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China’s ZX targets March launch for GrandTiger

Eye of the Tiger: The rugged GrandTiger ute from Chinese company ZX will hit our shores from March 2012.

ZX GrandTiger armed and ready for battle of the Chinese utes from March

28 Nov 2011

THE Chinese-made ute that made its mark as the battle wagon of choice on both sides of the recent Libyan civil war has been confirmed for a March launch in Australia.

And it is set for another battle here, this time in the showroom against the likes of Great Wall Motors.

The ZX Auto GrandTiger will become the first vehicle to be sold through a new national network of dealers appointed by Perth-based Chinese Automotive Distributors (CAD) that will also handle sales of another, better-known Chinese vehicle brand, Geely.

However, because the introduction of Geely passenger cars and SUVs has been delayed by ESC engineering holdups until the third quarter of 2012, the ZX Auto ute will become the first offering through the new network.

The ZX Auto ute is one of two Chinese-made utes destined for a March launch in Australia, with the upmarket Foton Tunland also set to hit Australian showrooms that month, at least in the eastern state capital cities.

The rugged ladder-chassis GrandTiger was frequently spotted on television news reports of the recent Libyan conflict, usually loaded with rebel soldiers or Gaddafi loyalists armed with machine guns and rocket launchers in running battles through the desert country.

160 center imageLeft: A GrandTiger in action in Libya. Below: Interior and rear angle shots of the GrandTiger. Bottom: ZX Landmark SUV.

Libya is one of the main export markets for ZX Auto – full name Hebei Zhongxing Automobile Co Ltd – with 6000 utes being sold there in 2009.

Powered by the same 2.4-litre Mitsubishi-sourced petrol engine as Great Wall’s V240 ute range, the Australian-spec GrandTiger will ride on a chassis tuned for Australia by Melbourne-based Prodrive – the company behind Ford Performance Vehicles and Ford Performance Racing.

CAD owner John Hughes, a major multi-franchised motor dealer in Perth, told GoAuto that Prodrive already had development ZX vehicles at its Campbellfield workshops.

“We have vehicles at Prodrive already, where they are working on suspension and steering, and quite a few of their recommendations have already been implemented,” he said.

“We have another six vehicles arriving for evaluation and extensive road testing from the third week of December.”

Mr Hughes said the GrandTiger – which has already received Australian Design Rule (ADR) certification – would be launched in Australia with the 2.4-litre petrol engine mated with a five-speed manual gearbox.

He said single-cab – including a pick-up style not available in the Great Wall range – and double-cab variants would be available at launch, in both 4x2 and 4x4 configurations.

According to ADR documents, the engine develops 93kW of power at 5250rpm and 193Nm of torque at 3000rpmTwo diesel engines are offered in China, in 2.8-litre 75kW normally aspirated and Nissan-sourced 3.2-litre 81kW turbocharged formats, but neither will initially be available in Australia.

Standard equipment will include air-conditioning, ABS brakes, power windows, power mirrors, a driver’s airbag and central locking. A passenger-side airbag will be an option, but no side or curtain airbags or ESC are indicated.

The GrandTiger is likely to be followed onto the Australian market by an SUV, the Landmark, which is spun off the same platform as the GrandTiger.

Mr Hughes said the GrandTiger production shipments were scheduled to arrive in time for a March showroom launch on 33 sites in all states.

He said some of the dealers who had signed up for the Geely-ZX franchises had multiple sites.

Mr Hughes said that, with delays in the Geely roll-out that will now start with the Cruze-sized EC7 and CE light car in the third quarter of 2012, the arrival of the ZX Auto GrandTiger was timely for the dealer network.

“If we were a one-brand distributor, our dealers would have lean pickings,” he said.

“Fortunately for our dealers, we have got ZX coming on stream in March.”

ZX Auto is based in Hebei province, north of Beijing, where it has two factories with a production capacity of 110,000 units a year.

A new plant to open next year in Yichang City will add capacity for an extra 200,000 vehicles, up to half of which will be passenger cars – a first for the company.

Apart from Libya, the company exports to the Middle East, South-East Asia, Africa, the former Soviet Union, Central America and South America.

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