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Great Wall import impasse drags on

Not so great: As Great Wall Motors gears up to launch its Haval sub-brand in Australia, Great Wall ute sales slow to a trickle.

Handbrake on Great Wall ute sales as distributor and Chinese manufacturer lock horns

Great Wall logo21 Apr 2015

By RON HAMMERTON in SHANGHAI

AUSTRALIA’S first and best-known Chinese motor vehicle brand, Great Wall, remains in limbo as the independent distributor, Ateco Automotive, and the manufacturer try to come to terms on future distribution arrangements.

Both parties are reluctant to discuss the issue, mainly for legal reasons, but pressed for a comment at the Shanghai motor show yesterday, Great Wall executives said they hoped the issue would be settled as soon as possible.

The wrangle has dragged on since last year, but neither side will discuss the root cause.

A new factory-owned distribution company, Haval Australia, has been established in Melbourne by Great Wall Motors (GWM) to handle the importation of the company’s SUV range under the Haval sub-brand, and its executives concede they have been looking at possible plans to take over Great Wall’s ute range as well.

Great Wall sales have effectively stalled in Australia since what appears to be a falling out between Ateco and GWM, leaving dealers with few cars to sell.

Just 73 Great Wall vehicles have been sold in Australia this year, compared with 941 in the first quarter of 2014.

GWM CEO Wang Fengying told Australian journalists that the company wished to establish a long-term strategy for Great Wall sales in Australia.

She said that regardless of the outcome of the negotiations between the parties, customers would be protected, with parts supplies and service support.

“We do our utmost to provide our support to Great Wall customers in Australia,” she said.

Haval Australia chief marketing officer Tim Smith said: “We are still talking intensely with Ateco and we are in discussions with them to try to fix the situation as quickly as possible.

“There is no timeframe for that, unfortunately, but both parties want it resolved ASAP, which means we can then get back to servicing the customers and dealers of Great Wall.”

Asked if Haval Australia could take over Great Wall to run it in parallel with the new Haval franchise that opens for business in June, Mr Smith said: “We are still working on plans to see how they would integrate, but that decision has not been made yet.

“It is important for us not to over-extend ourselves, and that means focusing on Haval right now.

“Let’s just say there has been a lot of water pass between both parties, and both parties are very, very keen to resolve it as quickly as possible.”

Mr Smith said a proposal for a factory-backed Great Wall distribution arrangement would be put to the GWM board in two or three weeks.

Ateco, Australia’s biggest independent importer, pioneered Chinese vehicle sales in Australia with Great Wall in 2009.

Sales peaked in 2012 when Ateco shifted 11,006 Great Wall vehicles, but then the bubble burst and volumes plummeted 44.5 per cent in 2013.

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