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Beijing show: Maxus locked in for October launch

To the Maxus: Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) is bringing the Maxus van range to Australia in October 2012.

SAIC’s Chinese-built vans on countdown for Australian debut in 20 dealerships

24 Apr 2012


GIANT Chinese car-maker Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) has confirmed that its Maxus van range will land in 20 showrooms across Australia in October to take on the likes of the Toyota HiAce and Hyundai iLoad.

Final Australian Design Rule (ADR) approval is expected in August before production starts in September for an October 1 sales kick-off.

Importer WMC Group hopes to sell about 300 of the vans this year – about 100 a month over the last quarter – as the new brand finds its feet in the Australian market.

WMC managing director Jason Pecotic told GoAuto in Beijing that applications for dealerships for Maxus had been oversubscribed after the company showed two of the British-designed vans at the Melbourne Truck and Trailer Show in March.

He said that, although Maxus would be sold down a different sales channel to WMC’s other Chinese commercial vehicle franchises – JAC and Higer – many of the same dealers had put their hands up for Maxus.

Ultimately, WMC hopes to expand the network to 35 dealerships as the Maxus range and volumes expand.

Seven variants of the Maxus V80 front-drive van – all powered by European-designed Euro 4 VM Motori 100kW turbo-diesel engines – will be imported in two wheelbase lengths, two roof heights and cargo and passenger minibus configurations.

Initially, only five-speed manual gearbox models will be available, but Mr Pecotic said an Allison automatic transmission alternative was under development at SAIC’s research and development facility in China, and would become available later.

The Maxus van was originally designed and built in the UK under the now-defunct Leyland-DAF Vehicles organisation as a rival to the current Ford Transit and similar European vans, but SAIC bought the entire factory in 2009 and had the machinery shipped to China, where it was put to work at Wuxi, north-west of Shanghai.

Yesterday, that move paid major dividends when huge Chinese phone organisation China Telecom announced a major technology agreement with SAIC.

87 center imageImmediately afterwards, the Australian rollout was officially confirmed by SAIC Commercial Vehicles managing director Lan Qingsong in a press conference at the Beijing motor show, where the Maxus range was displayed alongside the Chinese company’s other trucks and buses.

Mr Qingsong said right-hand-drive V80 production had already started, with vehicles now on sale in Malaysia.

He said the company had been encouraged by strong positive feedback from the public and media after the V80 vans were shown at the truck show in Melbourne last month.

“We have been conducting ADR homologation in order to enter the Australian market,” he said.

Some ECE (United Nations Economic Community for Europe) certification work still had to be done, but that should be completed by about August.

Mr Qingsong said pricing and product fit was a problem in all export markets, but he expected the Maxus range in Australia would be positioned as it was in other overseas markets, in a middle-to-high level.

Mr Pecotic said the showing of the cargo V80 variants at the Melbourne truck show would be followed up in June with the Australian debut of the bus version at the Melbourne bus show.

The 2.5-litre VM Motori common-rail turbocharged four-cylinder engine develops 100kW of power and 330Nm of torque, and will be mated with a five-speed manual gearbox.

Fuel consumption is said to be 7.7 litres per 100km on the Chinese test cycle.

The short-wheelbase models are 4950mm long, while the LWB variants are 5700mm, and both are 1998mm wide.

Front suspension is by MacPherson strut, while the rear is a conventional beam axle set-up with leaf springs, all said to have been tuned at Britain’s MIRA (Motor Industry Research Association) research and development facility.

The range will feature load capacity of between nine and 14 cubic metres, with a payload of up to 1.8 tonnes.

The four passenger-van variants will include an 11-passenger short-wheelbase model with standard roof, a 15-passenger long-wheelbase variant in standard-roof or high-roof configurations, and an 11-passenger long-wheelbase luxury model.

One of the Maxus V80’s main competitors will be another Chinese van range from rival JAC, which is also handled by Sydney-based WMC Group.

The JAC van range is not expected until 2013, as the Chinese company is still developing RHD versions.

They will be sold alongside JAC trucks that go on sale in Australia mid-year in a dealer network that runs in parallel with another WMC franchise, Higer buses.

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