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Great Wall to push passenger

One of four: Great Wall importer Ateco says the C50 sedan (to be called VX50 here) will be on-sale in 2014 with a small turbo petrol engine.

Four new models to come by 2014 as Great Wall looks for 20,000 sales plus

12 Mar 2013

THE distributor of Australia’s most popular Chinese car brand, Great Wall, aims to almost double sales volume by the end of 2014 as it embarks on an ambitious expansion into passenger cars.

According to independent importer Ateco Automotive, Great Wall will add an extra four models in three segments – light, small and crossover SUV – and attain a running rate of 20,000 annual sales by the end of 2014.

For point of reference, the projected sales figure is more than non-comparable brands Jeep, BMW or Audi sold here last year, and less than 5000 units shy of Suzuki (a former Ateco client).

First off the blocks will be a facelifted version of the Toyota Yaris-sized (and similarly styed) VX10, which will launch in the third quarter of this year priced around $13,000 – almost two years behind schedule.

Ateco spokesman Daniel Cotterill said the VX10 would feature six airbags and stability control from launch, but stopped short of saying it would be Australia’s first five-star ANCAP Chinese car.

Joining the VX10 by year’s end will be a monocoque crossover SUV called H6, which will start a staggered roll-out from around quarter four.

Initially, the H6 is likely to be available with a 2.0-litre petrol engine and manual gearbox, with diesel and automatic versions to follow in 2014. It will also be available in both four-wheel-drive and price-leading front-drive guise – the latter a first for Great Wall.

The H6 will replace the petrol-powered, separate-chassis X240 SUV (currently priced from $23,990 drive-away), which will be discontinued at the end of 2013 due to the lack of ESC stability control.

According to Ateco’s general manager for Great Wall, Peter McGeown, the diesel X200, which does have stability control, will soldier on for a little longer but will eventually be replaced by the oil-burning H6.

As reported last December, the H6 was caught up in a pollution scare when one vehicle in China was found to have more than three times the permitted level of the chemical formaldehyde in its cabin air.

However, it was unclear if the pollutants – widely used in production of plastics and other synthetic materials – leached from the vehicles’ standard parts or unauthorised accessories fitted later by the drivers of the privately owned vehicles that were up to two months old.

Next year will also see the addition of the Corolla-sized, sub-$20,000 VX30 hatch and marginally larger VX50 sedan.

The VX30 is currently sold in China as a sedan, but Ateco is believed to be waiting for the hatch to launch before launching sales in the third quarter of 2014. The car is sold as the C30 in China, and Ateco admits one of the reasons for the switch was Volvo’s trademark of the C30 name here.

Rather than offer a VX30 sedan, Ateco will instead offer the Cruze-sized VX50, which as we have reported is expected to be powered by a 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine producing a respectable 98kW and 188Nm engine matched with a five-speed manual gearbox or optional continuously variable automatic transmission.

The car, known as the C50 in China, is available with electronic stability control – now mandatory in Australia – plus side and curtain airbags, tyre pressure monitoring, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, and doors that automatically unlock after a crash.

Mr McGeown said to expect a different marketing strategy from the company, moving beyond the sparse and simple television and print adverts used on its current range.

 center imageFrom top: Great wall H6 and VX30

“I think you’ll probably see a different approach with that. We did what we did for a reason, it was a value for money message and it worked. But there comes a time when you need to review that, especially having passenger cars as we will,” he said.

Great Wall is already one of this country’s fastest growing car companies, having struck a chord at the budget end of the ute and SUV markets with its V and X Series models respectively since its launch here in 2009.

Last year, the company sold more than 11,000 units from its national dealer network, which presently sits on 87 sites. This was up from 8665 units in 2011, 6690 units in 2010 and just 1907 in its first year on sale.

Mr McGeown projects this figure will expand to 15,000 units in 2013, with the running rate of 20,000 units to be achieved once the full complement of new models comes on stream.

Asked how far the company could go, Mr McGeown said Great Wall had the scope to climb even higher and challenge the established top-11 car-makers here, but that Ateco would not get carried away at chasing volume without proof it could be sustained.

“It all has to do with the segment you compete in,” he said. “Certainly, there’s no question that given the right products in the right segments we can go from 20,000 to 30,000, but we’re not going to go off on a flurry and get carried away.

“We nominate products that fit and are priced and specified correctly, and want sustainable growth. (Then again), we’ve achieved 11,000 sales operating primarily with manual transmissions we’ve only recently had automatics ...”Mr McGeown also said to expect the network of 87 dealers would expand as new models arrived.

“When we first started, it was only the early adopters. We started with 44, there was a certain amount of success and we grew fairly rapidly through 87, soon to be 90 and not far from being 100. But we manage it as products come into the market, otherwise you can have too many,” he said.

One vehicle Ateco has ruled out is the C20 crossover, a higher-riding, plump-guarded version of the front-drive VX10.

“To us, you start to mix the products up and it becomes more confusing for our network, so we have stuck – despite a load of requests otherwise – to keeping it simple,” he said.

This is despite the boom in crossover vehicles sales – especially front-drive ones such as the C20 – as well as the glut of new competitors set to arrive from established brand Nissan (Juke), Ford (EcoSport), Holden (Trax) and Peugeot (2008).

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