Ch­ery tree plucked

Ateco moves to im­port a bud­get-car range from China, writes NEIL McDON­ALD

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News -

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.

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