, but it would be horses for courses.

The JAC truck line-up – which originally was to be launched in Australia in the first half of 2011 – will finally kick-off in March after last-minute cosmetic tweaks based on feedback from the Australian market.

Powered by Euro 4 emissions-compliant Cummins 3.8-litre and 2.8-litre engines, the truck range will be expanded with further models, including a narrow-cab truck from the second quarter.

Two JAC vans are under preparation for Australia – the M2 (also known in China as the Refine) to go up against the Hyundai iLoad/iMax, and a larger hi-roof van called Sunray, in the mould of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.

The vans will be offered in people-mover and cargo-carrier styles, with the smaller M2 expected to arrive first, in the third quarter of 2012, and followed by the Sunray in the final quarter.

Said to have been designed in JAC’s Turin styling centre in Italy, the M2 was unveiled at the 2011 Shanghai motor show in April, following in the wheel tracks of the JAC M1 that has been China’s top-selling MPV for nine years.

In China, the M2 is powered by a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine producing 120kW of power at 5400rpm and 235Nm of torque at 3500-4500rpm, mated with a six-speed manual gearbox.

A 1.9-litre diesel was also revealed in the Shanghai show car, although the JAC website makes no mention of that in the showroom vehicle.

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