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LDV prepares new model onslaught

Forward march: LDV’s future model plan includes at least one smaller van, an all-new pick-up and an SUV based on the utility.

Small, medium and large van, SUV and pick-up on horizon for China’s LDV

28 Oct 2016

SHANGHAI Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) is preparing to massively expand its LDV commercial vehicle portfolio, with expectations it could reach 10,000 sales in Australia thanks to the addition of smaller vans, an all-new pick-up and long-mooted SUV models.

Several SAIC executives joined with Ateco Automotive executive chairman Neville Crichton – the head of the independent distributor responsible for the Chinese commercial vehicle brand in Australia – at a media event in Sydney this week to explain the company’s plans and commitment to the local market and confirm several additions to the range.

“Very soon, in just one-and-a-half years, we will have new platform which is smaller than G10,” said SAIC director of overseas business Jolly Yang, referring to a van that slots in underneath LDV’s current offerings – the mid-size G10 and large V80 vans.

“We will have a crossover, van and SUV, smaller than G10. Platform three, that will be two-and-a-half years later, around 2020, that will be similar to Volkswagen Caddy – that will be crossover, pick-up, SUV.”

Despite undercutting the Toyota HiAce on price, the current 5186mm-long G10 is a significant 491mm longer than the sales-leading Japanese offering, indicating that LDV is keen to provide a size-smaller offering within 18 months as well as a sub-$20,000 compact van before the end of the decade.

Mr Yang also confirmed the forthcoming SUV would be based on the all-new mid-size pick-up (see separate story) which is confirmed for launch in Australia from mid next year, as a competitor for the the likes of the Ford Everest, Holden Trailblazer, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and Toyota Fortuner.

“It’s the same chassis actually, same platform for the pick-up and SUV,” he said.

Also slated for Australia late next year is an electric version of the large V80 van, although Mr Crichton believed that pricing and homologation issues may work against the niche product.

“The battery (van), absolutely, I’m not totally convinced it will be homologated by next year like they (SAIC) are, but we are definitely interested in it,” he said.

“(Pricing is) a major issue at this stage, a major issue. And at this stage with battery priced, the car’s not competitively priced unless the government do something to assist to bring the cars in.”

Asked whether the electric V80 needed to be priced competitively in the Australian market, Mr Crichton said: “We’d like to, other otherwise there’s no point launching it.”

However, he declined to offer any recharging assistance for electric V80 owners: “That’s not our game, we sell cars, that’s not our business.”

All models launched overseas would be slated for a local arrival, too, according to SAIC president Xu Qiuhua, who reiterated that LDV is focused on commercial vehicles and claimed that “the market, Australia, needs those kind of vehicles”.

“Short-term we want to bring more and more product to Australia. We have the V80 right now and G10 in Australia gasoline,” he said.

“We will launch a diesel engine in Australia, and later on end of this year in November we will bring automatic transmission to Australia and next year more and more product to Australia.

“LDV is very important market and we try to bring more value to Australian market.”

SAIC general manager of international business Yang Xiaodong also expanded on the LDV brand’s longer term vision and reiterated that “globalisation is our key strategy”.

He nominated the opening of a Shanghai technology centre for design and process validation, a UK styling and powertrain centre and a Silicon Valley innovation technology centre as examples of SAIC’s increased footprint.

“So that gives us the opportunity to link together China, the US and also the UK and take full advantage of the global resource capability,” Mr Xiaodong said.

Manufacturing bases for SAIC would be split between Shanghai and a fast-growing Thailand factory that last year produced 4000 units of the MG MG6 – LDV’s passenger car brand sibling – and will this year produce 10,000 vehicles.

A two-phase expansion of Thailand manufacturing will see capacity first grow to 100,000 units then double for “all SAIC products (as) our manufacturing base for global right-hand-drive vehicles” including LDV van and pick-up ute production.

This is significant, considering Thailand’s proximity to Australia and the free-trade agreement in place between Thailand and Australia.

Beyond expansion of commercial vehicles, Mr Xiaodong said SAIC – which has technical joint ventures with General Motors and Volkswagen – was further committed to joining the race with alternative-fuel vehicles.

“Our advantage in China is we are leading in all aspects of quality, manufacturing, technology,” he said.

“Today we have new range of vehicle: hybrid, plug-in, pure EV and also we first launched globally the ‘smart’ (internet-connected) car. Besides the EV I just mentioned we also have the fuel cell and also the autonomous vehicle. We have tested for 16,000 miles on the public road.”

No timeline was provided for the rollout of these vehicles, however when asked if any were suitable for sale in Australia, Mr Crichton said: “We’ll sell what we’ve got at the moment, that’s way down the line for the commercials.”

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