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Great Wall sales slide again

Slow down: Sales of the X series SUV range reached 1722 units last year, which was a drop from the previous year’s haul of 3516.

Keen pricing from rivals and ageing model line-up keep Great Wall on the back foot

4 Apr 2014

ATECO Automotive, Australian distributor for Chinese car-maker Great Wall, is blaming the company’s continued sales decline on its ageing line-up and cut-price deals from more mainstream brands.

Great Wall, which produces cut-price utes and SUVs, has experienced a steady decline in sales since its record haul of 11,006 vehicles in 2012. Last year, the company sold 6105 units in Australia, marking a hefty 44.5 per cent drop in sales from the previous year.

Sales have continued to slide in 2014, with 941 Great Wall branded models finding homes in the first three months of the year, marking a 48.6 per cent drop on the same period in 2013.

This is in sharp contrast to the brand’s sales trajectory following its arrival on local shores in mid-2009. That year, it sold 1907 units, increasing to 6690 sales in 2010, 8665 in 2011, and onto the record haul of 11,006 for 2012.

Great Wall’s line-up has increased marginally since 2009, with the V-series utility range now encompassing two- and all-wheel drive variants with petrol and diesel powertrains and single and double cab body-styles, while the X-series SUV is now available with a diesel engine only.

The petrol-powered X240 was discontinued late last year when electronic stability control (ESC) became mandatory on all new passenger vehicles in Australia. This variant did not have the safety technology fitted.

Ateco Automotive’s public relations consultant for Asian brands, Daniel Cotterill, told GoAuto this week the continued drop in sales came down to several factors, notably aggressive pricing from its competitors.

“Competition certainly has come to meet us, as we predicted they would,” he said. “With the Chinese end of the market, we have driven the cost down quite significantly.

“The Japanese, due to currency variations, are in a much better position than they were perhaps a few years ago.”

Mr Cotterill said that while the Australian market conditions are proving challenging, the Chinese parent company and the local importer need to adapt accordingly.

“No bones about it it’s a tough market, it’s very competitive. We’ve got some very savvy competitors who have some very good products and we and Great Wall need to do all we can to meet that challenge.”

Another factor impacting sales is an ageing line-up. While both the X and V series models receiving upgrades in recent years, a number of newer models have launched in both the SUV and light-commercial utility categories.

Mr Cotterill said the company was working on refreshing the line-up with updated models, but it will have to soldier on with its aging line-up for a while longer.

“We haven’t been able to refresh our model line-up as quickly as we would like but there is not a lot we can do about that at the moment. We are working on it, Great Wall are working on it and we will address that situation as soon as we can.”“There are all sorts of things at play and under negotiation. But it has to make sense both from a Great Wall point of view, from their model range and remembering the size of their domestic market, and from our point of view in terms of the complexities of getting a car homologated and getting it in here compliant to ADRs and so on.”

Great Wall’s pricing typically undercuts its competitors in its respective segments, but Mr Cotterill said it would be difficult for the company to lower its pricing further.

“It has to make sense for the company that builds the cars and it has to make sense for us. And there has to be margin in it for the dealers. It gets to a point where how low can you reasonably go and still have it make economic sense.

“And I think we are about where we can be. Currently, fluctuations are the key things to look at. Look at the values of the Japanese yen compared to the Australian dollar and the Chinese Renminbi and you start to get a real picture of what influences price.” Mr Cotterill said that the local Great Wall dealer network has a strong understanding of shifts in the market and is prepared to stay the course, despite the sales slow-down.

“I don’t think anyone is pleased when sales are contracting rather than expanding. But we do have a very good quality and quite resilient dealer network. They are very experienced people they have seen all this before and they understand that the business is cyclical.

“We are in it for the long term. We always understood at Ateco that importing and distributing Chinese vehicles was a long-term proposition and that’s what we are doing.” One future model that could have a positive impact on sales is the H6 SUV that will sell alongside the X-series before eventually replacing it. This vehicle was set to launch in the first half of this year, but that could be pushed out slightly.

“I can tell you that we think the H6 is quite a nice car and it’s a very well constructed car. It will be a petrol manual to begin with. We will run it alongside the X series for some time. We wish to retain a foothold in diesel and automatic segments. It would be a gradual transfer to that rather than an abrupt model change.”

While Ateco nixed plans to introduce the VX10 light-car last year, the mooted Toyota Corolla-sized XC30 small car is also still on the cards, but Mr Cotterill said plans were not advanced and he “couldn’t put a date on it right now”.

“Great Wall have a lot going on in their own market which is quite dynamic at the moment. They have a very good position as a very strong domestic car manufacturer in China and that is of course where a lot of volume is for them and of course a lot of prestige in their own market.

“These things change regularly. They put their resources where they think they need to. And that sometimes has an effect on their export markets.”

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