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Chery re-boots with price cuts and ESC

Barrier-breaker: It has been 14 years since a car was sold in Australia with a list price under $10,000, but the Chery J1 has turned back the clock with a new starting price of $9990 drive-away.

Chinese brand Chery secures local future beyond 2013 with ESC and sub-$10k pricing

8 Jan 2013

CHINESE brand Chery has ensured its survival in Australia beyond the commencement of mandatory electronic stability control regulations in November 2013 after its local distributor today announced plans to introduce ESC to the J3 small hatch by June this year.

The news means the fledgling company – which experienced a 37.8 per cent decline in sales in 2012, its second year on sale – will for the first time be allowed to sell cars in Victoria, which already mandates that all new cars sold there must have ESC.

Australian Chery importer Ateco Automotive has also slashed the pricing of its existing J3 and J1 passenger models by up to $2000, with the light-sized J1 five-door further extending its margin as Australia’s cheapest car thanks to a new starting price of just $9990 driveaway.

The near-Mazda3-sized J3, meanwhile, will now retail for $12,990 driveaway (down from $14,990).

Ateco Automotive spokesman Daniel Cotterill told GoAuto the company expects to also introduce an automatic transmission on the J3 about the same time as the addition of ESC.

“It’s quite logical, with ESC being an integrated device and not a bolt-on thing I expect to see them (automatic transmission and ESC) introduced at the same time,” he said.

The J1, which previously retailed for $10,990 driveaway, extends its lead as Australia’s cheapest ahead of the new Mitsubishi Mirage ($12,990 driveaway), Suzuki Alto ($11,790 plus on-road costs) and Holden Barina Spark ($12,490 plus ORCs).

62 center imageFrom top: Chery J11 J3.

The J1 becomes the first car sold here below the $10,000 barrier since 1999, when the Suzuki Alto retailed for $9990 plus ORCs.

Since then, a succession of budget models including the Daewoo Matiz and Daihatsu Cuore have come and gone, but none sold for under $10k.

However, unlike the larger J3, it is unclear whether the J1 will be offered with ESC by the November 2013 cut-off, so the offer could be short-lived.

Mr Cotterill said the company could only confirm the introduction of ESC to the J3 – which first hit the market in September 2011 – and not the J1 or the J11 small SUV, which retains its $17,990 driveaway starting price.

“The J3 will have it (ESC) in the second quarter of this year, and I’m not yet sure about the rest,” he said.

The J1, which scored only three ANCAP stars safety in May 2011, comes with two front airbags, ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, and front seatbelt pre-tensioners.

Mr Cotterill said having ESC on the J3 was an important step for the fledgling brand in Australia, especially because it will allow the company to extend its reach into the large Victorian marketplace.

“It’s something we’re looking forward to, because until we have that we can’t go on sale in Victoria, the second most populous state in Australia,” he said.

Mr Cotterill said a Victorian network, initially comprised of around 10 dealers split between regional and metropolitan locations, would be in operation soon after the first ESC-fitted J3 hatches hit Australian shores.

“We’d really like to set up a network there and sell some cars,” he told us.

“We’ve done the homework for the dealer network there’d be an amount of lead-time, but not as much as normal because we’ve done some advance work.

“Before we launched Chery we did some initial homework, and I’m sure the homework pretty much still holds good.” The J3 is powered by an 87kW/147Nm 1.6-litre petrol engine and features six airbags, leather seats, 16-inch alloy wheels, MP3 sound system, automatic headlights and wipers, and reversing sensors.

Last August, the J1 and J3 were among a handful of Chinese cars sold in Australia discovered to contain the banned substance asbestos in its engine gaskets, leading to Ateco – whose Great Wall brand was also affected – freezing stock that had not cleared customs.

Asbestos has subsequently been eliminated from Chery and Great Wall vehicles imported to Australia.

While Chery will dedicate the rest of 2013 to expanding the dealer network and consolidating its range in its third year here, Mr Cotterill said the brand was also looking to expand its local range in the coming years.

“I know there is intention on both sides – Chery and Ateco – to introduce new models, but we really need to get the foothold first and see what we do from there,” he said.

2013 Chery drive-away pricing
J1 $9,990
J3 $12,990
J11 $17,990
J11 (a) $19,990

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