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Dealer groups back Chinese brands

Hit the road JAC: JAC truck sales will start Down Under with light-duty vehicles with GVM rating of between 3.5 and 8.0 tonne, through a network of more than 20 dealerships.

Australia’s biggest auto dealer conglomerates stand behind Higer and JAC invasion

22 Nov 2010

TWO of Australia’s biggest automotive dealer groups, with a combined stable of about 180 dealerships and an annual turnover of more than $5 billion, are supporting the introduction of Chinese brands Higer and JAC (Jianghuai Automobile Co) to Australia and New Zealand at a retail level.

Automotive Holdings Group – with about 100 dealerships – is providing funding for the exercise through fledgling importer White Motor Corporation, which was founded to import heavy trucks and buses in 2005.

 center imageFrom top: Australian-delivered Higer bus, JAC heavy truck, JAC light truck, Higer P1 minibus.

The partnership has already delivered Chinese-made Higer bus and coaches onto the Australian market and, from the second quarter of 2011, JAC trucks will start rolling into showrooms across the country.

The WMC venture also has the support of AdTrans and its new parent company, AP Eagers, which between them have about 80 dealerships, including a number of heavy vehicle franchises selling Hino, Fuso, Mercedes-Benz, Freightliner, Sterling, Iveco and International vehicles.

Neither dealer group has significant ownership of WMC, which is said to be 90 per cent owned by Sydney doctor and medical practice owner Don Munro.

However, AHG is said to be a major funder of the exercise, presumably to get in on the ground floor with two of the biggest Chinese heavy vehicle brands.

WMC general manager Shannon Taylor said WMC’s strength would be in its retail network, backed by two of Australia’s biggest and most successful heavy vehicle dealer groups.

“No one else has been able to secure partners like these,” he said.

Mr Taylor said Higer buses were being sold through a network of 10 dealerships in all states of Australia except Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

He said the import operation, which started three years ago with dealers in Cairns and Melbourne, had not been all been plain sailing, with buses destined for Australia being refined according to Australian feedback and then relaunched this year.

Higer last year started making Scania buses at its Chinese factory, where a separate production line had been built for export models – both Scania and Higer – to deliver the quality expected in western-standard markets that, apart from Australia and New Zealand, included Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau.

Mr Taylor said the fact that Higer buses and coaches destined for Australia used Cummins engines and Allison transmissions, among other imported components and technologies, helped to provide peace of mind for Higer dealers and customers.

JAC trucks will be launched in New Zealand in January, followed by Australia in the second-quarter of 2011 due to its more stringent emissions rules.

In Australia, JAC truck sales will start with light-duty vehicles with GVM rating of between 3.5 and 8.0 tonne, through a network of more than 20 dealerships, including Tasmania, Northern Territory and regional centres.

JAC still has to decide who will distribute its light vehicles (cars, SUVs and pick-ups) in Australia, which will be subject to a separate import arrangement, but Mr Taylor points to the vast retail network of AHG and AdTrans/AP Eagers as WMC’s great strength for any passenger car range from China.

Although the two retail groups are partnering WMC in its Chinese product introduction, they are not limiting themselves to White-imported products. AdTrans has the Victorian franchise for Chinese-made BCI buses, a small Chinese bus-maker.

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