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Future models - LDV - Pick-Up

LDV confirms ute and SUV twins from 2017

Going global: LDV’s new G10 van will be followed in Australia by a ute and SUV in the first half 2017.

Thailand looms large as a possible production site for future LDV models

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LDV logo16 Jun 2015

By RON HAMMERTON

CHINA’S LDV Automotive has confirmed it is planning to land its first one-tonne ute in Australia in the first half of 2017, closely followed by a related SUV.

And although the company is not saying so, there appears to be a chance that the vehicles will come not from China but Thailand, where LDV’s parent company, the giant Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC), started producing passenger cars for its MG brand last year.

The Thai MG operation is a joint venture between SAIC – China’s biggest car-maker with an annual production of about five million – and Thai company Charoen Pokphand Group.

Those MG vehicles are assembled from CKD (completely knocked down) packs imported from China, along with locally sourced Thai parts.

Apart from ASEAN countries, the plant is designated to supply MG cars for right-hand drive export markets including Australia and New Zealand within the next two years.

A second Thai plant is already planned, with up to six SAIC models said to be on the cards for assembly there at the rate of up to 200,000 units a year.

SAIC, which sells the LDV range under the Maxus banner in other markets, has been looking to production sites outside China, mindful of the growing strength of the Chinese currency, the yuan, and the need to spread its risk.

Maxus/LDV is in the process of launching its first home-grown light-commercial vehicle, the G10 van, in export markets around the world, starting in Ireland recently and now Australia from July 1.

Like its bigger V80 stablemate, the G10 is made in China where it was launched early last year as the SAIC Maxus G10.

LDV Automotive Australia general manager Dinesh Chinnappa said there was a chance that some future products might come from production bases in other countries.

Asked if Thailand was being considered for such expansion, he said: “I think that is moving from possible to probable.”

Mr Chinnappa confirmed that the pick-up and its SUV sibling were a lock for Australia where they will double the local LDV range from two models to four.

He said that although the forward plans indicated the ute could go on sale in Australia late next year, it was more likely to be in the first half of 2017.

“I would expect the SUV to follow soon after, as the pick-up and SUV are being developed simultaneously,” he said. “Right-hand drive development is also being done in parallel with left-hand drive, so we should not have to wait long.”

Both vehicles will be new from the ground up, with a great deal of input from Australia where teams of Chinese engineers have been studying the local market and rival vehicles.

It is a sure bet that these vehicles will get the all-new four-cylinder diesel engine now under development by SAIC.

That engine is crucial to the success of LDV vehicles in export markets where it is likely to appear first in the new G10 van alongside the SAIC-developed 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine.

In Australia, the LDV ute will go head to head with a raft of mainly Thai-built Japanese entrants, as well as a growing number of Chinese models including offerings from JMC and Foton.

Thailand is the global production centre for one-tonne utes, with the likes of Toyota, Mitsubishi, Mazda, Ford and General Motors cranking out hundreds of thousands of the rugged vehicles there every year.

While LDV Australia waits for its one-tonne ute, it is about to launch a cab-chassis version of the V80 van that has been on sale in China for some time.

The first shipment of cab-chassis V80s is already on the water, and while Mr Chinnappa does not expect the volume to be huge compared with other variants, he says it will add handy incremental numbers, selling to tradies wanting a large load tray, as well and motor home builders.

Like the V80 vans, the cab-chassis will be offered with the VM Motori diesel engine from the outset.

In China, SAIC has promised to release one new Maxus (LDV) model every year, although it remains to be seen if all those vehicles make it to Australia where 35 dealers are already on board, with a further eight or so in the queue.

At least some of the dealers are former Great Wall operators. With that brand now in limbo in Australia, they have taken on Ateco’s LDV brand, and, in some cases, Foton Ute as well.

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