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Safety rule changes rub out Chery, Great Wall models

Over and out: Local importer Ateco Automotive has discontinued the Great Wall X240 SUV as it is not fitted with ESC.

Laws that make ESC compulsory on passenger cars bites into Chinese brands

4 Nov 2013

CAR-makers are running out stocks of vehicles without potentially life-saving electronic stability control as a new national benchmark for passenger car safety kicks in.

November 1 marked the end of a four-year grace period for car-makers to come to terms with laws requiring them to fit new models with ESC.

Ateco Automotive is the official distributor for two brands that will lose models that will not comply with the new standard – the Chinese-made Chery J1 hatchback, which at $9990 drive-away holds the title of Australia’s cheapest car, and the Chinese-built Great Wall X240 soft-roader.

Ateco public relations consultant Daniel Cotterill said both brands would be selling off stock of the vehicles that had been approved for sale ahead of the November 1 cut-off.

“We’re losing the (Chery) J1, which means no more importation after October 31,” he said.

“Any cars in Australia in stock that complied before that date are for sale until they are sold out.

“The rest of the Chery range is fine,” he said. It includes the two-star crash safety-rated Chery J11 soft-roaderWhile stock of the four-star Great Wall X240 will be allowed to dwindle, diesel-engined versions of the X-Series fitted with ESC, as well as the two-star V-Series single- and dual-cab ute range, will remain on sale.

He said the three-star-rated Chery J1 had not been a “particularly strong seller” in recent months, so the impact of its loss would have little bearing on the company.

“Where we would like to keep a presence in that segment, obviously we are unable to do so with that model given the change in legislation,” Mr Cotterill said.

“We will look at what we do with Chery in the small-car segment in the future.”

Mr Cotterill said Chery was preparing to enter the Victorian market for the first time after a separate ESC mandate in 2011 that predated the national one’s introduction locked the brand out of the state.

He said the brand was deep in talks to establish up to 10 dealerships throughout the state ahead of what will become the brand’s first national roll-out.

Australasian New Car Assessment Program chairman Lauchlan McIntosh said Chinese car brands had come a long way in improving their safety record since first going on sale here in 2008, and were starting to catch up with five-star safety standards.

However, it had been a steep learning curve for them, Mr McIntosh said. The Australian arm of the crash safety watchdog was first approached by a Chinese car-maker in 2006, asking for details of how the vehicles would be tested.

“They talked about doing tests (of Chinese-built cars) at slower speeds than us,” Mr McIntosh said.

“They said: 'Well, everybody drives slower in China, that's why we test it at slower speeds'.

“I said: 'Well, that's fine, but if you sell the car in Australia we will test it at a higher speed and publish the result, and the rest of the world will do the same’.”

Mr McIntosh said ANCAP had rewarded cars fitted with ESC since 2008, when its inclusion was added to the scoring system that ranks a vehicle’s crashworthiness out of a maximum five points.

“The major manufacturers picked it (ESC) up pretty quickly,” he said.

“The benefits are pretty significant. The information from the research that I see from worldwide sources is a 25 per cent saving across the board.

“That's a massive benefit for a relatively simple device that's available on the majority for cars.

“I'm sure the consumers don't even realise that, but we have seen some drop-offs in new-car crash rates.

“But why some companies still don't do it? Who knows?”

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