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Chinese EVs still on the agenda for Oz: Ateco

Shocking: Chinese car-maker Chery showed an electric car under its Riich luxury sub-brand at Beijing.

Pioneering Chinese car importer Ateco still plans to bring electric cars to Oz

3 Aug 2011

AUSTRALIAN importer of Great Wall and Chery cars from China, Ateco Automotive, has confirmed that it is still looking to bring Chinese electric vehicles Down Under.

Ateco Group governing director Neville Crichton told GoAuto last year that he expected to release an electric car in Australia by 2011 but at the time could not provide details of the EV model or even its brand, although he conceded that Ateco was in negotiations with other car-makers, including one from India.

Ateco Chinese brands spokesman Daniel Cotterill said today that EVs were “certainly still on the agenda”, but that he was unable to confirm a timeframe for their arrival or whether the EV would be from one of Ateco’s existing brands, Great Wall or Chery.

Chery, through its premium Riich brand, displayed an electric luxury sedan in conjunction with EV infrastructure firm Better Place last year’s Beijing motor show. China’s number one lithium-ion battery maker and car-maker BYD already has several EVs in production.

 center imageFrom top: Chery J3 sedan, Great Wall X240, Great Wall V240.

“It’s fair to say that we have people – including as we speak – in China talking to a range of manufacturers. It’s constant,” he said.

Mr Cotterill went on to explain that since Ateco pioneered the importation of Chinese cars to Australia, vehicle manufacturers in the world’s largest automotive market have been more open to exporting their wares.

“Since we’ve had some success in this country, particularly with Great Wall, it seems to have captured the attention of the Chinese.

“They’ve all seen the export figures and we could potentially end up, whether it’s with an EV or some other sort of vehicle, (with a product) from just about anywhere.” Meanwhile, the Corolla-sized Chery J3 is soon to reach Aussie showrooms, as are diesel variants of Great Wall’s X-series SUV and V-series ute.

According to VFACTS, three Chery J3s were registered in Australia in June.

Mr Cotterill said they were being used for “testing the fit of accessories and that sort of thing”, although he could not give a precise date of the car’s showroom arrival other than “it’s imminent”.

As GoAuto has reported, the J3 is built in hatch and sedan format, with a 87kW/147Nm 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine under the bonnet and a five-speed manual transmission.

Like the rest of Ateco’s Chinese passenger car range, expect a simple model line-up with plenty of equipment and only a simple range options.

No pricing has been confirmed, but the J3 is likely to compete on cost with the likes of Malaysian-built Proton Persona sedan (from $14,990 drive-away) – and the related Gen.2 hatch (from $15,990 drive-away).

Similarly imminent is long-awaited diesel power from Ateco’s Chinese ute and SUV brand Great Wall, with the 105kW 2.0-litre diesel X200 joining the petrol X240 in the SUV line-up and available with six-speed manual or, for the first time, a five-speed automatic transmission.

The diesel ute – badged V200 – will get the same engine as its SUV sibling but is unlikely to get self-shifter. Both petrol variants will remain unchanged and continue to be available only with five-speed manual transmissions.

Mr Cotterill said diesels were the “next big thing” for Ateco in terms of progress in the market. “We’re quietly optimistic that it will have a positive impact on sales for us,” he said.

Again, the arrival of diesel SUVs and utes is “imminent”, with no specific release date. However, Mr Cotterill said the utes would arrive soon ahead of the SUVs.

Asked if specific Great Wall models revealed in China would make it to Australia, Mr Cotterill said refreshing the model line-up was a work in progress.

He said that while each Chinese manufacturer had a huge model range, once selection had been narrowed to vehicles that could be built in right-hand drive with ADR compliance, acceptable crash-test performance and were not too late in their model cycle, the number that could be brought to Australia “starts to drop away very, very quickly”.

That said, he predicted an increase in Chinese vehicle brands such as Great Wall – which can build 800,000 cars a year – looking to specifically develop products for export to western markets like Australia.

“Inevitably they have to head that way,” he said. “Domestic consumption will plateau and they will seek to export.” Since the brand’s launch in March, Ateco has sold 896 Chery vehicles and so far this year, with the 642 J11 compact SUVs accounting for more than 70 per cent of the total.

Great Wall is enjoying a 28.8 per cent sales increase on last year, with 4555 sold. Its best-seller is the X240 SUV on 1886 sales, while the two-wheel drive V240 ute is not far behind on 1609 units.

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