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Bruised, but Ateco still looking to China

Bring them on: Importer Ateco is not gun-shy of Chinese motor companies, wanting more vehicles like its new LDV G10.

Two or three more Chinese motor companies on Ateco radar, despite Great Wall crunch

16 Jun 2015

INDEPENDENT motor vehicle importer Ateco Automotive is chatting with “two or three” Chinese motor companies about potential Australian distribution rights as it looks to life after Great Wall and – probably – Chery.

It has already signed up Chinese brands Foton Ute and LDV in the commercial vehicle space, alongside its European operation involving high-end sportscars in Maserati and Lotus, but it says it has room for more.

Ateco has offered to offload Great Wall to new start-up Haval Australia – the factory owned importer for Great Wall's Haval SUV arm – but so far to no avail.

Neither side will discuss the details of the Mexican stand-off that has left the brand in Australian limbo, but GoAuto understands that Ateco is bemused that Haval, while expressing interest in taking on the Great Wall ute business for Australia alongside Haval SUVs, appears to have brought the shutters down on negotiations.

In the meantime, Ateco and its dealer network are looking after parts, service and warranty operations, to ensure customers are not disadvantaged, but no vehicles are being imported.

Many Great Wall dealers, however, are jumping ship, switching showrooms to brands such as Foton and LDV to keep the fires burning.

The same goes for the Chery network, which is in abeyance because, like Great Wall, the lack of quality product at the right price does not make it viable, especially since the Chinese currency has appreciated against the Australian dollar over the past few years.

The door is still open to Chery with Ateco should the situation change, as Ateco has the import rights for Australia and New Zealand for a few years yet.

Ateco managing director Ric Hull told GoAuto that despite copping a bruising from its early Chinese motor vehicle dealings, Ateco was still keen on expanding its distribution business with companies from the world's biggest motor market.

Mr Hull said the Chinese motor industry was rapidly lifting its game, and would clearly be a major force in world car production.

“We are very much still interested in China,” he said. “We have been talking with two or three manufacturers over there.”

Mr Hull said a softening of the Chinese domestic car market after years of rapid growth was encouraging companies there to look to export markets.

He said Ateco had also talked with Indian motor companies, but saw more upside in the Chinese motor industry.

While Ateco is rolling out its new LDV G10 van range under its tie up with China's biggest motor manufacturer, SAIC, Great Wall Motors' new Australian SUV operation, the factory-owned Haval Australia, appears to have hit hurdles with its roll-out of its first models here.

The Haval H2 compact SUV and H9 large 4x4 off-roader were both supposed to have been launched this month, followed in July by the Ford Territory-sized H8, according to a timeline announced at the Shanghai motor show in April.

However, as so often happens with Chinese car companies in Australia, it now appears the launch will be delayed until later in the year.

Australian design rule certification has been issued for the H9 and H8, but interestingly, there is no sign of the official tick for the H2 on the federal government's Road Vehicle Certification database, meaning the vehicle might have had an ADR glitch.

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