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WMC opts against JAC cars and vans

Un-Refined: The Chinese-made JAC Refine and other JAC products will not be imported by WMC Group now that it is distributing SAIC’s LDV range.

Local distributor cancels deal to import cars and commercials from Chinese brand JAC

25 Jan 2013

HAVING started sales of the LDV V80 van, Sydney-based vehicle importer WMC Group has walked away from a deal to distribute light-commercial and passenger vehicles from rival Chinese brand JAC Motors in Australia.

The importer previously said it would sell of the Mercedes Sprinter-style JAC Sunray and the Hyundai iLoad-rivalling JAC Refine by the middle of this year, followed within 12 months by the Reni ute and several small passenger vehicles.

The JAC commercials were to have been sold in the same dealerships as the JAC light trucks and Chinese Higer buses it already distributes in Australia. These agreements will remain in place.

However, WMC now says it will direct its focus in the light commercial market to establishing LDV – a subsidiary of China’s largest automotive group SAIC – which it claims can provide it with a wide range of work and passenger vans, built to a higher standard that will be palatable to a western market from the get-go.

Furthermore, the company says it is not yet ready to expand its reach here beyond commercial vehicles into the realm of passenger cars, ruling out JAC models such as the J2 and J3 hatch, J5 sedan and J5 RS small people-mover.

In March 2012, WMC also dropped a proposed deal to import Chinese Joylong minivans here after JAC made it a better offer. In 2011, the importer also tore up a deal to distribute the Chinese Foton Tunland ute after pricing negotiations broke down.

Foton is now imported locally by Queensland company FAA.

At a media event for the LDV launch this week, recently appointed WMC chief executive officer Neil Bamford told GoAuto the company did not want to introduce “competing products in the market”.

“I think with those products, while we can bring them to a level that would be acceptable for the market, I’m not sure why we would undertake that when we have here a van (LDV) that can hit the ground running,” he said.

“SAIC will take direction from us, and they are a breath of fresh air to deal with because they harass us for information, they want to meet your dealers and find out what they want us to change.

“They want to know all about the Australian market and where it’s changing.

“To me, it underlines their commitment to this market, which after meeting some other manufacturers in China I didn’t feel the same commitment from them.” Mr Bamford said the decision to drop its plans to expand the JAC range beyond light trucks was “effectively made” when WMC saw the high quality standards of the initial LDV models, and its ability to provide several passenger vans by the end of 2013.

“The fact that LDV or SAIC can do a range from the seven-to-nine seater, up to the 18-21 seater, means we cover most of those markets we want to be in,” he said.

“And the quality is good. SAIC isn’t the biggest manufacturer in China for no reason,” WMC general manager Shannon Taylor added that the JAC range was not yet Australian Design Rule (ADR) approved.

As we have reported, WMC will expand its LDV range beyond the current medium- and long-wheelbase V80 diesel with petrol and automatic options, as well as a people-mover and V80-based cab chassis, by the end of 2013.

Mr Bamford said Chinese brands such as SAIC saw Australia as an ideal western test bed for its range ahead of intended launches in other established markets such as the UK and even possibly the US.

“We are a close neighbour, we embrace technology, and the ADR compliance is one of the toughest in the world,” he said.

“They know if they can crack our market, they know they can do the US and the UK” The V80 is primed to return to the UK – its homeland – by 2014. SAIC bought the rights to the LDV (originally short for Leyland DAF Vehicles) in 2009 and relocated it to a mammoth facility in China when the UK-based manufacturer went bust.

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