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More models: Foton is set to branch out beyond the Tunland ute in Australia.

Tunland Ute just the start for Chinese brand Foton in Australia

27 Feb 2012

FOTON Automotive Australia launches its first product on local shores in May with the Tunland one-tonne ute, but there is more to come from the importer of Chinese-made vehicles, including a van, an SUV and a compact car.

Foton has grand plans for huge growth in the coming years, with plans to be a key manufacturer in the global market by 2020 with 1.4 million vehicle exports from a total production of four million vehicles.

Using what it calls a 5+3+1 strategy, Foton will first target Russia, India, Brazil, Mexico and Indonesia as five developing nations.

Australia also fits into this initial push, but on a smaller scale.

The ‘3’ in the plan represents developed nations, being the Europe, North America and Japan and South Korea combined, which will be targetted next, while the ‘1’ stands for China, which will remain the global headquarters of the Foton brand.

The expansion will see Foton grow from a manufacturer of medium-to-heavy trucks and buses to passenger cars, and the evolution starts with the second-generation Tunland pick-up.

 center imageLeft: Foton Tunland. Below: Foton van range and the Auman GTL truck.

“Over the past five years, Foton has invested heavily in research and development to develop a passenger vehicle range, engineered with Western markets in mind,” said FAA director Peter Llewellyn.

At the time of its Australian launch, the Tunland will only be available as a dual-cab utility with a Cummins 2.8-litre 120kW/360Nm turbo-diesel engine – made in a new joint venture factory on the Foton site in Beijing – and manual transmission in 4x4 and 4x2 drive configurations.

Single and extra-cab versions of the Tunland will hit our shores at the end of 2012 along with a ZF six-speed automatic transmission option and a Foton-built 2.4-litre petrol engine.

A detuned version of the Cummins diesel will be fitted to the entry-level single-cab 4x2 ute, tuned to produce 96kw and 280Nm.

This base-specification ute will be marketed toward tradies and priced to be competitive with the Japanese entry-level utes, the Great Wall V200 and new competition from all-new SsangYong, ZX Grand Tiger and JAC utes.

Next off the line for FAA will be a light commercial van that will also be available as a people-mover in eight and 14-seat configurations.

This will be an all-new generation of the Toyota HiAce-sized Foton View that has been in service in China for some years, powered by the same diesel and petrol engine pairings as the Tunland ute.

FAA hopes to have the commercial version here late in 2012 and the MPV here in 2013.

In 2014, an SUV wagon built on the Tunland chassis is scheduled arrive here, creating a low-cost mid-size SUV in the same way as the Mitsubishi Challenger is built on the Triton platform and the current Nissan Pathfinder rides on Navara-based underpinnings.

Foton, which made a seven-seat wagon based on the previous Tunland C2 platform that was known in China as the Tunland CX or Saga, says its SUV will be closer to Prado in size and therefore bigger than rival vehicles, and will be better than the previous Foton SUV.

“The Saga was just that,” said FAA partner Daniel Phelan. “We originally asked about it but they wouldn’t give it to us.

“They will build the new model especially for export markets. That’s the great thing about Foton they understand where they have had problems in the past and what needs to be addressed for places like Australia.”

The final piece in the immediate plans for FAA is a compact car set for introduction in 2015. This would be Foton’s first true passenger car and indicative of its global plans to have product in all segments.

“At the moment, Foton is only licensed to build commercial vehicles”, said Mr Phelan. “The passenger cars might come by way of a buy-out (of an existing car company) or a joint venture.”

Foton recently unveiled the first products of a 50:50 joint venture with Daimler, which involves producing Daimler heavy trucks in China wearing Foton Auman GTL badges.

The joint venture has given Foton access to leading technology and ability to produce a world-standard truck.

FAA is a Gold Coast-based partnership between Grant and Daniel Phelan of Phelan Family Holdings and Peter Llewellyn and Rod James of PR Finance.

The Phelan family has been importing buses into Australia for the past 15 years, including from Foton, and has well-established Chinese business interests.

FAA was one of three businesses in contention to take on the Foton franchise in Australia until WMC won the contract midway through 2011, but when that fell through due to vehicle price negotiations FAA stepped back into the fold.

FAA has signed 15 East Coast dealers to sell the Tunland from launch, all based in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, and plans to expand to 60 sites across the country as is rolls out new product.

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