Off the Wall SUV in­va­sion

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News - JOSHUA DOWL­ING NA­TIONAL MO­TOR­ING EDI­TOR joshua.dowl­

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.

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