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China’s Joylong out, JAC vans in

So Refined: JAC's Refine is one of two vans to be offered by the Chinese vehicle-maker in Australia.

Another Chinese brand switch as WMC drops Joylong van plan in favour of JAC pair

15 Mar 2012

CHINESE vehicle importer WMC Group has walked away from a plan to import Joylong minibuses into Australia after another of its Chinese partners, JAC, made it a better offer.

Instead, WMC will distribute two new JAC vans, the large Mercedes-Benz Sprinter-style Sunray and smaller front-drive Refine that will compete with the likes of the Hyundai iLoad and Toyota HiAce, within 12 months – or a little earlier if right-hand drive versions can be brought on stream sooner.

The Joylong vehicles were to have been distributed in parallel with WMC’s Chinese-made Higer buses across Australia and New Zealand, but WMC managing director Jason Pecotic revealed at the Melbourne International Truck Trailer Show today that his company was in the process of divesting itself of the Joylong arrangement.

He said JAC – Jianghuai Automobile Company – had not been impressed with the proposal to sell the Joylong van through the Higer network, which in most cases will share the same dealerships as JAC’s commercial vehicles that make their Australian debut with light-duty trucks in June.

Instead, JAC offered to fast-track the right-hand drive versions of its own van range, sending a research and development team to Australia to benchmark best-selling vans here while working in China on the RHD model.

63 center imageLeft: JAC Refine. Below: JAC Sunray.

Mr Pecotic said JAC offered a broader range of vans, with greater versatility.

He said WMC would avoid conflict with its other range of vans – the Maxus range from China’s biggest vehicle-maker SAIC – by selling them through a different dealer network, with separate showrooms.

The Maxus rollout in Australia by WMC later this year was also announced at today’s show (see separate story).

The Joylong van – made by a tiny Chinese van specialist – is rebadged as a Higer in China, and was to have been sold through the Australian and New Zealander Higer dealerships to supplement the bigger Higer bus range.

Mr Pecotic said Higer dealers were not concerned with the change, as they are all JAC dealers anyway.

Joylong is the second brand dropped by WMC, which similarly tore up its arrangement to import Foton Tunland utes last year after pricing negotiations broke down.

In that case, WMC believed the Tunland could not compete with the established players unless Foton – one of the world’s biggest commercial vehicle makers and a subsidiary of the giant Bejing Automobile Industry Company (BAIC) – sharpened its wholesale sales price pencil.

Instead, a start-up Gold Coast company, Foton Automotive Australia (FFA), has put up its hand to take on the Foton deal.

For WMC, the space in its proposed vehicle range caused by the dropping of the Foton pick-up was quickly filled when JAC offered to develop a RHD version of its Reni ute for Australian distribution, once the all-new model is released in China next year.

That one-tonner is now expected to land in Australia in 18 months, just ahead of the first wave of JAC passenger cars from about late 2013.

The rollout of JAC in Australia has been four years in the planning, and will start with three light-duty trucks – the 4.5-tonne J45, 6.5-tonne J65 and 7.5-tonne J74, all powered by Cummins diesel engines made in China.

The vans due earlier next year – shown alongside the JAC trucks at the Melbourne show opening today – are multi-purpose vehicles, available in cargo or mini-bus styles.

The larger Sunray is a rear-drive truck-chassis van that JAC says was styled in its Italian design studio and is powered by JAC’s own four-cylinder common-rail direct-injection 2.7-litre turbo-diesel engine, delivering 88kW of power at 3600rpm and 280Nm of torque at 2200rpm.

In line with WMC’s policy of employing Cummins diesels where possible, the vehicle will be engineered to take an optional Cummins ISF 2.8-litre turbo-diesel packing 110kW of power and 360Nm or torque.

Five-speed manual and optional automatic transmissions will be offered.

The smaller Refine is a monocoque van, driving the front wheels.

Powered by a 120kW/235Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine also developed by JAC, the van will get a JAC six-speed manual transmission.

However, WMC says diesel and automatic options are under development.

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