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Ateco to take Foton further

Hard slog: The Foton Tunland faces an uphill battle in Australia with other Chinese and Indian-built competitors undercutting its $26,990 driveaway price.

Chinese-built Foton utes relaunched as Ateco works on dealer network expansion

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Foton logo13 Jun 2014

FLEDGLING Chinese brand Foton’s local distributor says it is taking a cautious approach in Australia with steady growth of its dealer network but no product expansion beyond its current model lines.

Ateco Automotive, which is also responsible for Chinese brands Great Wall and Chery, took over distribution of Foton utilities from FAA Automotive Australia in April, bringing the Tunland ute into its stable alongside the Foton trucks it has managed since November 2012.

Tunland was launched 18 months ago under FAA’s stewardship but it has failed to take off in the marketplace, despite attempts last year to ignite interest via a new single-cab variant and driveaway pricing.

Ateco Automotive rebooted Foton this week with a new marketing campaign behind a reshuffled line-up of two dual-cab variants – the single cab is no longer available – priced at $26,990 driveaway for the 4x2 and $29,990 d/a for the 4x4.

The pricing means the Tunland is positioned upstream of the diesel-powered Great Wall V200 dual-cab and the Indian-built Tata Xenon dual-cab, both of which are priced at $24,990 d/a.

The major Japanese brands are also currently offering driveaway deals, putting further pressure on the newer Chinese-built utes. Mitsubishi, for example, is advertising its Triton 4x2 diesel dual-cab for $31,000 d/a.

Ateco Automotive’s Asian brands spokesman Daniel Cotterill acknowledged that competition was strong at this end of the LCV market, but said the company was confident in the new positioning of Tunland, which remains unavailable with an automatic transmission.

“Competition is tough, there is no two ways about it,” he said. “The Japanese have had a great advantage in recent times with the devaluation of their currency. It makes it hard. There is lots of competition out there.

“We think we have got a competitive package in terms of price and the quality of the vehicle. You look at the list of components involved there (and) there are some very globally known brands like the Getrag transmission and Cummins engine.

“We think it is a pretty good package, but as always the market will decide.” Ateco is remaining quiet on sales targets, with Mr Cotterill confirming that the importer is hoping for sustained growth in the short term.

“We will be necessarily conservative simply because of supply,” he said.

“We didn’t take on any of the previous distributor’s vehicles. But it (sales) just remains to be seen. As always, we go in conservative and see what we can do, but we would like to build it over time.” Mr Cotterill said Ateco considered whether Tunland would cannibalise sales of the Great Wall V-series already in its stable, but determined that the two Chinese workhorses would appeal to different buyers.

“We think they are complementary,” he said. “It allows us to offer a broad spectrum in terms of people with different budgets, people with different requirements and so on.

“Obviously cannibalisation is something that is considered but we don’t see it being an issue.” In China, Foton offers a number of other models, including passenger and commercial vans, more utilities and the SUP CX SUV.

While Ateco has its eyes on expansion, Mr Cotterill said that for now it is focused on establishing Foton in Australia with the Tunland range before other models are considered.

“It would be ideal if we were able to expand our … model line-up with Foton, but just for the moment we are going to concentrate on getting established,” he said.

“Our priority is to get established with the offering we have and to really establish our dealer network and then we will work with Foton on a number of things, be it single-cabs or whatever else they have in their product range. But it’s far too early to speculate about that at the moment.” The single-cab version of the Tunland was introduced by the previous importer in December last year, but Mr Cotterill confirmed that it will not be reintroduced until Ateco can “get the price right”.

Initially there will be 30 Foton dealers around Australia, with plans to expand to 40 within the coming months. A number of new dealers have come onboard, while most of the Foton truck dealers will also take on light-commercial sales as well.

Mr Cotterill said that it makes sense for Foton truck dealers to sell the Tunland as well, but it would not always make sense to combine them.

“There will be some people who are very established large truck dealers and maybe the Foton ute is at the bottom end of their range where it wouldn’t make real sense for them to be ute dealers,” he said.

“But wherever it makes sense, we would like to do so. It captures all sorts of synergies between the two brands in terms of marketing, training and warranty systems and so on.”

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