Na­tion of Haval nots

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News - JOSHUA DOWL­ING NA­TIONAL MO­TOR­ING ED­I­TOR joshua.dowl­ing@news.com.au

THE Chi­nese brand that boldly claimed it was go­ing to con­quer the au­to­mo­tive world and be­come Aus­tralia’s big­gest seller of SUVs has stalled on the start­ing line.

Great Wall Mo­tors’ sis­ter brand “Haval” was sup­posed to be up and run­ning in Aus­tralia in June.

But as yet there are no cars on sale. The Haval Aus­tralia web­site says: “Our sales net­work is cur­rently un­der con­struc­tion.”

How­ever, Haval Aus­tralia chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer Tim Smith says four deal­ers have signed and a net­work of 10 deal­ers should be ready to open in the fi­nal three months of this year.

In April Haval CEO Wang Fengy­ing told Aus­tralian jour­nal­ists at the Shang­hai mo­tor show: “Haval is the No. 1 SUV brand in China, and we have the con­fi­dence that, over time, it can grow up to be the No. 1 SUV brand (in Aus­tralia).”

Big call. Seven Chi­nese auto brands on sale in Aus­tralia so far have failed to win lo­cal buy­ers in sig­nif­i­cant num­bers.

In the peak year, 2012, more than 12,000 Chi­nese cars were sold lo­cally. Sales have been in free-fall since — of 1.1 mil­lion new ve­hi­cles sold in Aus­tralia last year, just 4200 were from China and year-to-date the tally is just 1161.

The rep­u­ta­tion of Chi­nese cars was da­m­aged af­ter Haval’s sis­ter brand, Great Wall Mo­tors, re­called more than 21,000 ve­hi­cles in Aus­tralia in 2012 be­cause some in­ter­nal en­gine com­po­nents con­tained as­bestos, a banned sub­stance which can cause lung can­cer.

Ear­lier ex­am­ples of Great Wall Mo­tors ve­hi­cles also earned poor safety scores in Aus­tralia.

“We know the cus­tomer will have some doubt (about) our prod­uct, but af­ter they ex­pe­ri­ence our prod­uct, we be­lieve the vol­ume will build and we can have a sales star in the mar­ket,” said Madam Wang.

Haval had planned to in­tro­duce three dif­fer­ent SUV mod­els in June, priced from about $20,000 for a city-sized soft-roader (about $5000 less than ri­vals) to about $45,000 for a heavy-duty seven-seat four­wheel-drive, about $15,000 less than a Toy­ota Prado.

Among the brands ‘ nu­mer­ous hur­dles, deal­ers are yet to find out how much each car will cost.

Sev­eral deal­ers have told Cars­guide they are re­luc­tant to take on the new brand af­ter the Great Wall Mo­tors ex­pe­ri­ence.

Deal­ers say the last ship­ment of Great Wall ve­hi­cles ar­rived in Oc­to­ber and no more have been im­ported de­spite re­quests for fresh stock. About 20 per cent of Great Wall deal­ers have handed back the fran­chises be­cause they have no cars to sell.

In­dus­try an­a­lysts ques­tion Haval’s am­bi­tious plans in Aus­tralia. “His­tory sug­gests their ex­pec­ta­tions are far too high,” econ­o­mist Richard Johns has told Cars­guide.

“Aus­tralia is a very com­pet­i­tive mar­ket, most of the world’s brands are here. The Chi­nese will have to be very pa­tient if they want to be a sig­nif­i­cant player in this mar­ket. No car com­pany from any­where in the world can walk into the Aus­tralian mar­ket and think they are go­ing to be an in­stant suc­cess.”

One of the Havals due here, the H8, a Toy­ota Kluger-sized SUV, was con­tro­ver­sially with­drawn from sale by Haval in China — twice — soon af­ter its launch in late 2013.

The com­pany says the nec­es­sary im­prove­ments have been made and the ve­hi­cle is now ex­port qual­ity.

How­ever, a re­port in China this week said that the re­newed Haval H8 had failed to win sales even on its third at­tempt.

Third time un­lucky: Haval had

am­bi­tions for the H8 SUV

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