Wingle’s big red car
Chinese cars will be here by June, writes NEIL McDONALD
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.