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Get set for Chinese truck invasion

JAC high: Chinese trucks such as this JAC are being considered for the Australian market.

Importers eye expansion into trucks from huge Chinese commercial vehicle industry

8 Jul 2010

THE Chinese automotive invasion is set to step up a gear with at least two Australian distributors considering expansion into trucks made in the world’s biggest and fastest-growing motor market.

Vehicles ranging from utilities to eight-tonne trucks are under consideration from a number of Chinese manufacturers, one of which is sending a representative to discuss Australian market potential in August.

So far, Chinese imports have been restricted to a pair of utilities and an SUV from Great Wall Motors, with a flock of passenger cars in the pipeline from Chery and Geely.

But Australian vehicle importers Ateco Automotive and Chinese Automotive Distributors (CAD) have confirmed to GoAuto that they are considering importing Chinese trucks.

Ateco, which pioneered Chinese vehicle sales in Australia last year with its Great Wall ute and SUV range, says it is keeping its eyes open for opportunities in all segments of the Chinese motor industry.

Spokesman Daniel Cotterill said that included commercial vehicles, but it was too early to be specific.

“We are interested in a range of things from China, and it think it would be fair say, commercial vehicles,” he said.

“We have got a guy who actively pursues things in China all the time. He is the guy that oversaw the getting of Great Wall here, and I know for a fact he is up to his elbows getting Chery here.

“I am not privy to everything he does, but I know that he is up and down from there all the time.”

 center imageLeft: A JAC-branded truck at Beijing motor show in April. Below: JAC's pick-up.

Perth-based CAD says it is already in talks with Chinese truck-makers with a view to expanding into commercial vehicles alongside its Geely passenger car business that is due to hit the Australian market in about September or October.

Owner John Hughes – a West Australian businessman and major car dealer in Perth – said he had travelled to China three weeks ago to speak with truck companies, visiting “six different cities in six days”.

“We are not restricting ourselves to purely passenger cars, nor are we restricting ourselves to SUVs and pick ups,” he said.

“We have have got one man coming to visit us in the first week of August, and they make pick-ups and SUVs.” Mr Hughes declined to name the company, but said it was only one of several he had made contact with.

“We are talking to a number of ultility manufacturers and we are talking with two or three manufacturers of light trucks up to 3.5 GVM (gross vehicle mass), and some that make up to six or eight tonnes,” he said.

The light-to-medium truck market in Australia is dominated by Japanese manufacturers. The hotly contested delivery truck segment – 3.5-7.5 tonne GVM – accounts for about 12,000 sales a year, with Isuzu’s N-Series, Mitsubishi Fuso Canter and Hino the main players.

China’s rapidly expanding truck industry – driven by at least 30 manufacturers – is one of the biggest in the world, accounting for almost four million of the 13.8 million vehicles sold in the market that overtook the United States as the world’s biggest last year.

These truck manufacturers not only dominate domestic sales – propelled by the ballooning construction industry and huge government fleet sales – but those of neighbouring countries.

Among the biggest companies are China National, Foton, FAW, JMC, Shaanxi and Yuejin.

One likely candidate for Australian sales is Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Co Ltd, which sells a vast array for vehicles from light passenger cars to heavy haulage trucks under the JAC brand.

It is China’s biggest bus chassis supplier and has been China’s number one light-truck exporter for six consecutive years, delivering trucks to some 100 countries, mainly in Asia, Africa, South America and Central America.

It recently started construction of a truck factory in Vietnam, to help cope with Asian sales volumes.

Interestingly, it already makes vehicles in right-hand drive for export, including one of its best sellers – a single-cab 2.6-tonne GVM light truck powered by a 3.2-litre 83kW/196Nm four-cylinder diesel engine mated exclusively with a five-speed manual gearbox.

The JAC website also reveals a dual-cab utility that, if it arrived in Australia, would go head to head with Great Wall’s Chinese-made ute, the V240, that retails for $23,990 drive-away in dual-cab guise, as well as Mahindra’s Indian-made $21,999 Pik Up.

The American-style JAC HFC pick-up is powered by a 2.8-litre 68kW/202Nm four-cylinder diesel mated with a five-speed manual gearbox. Load capacity is said to be 500kg, compared with the Great Wall ute’s 1000kg.

The Great Wall V240’s 2.4-litre diesel has more power – 100kW – but marginally less torque (200Nm).

No timetable has been set for the arrival of the first Chinese trucks, but judging by the prolonged gestation period for utes, SUVs and passenger cars, it is likely to be no earlier than 2012.

While Great Wall was the first Chinese brand to hit the Australian market last year, Geely is set to become the first Chinese brand to land a passenger car, the 1.5-litre MK light sedan, in about September or October this year. That, however, will only be in Western Australia, before the brand rolls east next year.

Chery is set to follow close behind in November, when it expects to start selling its 1.3-litre five-door J1 hatch and 2.0-litre J11 compact SUV.

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