A tree full of Cherys
We’ll take only a small slice of the pie, writes NEIL McDONALD
BY ANYONE’S estimate, one brand launching 16 cars at the same time should provide an importer with a long list of must-have models. But Ateco Automotive chief Ric Hull remains firm on what vehicles will be available when Chery cars arrive here next year.
The Chery company showed an impressive range of light and small cars, off-roaders and vans at the Beijing Motor Show.
But Hull is committed to a small-is-best, graduated launch into the local market.
Among the passenger cars launched in Beijing was a family of 45kW 1.3-litre cars called the Faira five dolls: a city hatch, sedan, coupe and cabrio curiously named the BB, HH, NN and YY and an A3 sedan and hatch the same size as the VW Golf. They are the ones that caught Hull’s eye. To make the most of the alphabet, Chery also has a chunky small wagon called the JJ.
Hull was also impressed by the mid-size Eastar 2.0-litre and the V6 sedan range, and the Riich8 van and people mover, which could rival the Toyota HiAce van.
But Ateco will launch only three Chery models next year, the 1.1-litre and 1.3-litre A1, the 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre A5 sedan and the Tiggo four-wheel drive.
The Tiggo is expected to be available with petrol engines and possibly a Fiat-sourced 1.9-litre turbodiesel.
‘‘The cars are still to comply with Australian Design Rules, but we think that won’t be a problem,’’ Hull says. ‘‘We’re still planning for a launch in the first quarter of next year.’’
The lack of safety features on Chinese cars has been a concern for some. But Hull says Chery is aware of the demands of a mature market such as Australia and the needs of buyers who expect the latest safety gear.
‘‘I get a sense that we will be close to the Koreans in sticker price, but I think we’ll offer more, particularly in equipment and safety,’’ Hull says.
Hull has not ruled out electronic stability control, anti-skid brakes, curtain airbags, a full suite of in-car electronics and high-end stereos being standard.
He has a proven track record with start-ups, having been a key player in the introduction of Hyundai, Daewoo and Kia in Australia.
He will follow a similar formula with Chery, with established dealers and a committed growth plan.
‘‘We did think about doing something dramatically differently,’’ he says, ‘‘but it will probably be a conventional dealer network and conventional launch.
‘‘We like the idea of getting established dealers because it gives us some credibility.
‘‘Clearly we have to get volume up into the thousands quickly to make a business of it.’’
He expects to launch with 50 to 60 dealers and eventually build that to 120.
He is impressed by the quality of the Faira hatch and the A3 hatch and sedan, but these cars may be some way off.
Chery, the No.4 carmaker in China, and Geely, another front-runner, are the Chinese brands considered the most likely to succeed in mature export markets.
However, both are concentrating on the demanding Chinese market. A million people now have driver’s licences and plan to buy a car soon, according to reports.
Chery chairman Yin Tongyao says the US market is also firmly in the company’s sights.
Chery signed with Chrysler last year to build a low-cost car to be sold through the Dodge brand in North America.
Eye-catching: (left) the A3 family car from Chery, (below) one of the smaller Faira five dolls and (bottom) the Tiggo four-wheel drive.
BEIJING MOTOR SHOW