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Beijing show: Great Wall targets Europe

Euro bound: The Great Wall Tengyi C30 might be Chinese, but it has been designed for Europe.

China’s Great Wall Motors eyes Europe, and possibly Australia, with new Tengyi C30

19 Apr 2010

GREAT Wall Motors has revealed an all-new small sedan that was designed specifically for Europe and could also be released Down Under – in addition to the first passenger car to go on sale in Australia from a Chinese car-maker in about three months.

Great Wall will use this week’s Beijing motor show to formally unveil the Tengyi C30, which has been developed to meet European safety and emissions standards and could be one of four GWM models to be assembled in Bulgaria for European markets in 2011.

The Tengyi C30 will also be sold in China, but Australian Great Wall importer Ateco Automotive says it is too early to say when or even if the all-new GWM car will become available locally.

The three-box C30 sedan rides on a 2610mm wheelbase – similar to that of Toyota’s Corolla – but has a kerb weight of just 1136kg, a substantial 510-litre boot capacity and looks a little like the same brand’s Yaris.

It will be available in other markets with a 77kW/138Nm 1.5-litre all-aluminium four-cylinder petrol engine with variable valve timing (VVT) engine, mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), plus a host of features including ABS brakes with EBD, twin front airbags, leather seat trim and a sunroof.

Ateco is yet to receive Australian Design Rule certification for any Great Wall vehicles beyond the X240 compact SUV, which went on sale in Australia last November, and the SA220 and V240 twin-cab 4x4 utes that marked the arrival in Australia of China’s first vehicle brand in mid-2009.

However, Australia’s largest privately owned vehicle distributor says it remains committed to launching Great Wall’s first passenger model here by July – narrowly ahead of Ateco’s near-simultaneous introduction of Chery, which will debut in Australia in August with the J1 and J3 small cars and the J11 small SUV.

61 center image Left: Great Wall Phenom concept.

Ateco originally said the first GWM passenger model for Australia would be the light-sized Peri hatchback – which appeared to be a direct copy of Fiat’s Panda – before shifting its focus to the similarly sized Florid.

Now, the first Great Wall hatch to arrive will most likely be the Phenom five-door, which will be among a number of Great Wall models to be driven by Australian media in China as part of an Ateco-hosted trip to the Beijing show.

Ateco will soon launch single-cab versions of both of its existing Great Wall utes, which attracted about 2000 sales last year and 500 a month so far in 2010. It hopes to find about 7000 buyers of Great Wall models in the first full year of sales.

To sell them, Ateco’s national retail network of 60 Great Wall dealers is due to more than double in size to up to 150 outlets.

While Great Wall’s Australian sales growth is expected to be driven primarily by the brand’s core commercial vehicles, the Phenom should be one of its cheapest and – eventually – best-selling models.

As we have reported, Ateco hopes to release the first Chinese EV in Australia in 2011, fuelling speculation it also plans to import vehicles from BYD, one of China’s fastest-growing brands, which is expected to debut its first electric car in Beijing this week.

However, both Chery and Great Wall have committed to producing an EV and the latter has developed a lithium-ion battery-powered electric version of its Peri. GWM’s first production EV should be an all-new model that could appear alongside a new three-door city-car from GWM this week at Beijing.

Great Wall has also gained European design approval for the Florid and Coolbear sedans, and the Hover 5 SUV, and Ateco managing director Ric Hull has indicated that a range of existing and forthcoming models will eventually become available for Australia.

“My understanding is the production capacity they will have in place in China by next year is going to be 23 million units a year,” he said.

“Presumably that will mean there will be surplus capacity to what the domestic market requires, in which case they will be looking to export. No doubt about it.” Mr Hull said the Australian nameplate for the Phenom i7, which emerged in concept guise at the 2007 Beijing show and also goes by the name Ling Ao in China, was yet to be decided.

He said it was inevitable that small passenger models from Great Wall and Chery would compete in the same market here.

“There are 47 manufactures in China so when they turn themselves to export they are going to compete with each other wherever they go in the same way they do at home,” he said, adding that Ateco’s position as the importer for both competing brands was not an issue for either car-maker.

“It doesn’t seem to be a problem. Chinese companies do have common distributors in other parts of the world and really there are probably only three committed vehicle distributors in Australia, so if a large number of the Chinese brands decide to come here it is inevitable that they will be dealing with the same distributors as their competitors.” Mr Hull said Great Wall was doing well from selling vehicles in specifications the industry views as unpopular.

“The conventional wisdom in Australia is that we should never have introduced a 4x4 pick-up with a petrol engine because they don’t sell – except we are selling heaps of them – and that you should never have an SUV without an automatic transmission. We don’t have an auto yet, (but) they are selling their socks off.

“For Great Wall, we are planning for 7000 (sales) in the first full year this year, with demand driven by high value pick-ups that are finding a place up against the dominant Japanese offerings that are almost totally made in Thailand. That is not covered off by the volume Koreans, which are not yet in that market,” said Mr Hull.

“We were very cautious in our approach with the SUV because the Koreans do have very good and very competitively priced SUVs but ours has gone much better than we expected.

“That is value driven. They are very competitively priced and very well equipped for the money as well. Shortly we will be launching single cab-versions of the utes. They will be very competitive and the dealers are very excited about the arrival of those.

“At this stage Great Wall’s focus is going to be pick-up and SUV based, with Chery starting life in Australia as passenger car-based with SUV.” Mr Hull, who was previously instrumental in the release of Korean vehicles in Australia, said that despite last year’s disappointing two-star ANCAP crash test results for both the SA220 and X240 utes (and the latter’s subsequent safety recall to fix seatbelts), Ateco was happy with the quality of cars from China so far.

“We are having very, very few problems with them,” he said. “They are not that dissimilar to how things went with the Koreans when they were at this stage and my recollection is that … apart from isolated examples, there were not that many quality issues with the Koreans either.”

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