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Chery cars here by November

Pioneer: The Chery J1 will be the first taste from the Chinese company’s smorgasbord of 28 models.

China’s Chery to join Great Wall Motors and Geely on sale Down Under by November

2 Jul 2010

THE first cars from China’s biggest vehicle exporter, Chery, will be released here later than expected in November, according to Australian importer Ateco Automotive, which has ruled out the addition of a third Chinese brand “in the near term”.

Chery, which is also China’s largest independent car-maker, was originally expected to become Australia’s first Chinese vehicle brand - in the first quarter of 2009 - but the global financial crisis, unfavourable exchange rates and Australian Design Rule problems have delayed its local introduction.

Great Wall Motors, which is also distributed in Australia and New Zealand by Ateco, became Australia’s first Chinese brand here last year, when it released two dual-cab utes that we’re joined in late 2009 by the X240 compact SUV.

Australia’s first Chinese-brand passenger cars are expected to land here in the third quarter of this year, courtesy of either Great Wall or Geely, which is planning and ex-Perth model rollout from September.

Now Ateco managing director Ric Hull has confirmed the first Chery models are on the verge of receiving formal ADR compliance before being released nationally in four months - five years after Ateco signed an agreement with Chery to distribute its vehicles in Australia in November 2005.

“Let me be absolutely clear,” Mr Hull told GoAuto. “We are proceeding with Chery. Our compliance issues are all but resolved and we expect to launch in November.”

62 center imageLeft, from top: Chery J1, J3 and J11. As we’ve reported, the first two Chery models sold here will be the J1, a light-sized 1.3-litre five-door hatchback based on the Chinese domestic market’s A1, and the J11 - a 2.0-litre five-door compact SUV based on China’s Tiggo3.

The manual-only J1 will compete directly with entry-level three-door versions of the Hyundai’s Getz, which is one of Australia’s cheapest new cars but ceases Korean production October.

The Getz, which can currently be had for as little as $13,990 drive-away, will be joined on sale here in July by Hyundai’s newer, more upmarket - and likely more expensive - Indian-built i20.

The J11, meantime, will go head to head with Australia’s cheapest compact crossovers – including Great Wall’s X240 and front-wheel drive versions of the Hyundai ix35, Kia’s new Sportage, Nissan Dualis and Toyota RAV4 – by offering a cut-price 2WD version with manual and automatic transmissions.

Both the J1 and J11 will come standard with ABS brakes, twin front airbags, alloy wheels, remote central locking, power windows and air-conditioning, while electronic stability control is also under development for the J11 wagon.

The first two Chery models will be joined in the first quarter of 2011 by the J3, a Corolla-sized small car powered by Chery’s own 1.6-litre petrol engine but initially available only as a manual.

However, while an inhouse-designed CVT automatic transmission will join the Australian range within months, from launch all J3s will come standard with ESC, ABS and twin front and side airbags, plus air-conditioning, alloy wheels, power windows/mirrors and remote central locking.

Mr Hull, who finalised latest product details with Chery in China last week, said he expects about 45 Chery dealers to be in place by November.

“Probably the success of Great Wall has created a lot of interest in Chery from Australian dealers,” he said.

Earlier this year Ateco owner and governing director Neville Crichton said his company would import Australia’s first Chinese electric vehicle as early as next year, and did not rule out the possibility it could come from a brand other than Great Wall or Chery.

That led to speculation Ateco could also become the Australian importer for BYD, which is one of largest China’s largest independent car-makers and has vowed tgo expand to Australia by 2012, but Mr Hull has now ruled out a third Chinese vehicle franchise for Ateco in the short term.

“I don’t think we’ll be involved with any other brands in the near term,” said Mr Hull. “Both Chery and Great Wall are developing EVs. (But) The timing is very unclear at this stage.” Asked which brand would introduce China’s first EV for Australia, Mr Hull said: “In all honestly, I don’t know”.

Although no vehicles from either Chery or Geely have received official ADR certification in Australia, a fourth Chinese brand says it remains committed to launching a small passenger car here this year. Lifan’s 520 sedan was one of the first Chinese cars to obtain regulatory approval, back in 2008.

Chery is expected to be Australia’s biggest Chinese brand because it will target the highest-volume vehicle segments here with a range of 28 cars, people-movers, utes, vans and trucks.

Ateco is planning for about 7000 Chery sales in the first full year, with infrastructure and systems planning built around coping with 50,000 sales in five years.

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