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Ateco set to take on LDV vans

New beginning: LDV’s V80 van series could be relaunched as early as June if a new distribution deal with Ateco Automotive comes to fruition as expected.

Ateco empire set to expand with Chinese LDV vans expected to join stable in June

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LDV logo29 Apr 2014

AUSTRALIAN motor vehicle distributor Ateco Automotive is set to grow its portfolio of Chinese brands and enter the light-commercial van market in one fell swoop by acquiring the distribution rights to LDV and its V80 Cargo range from current importer WMC.

The expected addition of LDV to Sydney-based Ateco’s stable, potentially as soon as June 1 this year, will come swiftly after its acquisition of Foton Utes from Queensland-based FAA Automotive Australia at the beginning of April, should it progress as expected.

LDV is a subsidiary of the massive government-backed Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC), which also owns the rights to fellow British brand MG, which is distributed here on a small scale in Sydney by Australia Longwell Motor (ALM).

LDV was formerly known as Leyland Daf Vehicles and based in the UK, but was purchased by SAIC in 2009.

A source close to the matter told GoAuto the deal to move LDV distribution from Sydney-based WMC Group to Ateco would be signed off on May 16 and take effect on June 1.

Neither distributor was prepared to comment when approached by GoAuto this week.

WMC Group chief executive Neil Bamford said: “I cannot make a comment at the moment, I hope you understand.”

Meantime, Ateco’s PR consultant for Asian brands Daniel Cotterill said he was “simply not in a position to comment on that at all”.

In addition to Foton utilities and trucks – the truck business has operated as a separate business since October 2012 – Ateco is responsible for Great Wall’s cheaper and smaller V-series utes.

Winning the rights to LDV, the only mainstream Chinese vans imported to Australia, would bolster Ateco’s commercial stocks beyond these utes and into Australia’s commercial van market, starting with the diesel-powered V80 that went on sale nationally under WMC in January 2013.

WMC has an Australian network of 20 LDV dealers in NSW, Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia. It also currently imports Chinese-made Higer buses.

The V80 range is available in short- and long-wheelbase guise, the latter with an extra-cost extra-high roof. Priced from $30,800 to $39,990, the V80 is a cut-price alternative to the Ford Transit and Renault Master, among others.

Cab-chassis and passenger versions could follow in time.

All V80s are powered by a VM Motori-sourced 2.5-litre turbo-diesel producing 100kW of power and 330Nm of torque, matched to a five-speed manual gearbox.

In addition to Foton commercial vehicles, Great Wall utes and potentially LDV vans, Ateco is responsible for Great Wall passenger cars, the Chinese Chery brand and South-Korean brand SsangYong, the latter owned by India’s Mahindra and Mahindra.

The Ateco Group also imports premium brands Lotus and Maserati through its European Automotive Imports (EAI) subsidiary.

Industry sources have suggested that while Ateco was preparing to pick up LDV, the distributor also stood to lose both Great Wall and SsangYong to factory-backed operations by the end of this year.

However, Mr Cotterill hosed down those suggestions, saying that Mahindra had made it clear its preference for an independent operation for SsangYong when it switched from Sime Darby to Ateco in November 2012.

That move coincided with Citroen moving from Ateco to join PSA stablemate Peugeot at Sime Darby.

“It’s our understanding that the option (for SsangYong) of doing it with Mahindra was considered when we took it on from Sime, but for whatever reason they weren’t interested,” Mr Cotterill said.

“Either way it didn’t happen ... If that was under consideration now that would be news to us.”

Mahindra Automotive Australia (MAA) national manager Mahesh Kaskar also told GoAuto this week that he unaware of anything to validate the rumour of a shift in distribution arrangements for SsangYong.

The South Korean brand currently offers the Korando compact SUV, Actyon ute and Stavic people-mover, and will expand its range with other SUVs such as the production version of its XLV crossover as previewed at last month’s Geneva motor show.

Mr Cotterill was equally dismissive of the suggestion Ateco could lose Great Wall, stating: “With Great Wall, that’s just not true. They may well be establishing some entity in Melbourne, but as far as them taking on the rights in this country this year, it’s just not true.”

As GoAuto has reported, Great Wall has experienced a sales decline of 48.6 per cent so far this year on top of a 44.5 per cent drop in 2013, as it battles an ageing line-up and sharper pricing from mainly Japanese rivals.

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.

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.

Meantime, as reported, Ateco is interested in pursuing the rights to upmarket Israeli-Chinese start-up Qoros in the medium term. The Qoros 3 small car achieved a commendation for its impressive five-star safety score from European NCAP in 2013.

With a crossover SUV derivative of the 3 sedan and hatch believed to be on the radar, Qoros shapes up as a viable option for more western markets, although not in the immediate future with right-hand-drive production still up to two years away.

Ateco chairman Neville Crichton told GoAuto last month at the Geneva motor show that if RHD became available, he would be interested in talking with Qoros about distribution opportunities in Australia and New Zealand.

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