Chery tree plucked
Ateco moves to import a budget-car range from China, writes NEIL McDONALD
GET ready for a budget-car invasion from China. The cheery Chery Automobile company is expected to land in Australian showrooms within 12 months.
After three years of negotiations, Ateco Automotive, which already imports Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Citroen, Ferrari and Maserati, will launch a low-cost assault, moving squarely into South Korean territory.
The model line-up is expected to include three-cars — a light, a small and a compact off-roader— and should be on sale by the first quarter of next year.
These cars could undercut some South Korean vehicles on price and equipment.
Ateco has the choice of the A1 hatch powered by either a 1.1-litre or 1.3-litre fourcylinder engine, the new Pininfarina-designed small A3 hatch and a Toyota RAV4-size offroader called the Tiggo that is available with petrol and turbodiesel powerplants.
In China, the Tiggo, which looks remarkably similar to the RAV4, gets the choice of four petrol engines and a Fiatsourced 1.9- litre common-rail diesel.
Chery has a full range of vehicles that Ateco could source in the future, including a large sedan, people mover and microhatch.
The China deal has been masterminded by Ateco managing director Ric Hull. He was involved in bringing Hyundai, Daewoo and Kia to Australia.
Hull says Ateco has been working on the deal for some time and the China strategy would follow a similar line to Kia.
‘‘When we had Kia in Ateco we found a high-volume brand very beneficial to the overall organisation,’’ he says.
‘‘We think China is unquestionably the next source of cars and that’s where we turned our sights.’’
Chery also has a range of light commercial vehicles Ateco would like to distribute here and in New Zealand.
Hull says Chinese cars are attractive because of the country’s low wages and production costs. This translates into basic, affordable motoring, but some analysts have suggested they are just throwaway cars.
Chery is one of China’s largest automotive makers, but its foray into foreign markets has been troubled by bad international crashratings scores on some of its vehicles.
And it has been slammed by Japanese and US carmakers for building copycat cars.
Chery is probably best known for its carboncopy of the General Motors Daewoo Matiz, which it sells as the QQ.
GM Daewoo sued the company but Chery claimed it had licensed the vehicle design before GM bought Daewoo.
Chery also built a car similar to the Daewoo Magnus sedan and called it the Chery Oriental Son.
The company is relatively new to carmaking, being founded in 1997. Its first cars rolled off the production line in 1999.
Chery started as a research and development organisation, but quickly designed its own three and four-cylinder engines.
Chery red: the Chery A1 hatch comes with 1.1-litre or 1.3-litre engines and the Tiggo (below) looks remarkably similar to Toyota’s RAV4.