The first Chinese cars are on the way to Australia, write PAUL GOVER and NEIL DOWLING
THE first Chinese cars in Australian showrooms will wear Geely badges. Geely is expected to beat Chery to the punch, thanks to a 15-year distribution agreement that has just been signed by Perth mega-dealer John Hughes. It will put cars in his showrooms in February.
Full-scale sales throughout Australia should begin in the third quarter next year, though Hughes is still finalising his distribution plan and signing dealers.
‘‘I think we’ll be the first Chinese passenger car to come to Australia. I don’t think anyone should bring cars in November or December, because the duty drops in January, so we’ll be first,’’ Hughes says.
‘‘We will land the first two evaluation cars in September. We’ll go from there. I’m kicking them off in WA because the Chinese are anxious to get them in as quickly as possible.’’
Hughes refuses to talk about specific prices or numbers but confirms he will have the Geely MK, a Corolla-sized compact.
‘‘I’m not going to talk figures. On price we will be competitive with the (South) Koreans but with more features. Read into that what you will,’’ he says. ‘‘I believe the secret to success is to under-promise and over-deliver.’’
The Geely agency is the second distribution deal for Hughes, who began importing the thenunknown Hyundais from South Korea in 1986.
He eventually became the world’s biggest Hyundai dealer.
‘‘I believe firmly in the future of the Chinese product. For me, it’s not a question of why, it’s a question of why not?’ ’’ he says.
The first shipment of about 500 Geely cars will arrive in January as part of an initial order of 1000. But there is no time frame yet on how long it will take to sell them.
Hughes is more concerned about getting his Chinese distribution right.
‘‘It will take time to set up the network in the eastern states. Even June next year might be too optimistic,’’ he says.
‘‘I’m thinking half-a-dozen dealers each in Melbourne and Sydney, with major country as well. But I don’t want to ‘over-dealerise’, even though we need to get the penetration right.’’
The Geely (pronounced Jee-lee) MK 1.5 has two airbags, a 1.5-litre front-drive engine and the choice of a five-speed manual or fourspeed automatic.
Gee whiz: the Geely MK 1.5 (above) comes in either a fivespeed manual (left) or fourspeed automatic.