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LDV ute and SUV confirmed for Australia

Here they come: LDV's upcoming G10 people-mover and van – due in Australian showrooms about June – will be joined within 18 months by a ute and SUV.

Chinese giant SAIC set to propel LDV brand in Australia with multiple new lines

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LDV logo25 Feb 2015

A ONE-TONNE pick-up and related SUV from China’s biggest motor company, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC), have been confirmed for Australia within 18 months as part of a major expansion of SAIC’s LDV range here.

The ute/SUV twins will join the existing British-designed, Chinese-built LDV V80 large van, bus and cab-chassis range and upcoming, all-new LDV G10 mid-sized people-mover and van due in about June.

SAIC has been taking no chances with the ute, sending teams of Chinese engineers and product planners to Australia to quiz dealers, potential customers and other stakeholders as part of extensive planning in co-operation with LDV importer Ateco Automotive.

A competitor for the Toyota HiLux, Ford Ranger, Holden Colorado and Nissan Navara, as well as Chinese entries from other Ateco brands Great Wall and Foton, the one-tonner is expected to arrive in LDV’s Australian showrooms in mid-to-late 2016, and to be followed soon after by the SUV built on the same body-on-frame chassis.

One of the fastest growing motor companies in the world, Shanghai-based SAIC produced almost six million vehicles last year, mostly under its market-leading joint ventures with General Motors and Volkswagen Group in the world's biggest market.

But the company has been growing its own brands that, apart from LDV, include MG – the iconic British brand that, like LDV, was scooped up with Rover by the cashed-up SAIC in the global financial crisis.

Plans for the SAIC-developed ute were revealed to GoAuto by LDV Automotive Australia general manager Dinesh Chinnappa who said development of the vehicle was well advanced.

“SAIC regard Australia as being an import strategic market and they have put huge effort into it,” he said.

“We have had engineers on the ground in Australia to the point where it is becoming annoying, talking to end users, talking to dealers, trying to find out what the local requirements for this market are.

“What is very good about that is that from day one of the design process they are taking into consideration the needs, wants and demands of the Australian market.

“This is part of their strategic view of learning how to go into Europe and the US by learning about mature markets such as Australia, and it is very good news for us.” Mr Chinnappa – a long-time Ateco staffer who has worked on other Chinese brands and Kia for the importer – emphasised that the ute and SUV would both comprise a range, not a single model.

He said the pick-up would be a similar size to current Thai-built vehicles such as the Ford Ranger and Holden Colorado.

“They are substantial pick-ups with a substantial footprint on the road,” he said.

And in the same way as those Ford and Holden vehicles have spawned SUVs in the shape of the Ford Everest and Holden Colorado 7, the LDV SUV will be spun off the same platform.

Mr Chinnappa said the vehicles were as yet unnamed for western markets, but would be sold in Australia under the LDV line – originally Leyland DAF Vehicles in Britain before the ailing company was bought and revived by SAIC.

He said it was too early to discuss specific powertrains, but he said he expected the ute and SUV to be offered with a diesel engine and in both 4x2 and 4x4 configurations to suit the Australian market.

With Great Wall now seemingly in hiatus pending a decision about the distribution rights for Australia, the LDV ute is well-placed to take up any potential slack in Ateco’s sales network.

Before the LDV ute and SUV land, LDV's range will be fleshed out with more V80 variants – including a cab-chassis capable of carrying more than 1.2 tonnes from about June – and the G10 people-mover and tradie van around the same time.

The G10 – the first vehicle to be designed and engineered in-house by SAIC – will arrive about mid-year as a competitor for the likes of Hyundai's iMax and iLoad, priced from about $30,000.

The people-mover will come in seven- and nine-seat variants, with the nine-seater being the luxury version with leather upholstery.

Both will powered by a new 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine pushing out 165kW and hooked up to a ZF automatic transmission.

A manual gearbox is expected to be offered on the goods van later in the year, with a diesel alternative to follow.

Ateco took over LDV from another Sydney-based Chinese vehicle importer, WMC, last year.

Originally, the brand was to be called Maxus, but was changed to LDV after a protest from a company with a similar name.

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