Win­gle’s big red car

Chi­nese cars will be here by June, writes NEIL McDON­ALD

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News -

THE Chi­nese au­to­mo­tive army’s ad­vance has been slowed by un­favourable ex­change rates and the global eco­nomic melt­down. But Ateco Au­to­mo­tive chief Ric Hull is con­fi­dent Chi­nese cars and light com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles will be in show­rooms here by June.

Ateco orig­i­nally aimed to launch some Chi­nese cars into our mar­ket last month and Hull says the de­lay ‘‘is purely a func­tion of ex­change rates at the mo­ment’’.

He hopes the Aus­tralian dol­lar will re­cover or ‘‘mar­ket pric­ing lev­els will ad­just’’.

For Ateco, the first cabs off the rank will be four ve­hi­cles from Great Wall Mo­tor.

The line-up is tipped to be two light com­mer­cial pick-ups with 2.2 and 2.4-litre en­gines, a small 1.3-litre hatch and a 2.4-litre four-wheel drive off-roader.

GWM has right-hand drive ver­sions of the Win­gle and Sailor pick-ups and the stylish Hover off-roader ready to go.

‘‘In tough times the light com­mer­cial seg­ment is not a bad place to be,’’ Hull says.

In the third quar­ter, once its cars meet tough Aus­tralian De­sign Rules, Ch­ery will fol­low. Ateco has ex­pressed in­ter­est in the Ch­ery Tiggo off-roader A1 hatch and A5 sedan.

News that cars from China are still on the agenda is wor­ry­ing for mar­ginal im­porters such as Pro­ton, SsangYong and newly launched Mahin­dra, all fight­ing for mar­ket share.

Hull has a proven track record with star­tups, hav­ing been be­hind Hyundai, Dae­woo and Kia in Aus­tralia. He will be at the Shang­hai Mo­tor Show in April to meet GWM and Ch­ery ex­ec­u­tives.

‘‘Great Wall is talk­ing about launch­ing sev­eral new mod­els this year, so we’ll be in­ter­ested in talk­ing to them about those,’’ he says.

Like GWM, Ch­ery will con­cen­trate on the vol­ume hatch and sedan small-car seg­ment, and the com­pact four-wheel drive seg­ment.

Hull says Ateco will tar­get ri­val Korean brands but add more equip­ment to its cars. Buy­ers can ex­pect safety and com­fort fea­tures nor­mally found on more ex­pen­sive cars.

Elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol, anti-skid brakes, cur­tain airbags, a full suite of in-car elec­tron­ics and high-end stereos are among the prob­a­ble stan­dard fea­tures.

‘‘The Kore­ans are an un­cer­tain bench­mark at the mo­ment be­cause the won is one of the least-af­fected cur­ren­cies by the de­pre­ci­a­tion in the Aus­tralian dol­lar,’’ Hull says.

In com­par­i­son the Aus­tralian dol­lar has lost 40 per cent against the Ja­panese yen.

Ateco has signed 60 dealers, mostly metropoli­tan, to sell GWM cars.

‘‘They are un­per­turbed by the de­lays; they un­der­stand com­pletely,’’ Hull says.

Pek­ing pick-up: (above) a right-hand drive ver­sion of the Great Wall Win­gle is avail­able and (left) the Ch­ery Tiggo is yet to meet de­sign rules.

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