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Great Wall starts to rebuild in Australia

Automatic for the people: Great Wall’s new Steed pick-up will be a manual-only proposition for the time being.

A cloud-covered start to Great Wall’s Australian chapter may be clearing

9 Sep 2016

GREAT Wall will add to its just-launched the Steed utility stable with additional body styles for the light-commercial range, but don’t hold your breath for an automatic transmission.

An expansion of the body style offerings is set for early next year, pending right-hand-drive production scheduling, according to Great Wall Motors Australia chief marketing officer Tim Smith.

“We’re not far away from bringing in a single-cab and cab-chassis, single-cab in tub or tray, cab-chassis without the tray,” he said. “We’ll play it by ear on demands, it could be the price leader but we haven’t confirmed pricing yet.”

Speaking at the launch of the top-spec SE, which the company maintains is still aimed at farmers and tradespeople despite a highly-specified interior, Mr Smith said a rubber-floored workhorse variant for the dual-cab range is also coming early next year.

“The model outside is the SE. We’re looking at an S model base-spec, that will be similar timing but in the dual cab as well.”

The Chinese brand’s solo offering, the Steed ute, is a manual-only proposition, with Great Wall Australia national aftersales manager Tony Carraturo confirming that an automatic option will not be offered anytime soon.

“In the replacement model, yes, but this has only been launched so it’s three or four years at least,” he said.

The absence of an automatic limits its appeal for large fleets, as does the lack of an ANCAP crash test rating, something likely to be rectified in the next few months.

Great Wall has been reticent to speculate on a likely result for the new ute, having been stung by a four-star rating for sister brand Haval’s H9 SUV as well as previous problems with the now-superseded ute failing to get beyond a four-star rating.

Great Wall national marketing manager Bill So said the absence of an automatic and no ANCAP rating will have an impact in sales, but added that its target market of tradespeople and farmers would not be swayed.

“It is still manual and that will limit the market somewhat, but in that end of the marketplace many are happy to drive a manual. As for ANCAP we’ll have to wait and see, we’re waiting to find out,” he said.

After two years of conflict, former importer Ateco Automotive and Great Wall’s Chinese parent company came to terms in May and took the reins on July 1, ending the long-running conflict.

Inheriting a carpark of some 45,000 Great Wall owners and a disenchanted dealer network, the new executive team is determined to establish customer support and a dealer network that wants to take on the revamped brand.

The factory subsidiary has in the past two months talked to all of its former and existing Great Wall dealers and announced at the launch that the new national Great Wall network has 51 signed dealers.

The factory and the Australian team are aiming to restore confidence in the brand by getting systems in place for professional customer service, uninterrupted parts supply and getting them back on the road with a minimum of fuss.

Mr Carraturo said the dealers had been happy with the product and he was pleased that the new management had been able to re-establish a 50-strong dealer network and it was an ongoing task to satisfy its existing customer base.

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