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Future models - LDV - D90

Shanghai show: LDV SUV to get true-blue kick off

Coming up: LDV’s new D90 large SUV was shown off at the Shanghai motor show, but its real global launch will be held in Australia in late September.

Massive Sydney harbourside global launch event planned for LDV D90 4x4 wagon

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LDV logo20 Apr 2017

By RON HAMMERTON

CHINESE automotive giant SAIC Motor is preparing to bring hundreds of dealers, journalists and staffers from five continents to Australia for the global launch of its first large SUV, the LDV D90.

Sydney Harbour will be the backdrop for the massive launch event that will also double as the Australian launch of the D90’s utility twin, the LDV T60, in late September.

China’s biggest motor manufacturer recently gave a foretaste of the upcoming Australian event when it brought two D90s to Australia to unveil them via a video link to China, as well as on the internet around the world, from the New South Wales south coast at Kiama.

Known as the Maxus D90 in China where it is about to go into production alongside the new T60 at SAIC’s Wuxi factory north-west of Shanghai, the big seven-seat four-wheel-drive wagon – more than 5.2 metres long and 2.05 metres wide – was formally unveiled at the Shanghai motor show this week.

LDV’s Australian importer, Ateco Automotive, confirmed at the show that the D90 will go on sale in Australia in October, at the same time as the T60, which is earlier than previously expected.

However, Ateco’s LDV general manager Dinesh Chinnappa said the only variant available at launch will be a 165kW/360Nm petrol four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbocharged unit, with the diesel version to follow later when an all-new engine now under development becomes available.

That diesel powerplant will eventually find its way into the T60 which will be launched with an older VM Motori 2.8-litre diesel unit producing 110kW of power and 360Nm of torque.

While the T60 will come with a choice of six-speed manual and automatic transmissions, the D90 will get only the automatic.

It will also come with high levels of safety equipment including autonomous emergency braking. SAIC has jumped the gun by stating in a brochure given to Australian journalists that the related T60 ute qualifies for a five-star ANCAP rating, even though the vehicle is not scheduled to be tested by the Australian independent safety organisation until September.

Mr Chinnappa said pricing for both the T60 and D90 – which share the same ladder chassis platform – was still being negotiated with SAIC and would be announced, along with final specifications, closer to showroom launch.

The D90 will go up against a growing number of such rugged, off-road capable SUVs built on utility platforms in Australia, including the Ford Everest, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Toyota Fortuner and Holden Trailblazer.

SAIC revealed at the Shanghai show that the D90’s international origins started at the concept stage when it enlisted an army of 30,000 potential customers from around the world on the internet to suggest features and design for the new car.

Describing the input as “collective wisdom”, SAIC group vice-president Lan Qingsong said SAIC’s engineers had made the D90 longer, taller and narrower than originally planned due to suggestions from car fans, some of who became so involved in the project that they were enlisted to drive prototypes.

He said the octagonal grille and 21-inch wheels were also included at the suggestion of the fans in what he described as China’s first global customer-to-business (C2B) operation for a vehicle.

Mr Qingsong said the operation required SAIC to set up a massive data collection centre which will be employed to help produce all of its future models.

For Australia, Ateco has confirmed it will start with a seven-seat version with three rows, but has not yet decided if it will import other variations.

In China, the seven-seater will be available in two seating configurations – 2-3-2 and 2-2-3 – but Ateco will only select one of these for range simplicity.

Mr Chinnappa said his company favoured two model specifications – an entry vehicle and a more comprehensively equipped flagship – and this policy would most likely be applied to both D90 and T60.

A large infotainment screen in the dash and high levels of connectivity – including Apple and Android connections – will be included all models.

Mr Chinnappa said Ateco was excited by the prospects for the D90, but that he believed the T60 ute would lead the way for the Chinese brand’s first heavy duty line.

He said Australian acceptance was greater – and growing – for Chinese commercial vehicles than passenger cars.

Ateco pioneered Chinese car imports in Australia with the Great Wall and Chery brands, with only Great Wall utes enjoying any level of success.

The D90 and T60 will join LDV’s two-pronged van range, the large V80 and smaller G10, to build volume for its national dealer network that in the first quarter of this year sold 460 vans, up 22 per cent on the same period last year.

Those dealers will be included in the global Sydney launch that, according to Ateco spokesperson Edward Rowe, came about after SAIC executives were impressed with an Australian vehicle launch last year.

The huge logistical planning exercise for the D90 event will involve setting out test drive programs – both on-road and off-road – for participants, most of whom will be getting their first taste of the vehicle.

Several harbourside venues are being hired for the chain of launch events that will involve visitors from across Asia – including a big contingent from China – Europe, South America, Africa, the Middle East and, of course, Australia.

The missing link is North America where SAIC is yet to establish a foothold but is planning to do so.

In China, SAIC is the joint-venture partner with the two biggest brands, General Motors and Volkswagen, but its export ventures involve only its self-developed products MG and Maxus/LDV, both of which originally were British brands before SAIC took over the ailing companies.

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