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Exclusive: SAIC developing global ute for LDV brand

G force: The LDV G10 seven-seat people-mover will arrive in Australia in the second quarter of 2015, ahead of a mooted utility in 18 months to two years.

Chinese auto giant to push into Australia’s busy LCV market with LDV-badged ute

22 Jul 2014

CHINESE auto giant SAIC Motor is developing an all-new utility for Australia and other major markets that would be sold under its fledgling LDV brand here within the next two years.

SAIC is in the early stages of the utility program and is currently studying the Australian market with the help of Ateco Automotive, which took over distribution of the LDV brand from the WMC Group earlier this month.

Details are scarce at this stage, but GoAuto understands it will be a one-tonne utility that will be built in China and exported to global markets to take the fight up to the dominant Japanese brands and other contenders in the strong-selling pick-up and cab-chassis segments.

This will require it to have the performance, packaging, quality and engineering integrity to do battle with volume-selling Thai-built 4x2 and 4x4 utes such as the market-leading Toyota HiLux, Mitsubishi Triton, Ford Ranger, Nissan Navara and Holden Colorado – to name a few of the main players – as well as potential rivals from Ateco’s own stable, including the Great Wall V-series and Foton Tunland.

Ateco Automotive’s Asian brands spokesman Daniel Cotterill said SAIC was keen to ensure the utility has a fighting chance in Australia’s super-competitive market by thoroughly researching the conditions and delivering a product tailored to buyers’ needs.

“They (SAIC) are sending a team to Australia to evaluate the local market and conditions,” he revealed.

“They have a plan to launch a ute here within the next 18 months to two years, which we are very optimistic in that regard.

“The fact they are going to the trouble of sending some of their people out to have a look for themselves, and to make sure that they get the mix right for this market (shows SAIC is serious).” The new model will be sold in Australia alongside the V80 van to be relaunched in October this year and other new models in the pipeline including two still-to-be-named buses, a people-mover known as G10 and a sub-V80 G10-based delivery van.

Mr Cotterill said the ute was still at an early enough stage for Ateco to provide input into its development.

“They (SAIC) haven’t made their minds up yet,” he said. “They have listened to us and what we have suggested, but they are going to send out some people to have a look for themselves and we will put our heads together, then come back and talk about what the product will actually be.

“I would suspect a ute would come in a couple of different variants. If you look at what others do in this market, I don’t see why they would come up with a different plan, but we will wait and see.” Mr Cotterill said that adding another Chinese-built utility to the Ateco stable posed no difficulties for the Australian distributor at this stage.

“Certainly in the early days of LDV, the range doesn’t have the potential to cannibalise any of our other offerings. A ute could potentially do that but I would want to wait and see what we bring in,” he said.

“The situation with Foton and Great Wall is complementary rather than competitive. They are very different vehicles. Fotons are much bigger, they have more robust Cummins diesel engines, and are more the size of a Ford Ranger. I think we would have few concerns about that.” Ateco has managed distribution of the Great Wall V-series since mid-2009 and took over distribution of Tunland from FAA Automotive earlier this year, relaunching it from $26,990 driveaway.

Mr Cotterill confirmed a number of other models are set to join the LDV line-up alongside the V80 van range, including an 11-seat short-wheelbase bus and a 14-seat long-wheelbase bus, both with automatic transmissions, in the first quarter of next year.

Following in the second quarter will be a seven-seat people-mover, dubbed the G10, which launched in LDV’s home market earlier this year.

A G10-based delivery van positioned below the V80 is also expected around the same time, which Ateco says will be compete with vans such as the Renault Trafic and Hyundai iLoad.

According to Mr Cotterill, a cab-chassis version of the V80 is also under consideration for the Australian market.

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