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China’s Great Wall set for comeback

A load off: Great Wall’s Wingle 6 one-tonne pick-up is expected to open the batting for the new-look franchise to be handled in Australia by the Chinese-owned factory.

Great Wall distribution stalemate ends with new factory distribution arrangement

Great Wall logo26 May 2016

By RON HAMMERTON

AFTER more than 18 months in limbo, the Australian and New Zealand distribution rights for Chinese-made Great Wall vehicles will be transferred from independent importer Ateco Automotive to a new factory owned entity, Great Wall Motors Australia (GWMA).

The new distribution arrangement opens the door for the restoration of Great Wall products to the Australian market, starting in the fourth quarter of this year with the brand’s newest one-tonne ute, known in China as the Wingle 6, which has already been homologated for Australian sale.

Great Wall-badged vehicles will be distributed alongside Great Wall Motors’ Haval SUV range that was launched in Australia with a three-vehicle line-up in October last year.

Most of the details of the settlement between Ateco and GWMA are commercial in confidence, but as GoAuto has reported, the warring parties went to an independent arbitrator in an attempt to scratch out a transfer arrangement and financial settlement after months of deadlocked angst and stalled sales.

Under the deal, Ateco will continue to handle spare parts for Great Wall for a further six months while GWMA makes the necessary logistical arrangements to incorporate them into its Australian operation.

Announcing the new import process today, GWMA managing director Parker Shi confirmed that Great Wall would re-enter the market with an all-new Great Wall utility.

“This signals the beginning of an exciting new era for China’s most successful utility manufacturer in the region,” he said.

“As demand for utilities continues to grow, Great Wall Motors decided now was the time to take the brand to the next level by establishing a direct OE presence here.” Mr Shi said the company would deliver solutions to any customer and dealer issues with the backing of the company’s impressive resources.

“Our emphasis will be customer service. We have a car park of more than 45,000 vehicles in Australia and New Zealand, and we would like all past and present owners to join the new organisation as we start down this exciting new road.

“We are having discussions with the entire Great Wall dealer network and we are confident the vast majority will become part of the new business.

“Those discussions have revealed an enormous amount of goodwill for the GWM brand in both countries.” Despite the wrangle over Great Wall distribution rights since 2014, Mr Shi thanked Ateco for the work it had put in to establishing the brand.

The name of the ute was not revealed, perhaps indicating that it will get a new moniker in place of the previous model’s V-Series name in Australia or China-market Wingle badge.

However, the statement confirmed the line-up will be headed by a 4x4 ute powered by a turbo diesel engine matched to a six-speed manual transmission, along with a Borg-Warner torque-on-demand intelligent four-wheel drive system and Eaton differential lock.

“It will also feature high levels of safety, with ESP and six airbags as standard equipment,” the statement said.

Mr Shi said the company would be headquartered in Melbourne, sharing offices with sister company Haval Motors Australia. The Australian and New Zealand operations will be headed by Tony Carraturo who until now has been Haval national aftersales manager.

“Great Wall will focus solely on light commercial vehicles, with Haval concentrating on SUVs,” Mr Shi said.

“We are confident this strategy will allow both companies to dedicate their resources into the two fastest growing segments in the Australian automotive market.” So far, Haval lists only six dealerships for its SUV range – two in both New South Wales and Victoria and one each in Queensland and Western Australia.

By contrast, Great Wall had about 90 at its peak, but it is unclear how many have stuck with the brand through the recent deadlock and sales drought.

Launched by Ateco in Australia in June 2009 as the first serious Chinese brand in this market, Great Wall managed more than 40,000 sales in Australia, peaking in 2012 when Ateco sold 11,006 Great Wall vehicles.

Back then, Great Wall was hailed as one of the fastest-growing brands in the country.

However, beset by lowly ANCAP crash test ratings, a series of national safety recalls, an asbestos contamination scare and a patchy build quality record, Great Wall sales plummeted 44.5 per cent in 2013.

Behind the scenes, Ateco was unhappy with prices and sales targets being demanded by Great Wall Motors, which forced it to compete against discounted vehicles from mainly Japanese rivals.

In the end, a stalemate meant the shipments stopped coming and Great Wall sales dried up in 2014. Last year, just 142 remnant vehicles were sold by frustrated dealers – a 94.6 per cent decline on 2013.

So far this year, just seven Great Wall vehicles have been registered, five of them X200 SUVs.

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