Off the Wall SUV invasion
CHINESE brand Haval is poised to enter the Australian car market, starting with three new models in local showrooms in just two months — and possibly a fourth by the end of this year.
The SUV division of Great Wall Motors, Haval has an ambitious plan to be the biggest seller in its category, a move that at first may be mocked but is tipped to put price pressure on the mainstream rivals.
The cheapest Haval, the H2, about the same size as a Honda HR-V, will start from about $20,000.
The top-of-the-range H9 — a seven-seat heavy-duty 4WD similar in size and style to a Toyota Prado — is set to cost about $45,000.
One of the vehicles due, the H8, was controversially withdrawn from sale by Haval in China — twice — soon after its launch in late 2013.
However, the company insists it has made the necessary improvements and the vehicle is export quality.
All Haval vehicles sold here initially will have turbo petrol engines but diesel variants will follow.
Haval Australia chief marketing officer Tim Smith, formerly of Kia Motors, expects the new models to earn five safety stars.
If so, they would be the first Chinese-branded cars to earn top marks for crash tests in Australia. The cars are yet to be tested locally; the company bases its five-star prediction on internal tests.
About 200 examples are on a ship bound for Australia, despite the lack of formal approval from the Federal Government for sale locally.
The H8 and H9 were inspected two weeks ago and Haval says the permit to import those cars is “a formality”. The H2 is due for inspection in a fortnight.
Haval is yet to appoint dealers but says it expects to have 10 to 20 showrooms nationally from June 1.
Independent distributor Ateco introduced Great Wall Motors utes to Australia in 2010 and has since sold about 40,000 vehicles.
However, following an asbestos scare which led to a recall two years ago, and an apparent breakdown in the relationship between both parties in the past year, no Great Wall utes have been imported for seven months and sales have come to a standstill.
Haval is the first Chinese brand to set up a subsidiary in Australia; it has had a presence here since November 2013 while it established its local operations.
Initially, Great Wall and Haval look set to be handled separately.