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China’s JAC set to say g’day

Latest entrant: Chinese manufacturer JAC will launch a range of passenger cars - possibly including the J3 (left) - in Australia.

Chinese JAC passenger cars locked and loaded for Australian launch in 2012

3 May 2011

TOP 10 Chinese vehicle manufacturer Jianghuai Automobile Co (JAC) is set to launch its passenger car range in Australia within 18 months, becoming the fourth car-maker from the world’s biggest motor market to lock in its car export plans for this country.

The JAC range of cars and SUVs will be imported by Sydney-based WMC Group, which is already gearing up to introduce JAC trucks and vans in the second half of this year alongside its existing Higer Chinese bus import business.

JAC cars will go head to head with existing Chinese light-vehicle brands Great Wall Motors, Chery and Geely, which all have major model expansion plans in place for Australia in the next two years.

WMC Group managing director Jason Pecotic confirmed to GoAuto that the deal to extend the JAC distribution deal beyond trucks to light passenger cars had been signed in February, with JAC selecting two car platforms to be developed in both right- and left-hand-drive for western markets, including Australia, and exported by the fourth quarter of next year.

This means WMC – formerly known as White Motor Corporation – will have exclusive rights to distribute all vehicles under the JAC brand across Australia and New Zealand.

63 center imageFrom top: JAC J3 interior, J2 light-car, J5 sedan, J5 RS compact people-mover, S1 compact SUV, M2 people-mover, Multivan.

JAC, best known as China’s second-largest truck-maker and number-one truck exporter, already offers nine passenger vehicles in China, ranging from a Suzuki Alto-sized five-door hatch to a Camry-sized sedan, and including two people-movers and a Hyundai Tucson-style SUV.

GoAuto understands that at least two Australian importers sought the highly prized JAC light-vehicle deal.

The successful WMC bid was backed by Australia’s biggest automotive dealer group, Automotive Holdings Group, which is set to offer both JAC trucks and cars through its national dealer network.

Mr Pecotic said WMC’s commitment to the truck business had been instrumental in winning the passenger car import deal.

“We have spent millions on trucks and pre-purchasing product over the last few months,” he said.

Mr Pecotic said that, now the decision had been made, JAC was moving ahead with its product development plans for Australia.

“It is all coming together so quickly,” he said. “They are moving ahead at 100 miles an hour.” WMC’s JAC import operation kicks off in New Zealand in May with the showroom launch of the first 7.5-tonne, Cummins Euro 4 diesel-powered truck.

The same truck but with a Euro 5 version of the ISF 3.8-litre Cummins engine – made under licence by Chinese truck-maker Foton – will hit the Australian market in limited numbers in August before larger shipments arrive in the final quarter. A smaller 4.5-tonne model is set for launch about the end of July.

The JAC Multivan – a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter-style six-metre-long multi-purpose van powered for Australia by a 2.8-litre four-cylinder ISF Cummins engine – is scheduled to go into production in October and arrive in Australia in November.

Although the passenger car plans for JAC in Australia are still under wraps, the company is likely to follow the lead of other Chinese brands and start with light and small cars, potentially with more than one variant built off each platform.

Contenders could be the current or next-generation versions of the Cruze-sized JAC J5 in sedan and five-door RS crossover styles, the smaller J3 sedan and hatch, or the baby of the range, the J2 five-door hatchback city car.

The J3 was famously designed by Italian styling house Pininfarina, making it among the most contemporary cars from a Chinese manufacturer. The J5 is also said to have been influenced by the Italian designers.

However, all these models will probably have to be renamed for Australia, as rival Chery has already snapped up the ‘J’ format for its range, which so far includes the J1 and J11 with a J3 on the way.

Similarly, Chery importer Ateco Automotive was forced to change the name of the Chery cars – known as A1, A3 etc elsewhere – because Audi had already adopted those tags worldwide.

All existing JAC passenger cars are front-drive and powered by four-cylinder engines, either petrol or diesel, ranging from the 1.0-litre unit with just 55kW/85Nm in the J2 to 2.4 litres with 110kW/210Nm in the S1 SUV that also offers a 2.0-litre diesel producing 100kW/190Nm.

JAC makes its own 16-valve four-cylinder petrol engine in a range of sizes, while also running alternative engines from Mitsubishi.

Manual transmissions, in either five or six speeds, are standard across the range, but no automatic transmission is currently on offer.

Based in the central Chinese city of Hefei, JAC has a production capacity of 700,000 units a year and last year sold 460,000 cars, trucks and buses – up from 310,000 in 2009 – putting it among China’s top 10 manufacturers.

Last year, it exported 20,000 vehicles, mostly trucks, to developing countries. It hopes to double those exports this year and push its overall sales to 600,000 units.

The local Anhui provincial government based in Hefei is a major shareholder in the company, which has backed its commitment to exports by opening research and development centres in Turin, Italy, and Tokyo, Japan.

The Turin and Japanese operations are jointly credited with designing the JAC Multivan, with Turin looking after the exterior and Tokyo being responsible for the interior.

In China, the van is offered in a range of configurations, from standard commercial work van to coach and even ambulance.

Local importer WMC already imports a range of Higer buses, all powered by Cummins engines fitted with Allison transmissions.

Its latest model is the Higer Munro – a 27-seater named after majority shareholder in WMC Group, Sydney doctor Don Munro.

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