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Geely importer awaits Volvo revolution

Not now: Australian import plans for the Geely EC7 were shelved earlier this year, with the importer now looking forward to a Volvo-inspired Geely range.

National Geely rollout blows out to about 2015 as importer awaits Volvo-bred models

3 Oct 2013

THE Australian importer for the Chinese-made Geely car range is looking to a new generation of Volvo-influenced vehicles designed and engineered for western markets from about 2015 before plunging into the cut and thrust of the national motor market here.

This means the Chinese brand will be absent from Australian showrooms for about two years, with the sole current Geely offering, the MK light sedan, getting the chop from the end of next month – a victim of Australia’s new mandatory electronic stability control (ESC) laws.

The MK has been sold only in Western Australia as a toe-in-the-water exercise by importer Chinese Automotive Distributors (CAD) – a division of major Perth car dealer John Hughes’ group.

The plan had been to take the Geely brand national with the bigger and more advanced Geely EC7 this year, but that plan tripped up when the Holden Cruze-sized car failed to make a four-star crash standard under Australian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) parameters in Chinese simulations.

CAD had stipulated that it would only import any Geely vehicle if it made four stars, which the EC7 did in the European NCAP test about two years ago.

However, stricter rules introduced since then meant the EC7 “just missed” a four-star rating when trialed by Geely this year.

CAD director Rod Gaily told GoAuto that the Perth-based company was now counting on the fruits of Geely’s new relationship with Volvo, which the Chinese company bought from Ford in 2010 for $1.8 billion.

He said reports from China suggest Volvo and Geely are working in a new platform to be shared by Geely, incorporating Volvo’s high safety standards.

“They are developing a new platform using Volvo tech, and we could in fact see a right-hand-drive vehicle for the western markets, and if that happens, it could be 2015,” he said.

“We don’t expect a lot of change between now and then. I think you will see a migration of technology into Geely vehicles, and I would not be surprised if their model for the western markets is in fact a Geely on a Volvo platform.”

Mr Gailey said details of such a plan had yet to be confirmed, but the joint venture appeared to be the direction adopted by both companies.

Geely recently started building Volvo S60L luxury cars in China, in remote Chengdu, in Sichuan Province.

Mr Gailey said CAD’s Perth Geely dealership would continue to provide service and parts support for MK customers, once the car goes off the new-car market on October 30.

“Nothing will change in that regard for MK owners,” he said.

Mr Gailey said it had not been an easy decision to knock back the EC7.

“But if you look at the brands in the market place, look at where they stand in terms of technology and safety, you need a vehicle that is not only price competitive, not only has all the features that the EC7 had, but meets a minimum standard, and that minimum standard in our eyes as dealers is at least four star,” he said.

“If it doesn’t make that, then it is not a car we want to bring to Australia.

And Geely agreed with that – they supported that view.”

Mr Gailey said that with the expertise of Volvo now behind Geely, the next generation of vehicles was likely to be five-star performers.

“Geely can only benefit from the Volvo arrangement,” he said.

Mr Gailey said CAD remained committed to Geely and a national roll-out as soon as practicable, and still had dealers ready in the eastern states keen to start sales.

Like other Chinese car importers, CAD has had its frustrations trying to get its Geely operations up and running over several years.

So far, it has had better luck with its other Chinese vehicle franchise, ZXAuto, and its GrandTiger ute range that is being sold on a trial basis in Western Australia since about May this year ahead of a possible national rollout before the middle of 2014.

In the meantime, another Geely sub-brand, London Taxi, is trialing its Chinese-made, British-designed White Cabs in Australia. However, this is a separate import operation to the Geely car business founded by CAD.

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