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Great Wall going strong as small car approaches

Through the Wall: Great Wall has gone from an unknown brand to relative acceptance in the Australian market in less than three years.

Chinese brand Great Wall to keep growing with dealer expansion and new products

10 May 2012

UPDATED: 14/05/2012 PIONEERING Chinese brand Great Wall has sold about 21,000 vehicles in Australia since its arrival in June 2009 and year-to-date sales are up 43.5 per cent, securing it one per cent of the total Australian market.

Its dealer network will expand from 80 outlets to more than 90 by the end of this year, when the brand’s delayed small passenger car should finally join the line-up – about a year later than originally planned.

The brand’s popular ute range could also receive a further update in around 18 months.

Sydney-based importer Ateco Automotive plans to keep up what it describes as “steady and sustainable” growth, which has accelerated from taking 21 months to sell the first 10,000 units to 12 months for the second 10,000.

Ateco’s Chinese brands spokesman Daniel Cotterill said Great Wall’s quick transition from unknown brand to relative acceptance has come about from “paying attention to the fundamentals”.

“We, along with Great Wall, have worked very hard to make sure that the offer and the product is right and that it represents good value for money,” he said.

Mr Cotterill would not confirm whether the delayed small car will be the model known as C10 or Phenom in China.

However, as GoAuto reported exclusively last October, that vehicle – to be marketed here under the name VX10 – received preliminary regulatory approval from Australian authorities late last year.

The light-sized hatch was originally scheduled to arrive in Australia in the fourth quarter of 2011, then delayed to the first quarter of this year and is now expected to lob in Q4 – but Mr Cotterill said the hold-up is “nothing spectacular and no one single thing”.

 center imageFrom top: Great Wall VX10, V240 ute and Chery J1.

GoAuto can confirm that updated approval documents were granted late in February for the VX10, which follows the alpha-numeric model-naming convention established by Ateco for its ute and SUV models and will offer a 70kW 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine.

A five-speed manual transmission will be fitted standard on VX10, with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) optionally available.

“There is always a lot of detail that goes with trying to get a car through the process of being approved for sale or homologated in this country, and it is one of those things that happens not quite as quick as you’d like it to,” Mr Cotterill said.

“It always comes down to the devil being in the detail and making sure the 'i' is dotted and the 't' is crossed before bringing the thing out here.”

By the time the small car arrives, two more Chinese utes – in the shape of the Foton Tunland and ZX Auto’s Grand Tiger – will have entered the fray against Great Wall’s core product.

Mr Cotterill said Ateco believes competition is a good thing and agreed their arrival – and that of other incoming Chinese brands – could further boost the credence and acceptance of Chinese cars in Australia.

However, he suggested the success of Chinese competitors will depend on how well they “do their homework” and “how much attention they pay to the fundamentals, as Great Wall has done with their offerings”.

“There is already a lot of competition in this market with a lot of existing players, so we pay due respect to all competitors.”

Mr Cotterill said Great Wall has “clearly been paying a lot of attention to Australia as an advanced, competitive western market with a strong consumer culture”.

The brand’s success in Australia appears to have prompted its move into Europe, where a new factory in Bulgaria has recently begun producing vehicles and the V-series ute has just gone on sale in Britain, renamed Steed.

Mr Cotterill suggested an update to the V-series ute range is on the horizon, but is not likely to emerge within 18 months.

The addition of diesel engines and automatic transmissions to Great Wall’s ute and SUV products in the second half of last year has played a major role in maintaining sales momentum.

Mr Cotterill agreed their introduction was well timed, but that sales of petrol-powered variants are holding up well.

“We waited a while to get the diesel here, and now it is here it is gaining acceptance and its own market share,” he said.

“We have actually been pleasantly surprised as to how well the petrol side of the business has held up if you consider the amount of cannibalisation that might be there, but so far so good.”

Further Great Wall products have been rumoured for introduction in Australia, such as the Cool Bear, a boxy runabout in the style of the Toyota Rukus and Kia Soul.

Mr Cotterill said importation of the Cool Bear has been discussed, but was unable to confirm a decision at this stage.

In the meantime, Ateco is focussed on “consolidation and trying to refine our business, the network and the product”.

“We just want to keep concentrating on the fundamentals and getting it right.”

Rather than working to a set sales volume target, Mr Cotterill said the aim is to sell “as many as we can get”.

Ateco’s other Chinese brand, Chery, has not fared so well, with sales trending downwards since its introduction with the J1 light car and J11 compact crossover in March last year.

Mr Cotterill, who described Chery as one of China’s most successful vehicle exporters, said Ateco is “absolutely” committed to the brand, but that getting hold of sufficient stock has been an issue.

“Our main issue has been supply of vehicles, so it is difficult to sell what you haven’t got. We are working with Chery quite closely to try and alleviate those supply problems.

“At this stage we are trying to consolidate and get a good consistent run with what we have got.

“Once we have achieved that, then we will work with Chery to see (about future products). But I think that would be premature until we have managed to improve the business from where it is now.”

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