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Haval ditches diesel plans

Diesel dead: Haval’s H9 flagship SUV will have to do battle without a diesel engine after head office killed that alternative to the current 2.0-litre turbo petrol.

Promised diesel jettisoned by Haval in favour of a petrol and electric future

1 Jun 2016

CHINESE SUV specialist Haval is set to forgo 35 per cent of its target market in Australia by abandoning the planned introduction of diesel to its range, saying diesel has reached its zenith.

Instead, Haval – a branch of Great Wall Motors – will stick with a combination of turbo-petrol engines and still-to-be-revealed plug-in hybrid and electric powertrains for its SUV wagon range.

As well, it will axe manual gearboxes in favour of wall-to-wall automatic transmissions in its Australian offerings. This will effect only the baby of the range, the H2, as the mid-sized H8 and large H9 are already auto only. The upcoming H6 Coupe that is due Down Under in September is also exclusively automatic for Australia.

When originally outlining plans for Australia early last year, Haval promised a 2.0-litre diesel engine as an alternative to the petrol four-cylinder engines launched with the three-model range in October.

GoAuto was then told the diesel had been placed on hold while Haval engineers did due diligence tests in the wake of the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal.

Now, Haval Motors Australia (HMA) chief marketing officer Tim Smith has announced the diesel will not be coming at all, indicating the decision was made at Haval headquarters in China.

“The R&D experts at Haval have declared the future for the company will be powered by turbocharged petrol engines,” he said.

Mr Smith said the Australian team raised consumer and media questions about the introduction of diesel with its Chinese head office.

“The debate about diesel power was a long and robust one. Ultimately the future of that fuel has been decided by the market, the actions of other companies and a growing push for more stringent clean air policies,” he said.

“We have already seen reaction from markets like India, where the sale of vehicles powered by diesel engines greater than two litres in capacity have been banned since December last year.

“Our team of engineers made a clear case they believe the development of diesel engines had reached its zenith and the era of smaller, more fuel efficient petrol engines and powerful hybrid and electric engines was upon us.

“We left head office very excited by the future prospects for engine development and what it means for the Australian market.”

That anti-diesel policy does not seem to extend to Great Wall, though. Haval’s new sister company, Great Wall Motors Australia, last week announced that its reborn range of Great Wall utes – due in Australia in the fourth quarter of this year – will get a turbo-diesel engine matched with a six-speed manual transmission.

Haval’s decision not to proceed with diesel will primarily affect the larger models, particularly the ladder-chassis 4x4 H9 seven-seat flagship that is meant to compete with the likes of Toyota’s Prado and Ford’s Everest, sales of which are overwhelmingly diesel.

At the other end of the scale, the compact-SUV market in which the 1.5-litre petrol H2 competes is almost all petrol.

Of the 140,000 SUVs sold in Australia to the end of April, almost 49,000 or 35 per cent were diesel, with most of those coming from the large-SUV segment.

Among business buyers, the percentage was higher, about 40 per cent.

Just 664 hybrid SUVs were sold in the same period – many from Lexus – along with 33 electric SUVs (mainly Mitsubishi’s plug-in Outlander).

Haval’s decision to drop the manual transmission will have little impact, according to Mr Smith.

“Australia has one of the highest proportions for automatic ownership, so this is a welcome move for Australian customers,” he said.

“Continued development of automatic transmissions means they are not only less stress to drive, but also more efficient and easier to maintain.

“The new H6 SUV due to arrive here in September will come exclusively with a six-speed Getrag dual-clutch transmission (DCT).

“The DCT in the H6 will combine the high efficiency of a manual transmission with sophisticated electronics to achieve a clear reduction in fuel consumption and emissions compared to traditional automatic transmissions.”

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