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Exclusive: Ateco reboots LDV vans in Australia

Van plan: LDV will relaunch the V80 van October but plans to expand with a smaller van dubbed G10, a G10-based people-mover and two buses.

Chinese-built LDV vans back on the market from October under Ateco stewardship

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LDV logo22 Jul 2014

ATECO Automotive has taken over distribution of Chinese light commercial vehicle brand LDV in Australia, with a relaunch locked in for October ahead of a range and dealer network expansion.

Sealing the deal struck earlier this year, which was reported exclusively by GoAuto in April, the change in distributorship officially took place early in July, with Ateco taking the reins from WMC Group which had been selling the V80 van since January last year.

Ateco Automotive’s Asian brands spokesman Daniel Cotterill revealed to GoAuto this week that it will not be taking any of the stock from WMC and will start afresh with new product – including an automatic transmission and entry-level pricing below $30,000 driveaway – in mid-October.

Existing stock will be run out through the dealer network over the coming months, with Ateco covering customer support enquiries and warranty issues.

Mr Cotterill said Ateco is confident in the quality of the V80, and is focusing on expanding the dealer network and realigning pricing for the van range.

“Everybody (the dealers) to my recollection received the vans well in a product sense, and in a technical sense, but felt they probably weren’t competitive enough in terms of price,” he said.

“What we are attempting to do this time is to offer sharper pricing, a broader product range that will include automatic transmissions, and an enhanced dealer network.”

When the brand relaunches in October, Ateco will kick-off with a near-identical line-up for the V80, which includes short-wheelbase low-roof, long-wheelbase mid-roof and LWB high-roof body styles.

Pricing under WMC started at $32,990 plus on-road costs for the SWB and topped out at $39,990 for the LWB high-roof.

While the V80 was previously only available with a five-speed manual gearbox, Ateco will introduce a new six-speed automatic transmission option from relaunch.

Mr Cotterill was unable to confirm pricing details, but vowed to undercut the previous entry point to ensure the V80 was more competitive in the tough van segment.

“Pricing is still a work in progress, however if the exchange rate remains favourable we hope to start it under $30,000 driveaway, and to do that with healthy dealer margins,” he said. “That is a starting point – we are still working on the rest.”

Short-wheelbase versions of the V80 will compete directly with the SWB Toyota HiAce, Renault Trafic, Fiat Scudo and Hyundai’s iLoad, while LWB variants will be pitched against the Ford Transit, Fiat Ducato and Renault Master.

With the V80 SWB starting from less than $30,000 driveaway, it will undercut most diesel-powered rivals including HiAce (from $36,990) and iLoad CRDi (from $36,490), while the Volkswagen Transporter is priced from $36,490 for the SWB TDI250.

Previously called Maxus before the name was changed following a conflict with an aftermarket component manufacturer, the front-wheel-drive V80 is powered by a Euro 4-compliant VM Motori-sourced 100kW/330Nm 2.5-litre turbo-diesel engine.

Equipment levels are still to be confirmed, but safety features across the range will include driver and passenger front airbags, parking sensors and ABS brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist.

Electronic stability control is not currently available, but Mr Cotterill said Ateco “would take it as soon as it is available”.

“As SAIC develop these vehicles further over time, we would very happily take any additional safety tech they are able to make available,” he said.

Mr Cotterill said Ateco’s dealings with LDV parent company SAIC have been fruitful, with the Chinese automotive giant keen on ensuring sustainable growth in Australia by keeping a close eye on the market.

“It is apparent to us the professionalism of LDV and its SAIC parent, they are very keen,” he said. “They are sending a team to Australia to evaluate the local market and conditions.”

The powerful SAIC group includes brands such as MG and Roewe (formerly Rover), and has joint-venture agreements in place with General Motors and Volkswagen.

While the LDV range will consist of the V80 initially, Mr Cotterill confirmed that more LCVs were on the way under the LDV banner, including a smaller commercial van known as the G10, a people-mover version of the G10, a pair of buses and a still-secret one-tonne utility (see separate story).

Despite the strong competition in a relatively small market, Mr Cotterill said the expanding line-up should see brand awareness lift and sales grow in a sustainable manner.

“In this climate it is very competitive but we are extraordinarily optimistic about this brand. We think the impending arrival of automatic (transmission), the buses and the people-mover is a recipe for a good, sustainable business over time,” he said.

Last year, 15,552 2.5-3.5-tonne vans were sold in Australia, with a further 3069 sub-2.5-tonne vans and about 5600 larger commercial vans.

As LDV does not report its sales with the FCAI, it is unclear how many V80s were sold in the 18 months since the brand launched in Australia, but Mr Cotterill said Ateco is confident that the fledgling Chinese brand can make in-roads in the commercial van segment and is predicting that it will take sales from established brands early on.

“We have looked at it overall and as far as our analysts have seen it, the van segment represents 21,000 units a year,” he said.

“The buses of the size we are discussing are another 2500 units, give or take.

We think that winning about four per cent of that business after the first six months or so is a realistic start-up goal.

“As the range and network expands, they are the two things that feed growth. We are not prone to flights of fancy here, but there are some very experienced industry hardheads who are genuinely optimistic and enthusiastic about this brand.” At launch last year, WMC said it aimed to have the V80 selling through a network of 37 dealers across Australia, but when the franchise changed hands earlier this month the network was at 18 outlets.

Ateco plans to increase that number to 30 by the October relaunch, aiming for about 40 dealers nationwide by the end of this year in both metropolitan and regional areas.

Mr Cotterill said some dealerships may be shared with other light-commercial brands that fall under the Ateco banner, including Great Wall and Foton, but only if the arrangement is complementary.

“It will tie in where it makes sense to do so. Obviously we have got really good working relationships with dealers and dealer groups across the country.

It’s on a case-by-case basis but there is no hard and fast rule that says, for example, if you are a Foton Tunland dealer that you can’t be an LDV dealer,” he said.

“There is fair old competition for facilities and good quality dealers. A company like ourselves we need to maximise our pre-existing relationships where we can.”

In the United Kingdom where the LDV nameplate has a strong heritage thanks to its former name, Leyland DAF, the company has contracts with a number of major fleet buyers including the Royal Mail and the UK police services.

Mr Cotterill said Ateco is in the process of determining a fleet pricing structure and as the model range and dealer network expands, the importer will ramp up its efforts to court larger fleet buyers.

“I think we would want to crawl before we walked, but clearly there is an ambition there,” he said.

LDV brings Ateco’s stable of Chinese brands to four, joining Chery, Great Wall and Foton utilities and trucks.

The automotive distributor also imports South Korean brand SsangYong, while Italian sportscar-maker Maserati and Malaysian-owned British brand Lotus fall under its premium European Automotive Imports banner.

The LDV range was designed and originally built in the UK, before SAIC took over the company and started production in China.

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