CHI­NESE SALES TO HIT 100,000’

NT News - Motoring - - NEWS - By By PAUL GOVER in Shang­hai

SALES of Chi­nese-made cars in Aus­tralia could top 100,000 as early as 2016.

The first large-scale im­ports of pas­sen­ger cars will be­gin later this year and the man lead­ing the China drive re­fuses to put an up­per limit on sales, or the rate at which they are likely to grow in Aus­tralia.

Great Wall is al­ready sell­ing a low-cost util­ity and SUV but the flood­gates will open in the fi­nal quar­ter of this year when the Geely and Chery be­gin sales of com­pact pas­sen­ger cars with prices — and value — that un­der­cuts the Korean bench­mark brands.

‘‘Would it be silly to say the Chi­nese will have 10 per cent of the mar­ket in five years? I don’t think so,’’ said Rick Hull, who heads Great Wall and Chery in Aus­tralia.

He has vast ex­pe­ri­ence of low­cost im­ports af­ter head­ing the im­port ac­tion for the three biggest Korean brands — Hyundai, then Dae­woo and lastly Kia — in his ca­reer.

Hull said it took the Korean car­mak­ers about 10 years — with help from Ford sales of the Kore­an­built Ford Fes­tiva — to top 100,000 sales a year.

He al­ready be­lieves the Chi­nese brands could do it in half that time, thanks to cheap labour rates, rapid technology im­prove­ments, growth in to­tal ve­hi­cle sales in Aus­tralia, and the ear­lier ex­am­ple of Ja­panese and Korean brands.

‘‘'I re­ally don’t know how fast it will hap­pen,’’ Hull said.

‘‘But it has the po­ten­tial to hap­pen very quickly.’’

Hull be­lieves many more Chi­nese brands will even­tu­ally join the ex­port push, with 47 ma­jor mak­ers in the coun­try and pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity soar­ing to­wards 20 mil­lion ve­hi­cles a year.

He is not ex­pect­ing much ac­tion from the 26 joint-ven­ture mak­ers — Chi­nese com­pa­nies in part­ner­ship with ev­ery­one from Volk­swa­gen and Gen­eral Mo­tors to Volvo and Suzuki — but knows the 21 in­de­pen­dents will be look­ing for growth out­side their home coun­try.

In Aus­tralia, Hull be­lieves there will not be any sub-$10,000 pric­etags but he pre­dicts rapid growth in high-value com­pact cars and big, fast changes to the way Chi­nese cars look and feel.

He said safety and qual­ity would be­come a pri­or­ity much faster than they were in Korean cars, be­cause the Chi­nese must com­pete on equal terms and win buy­ers with a value-added edge in show­rooms.

Korean sales reached their peak in Aus­tralia at about 112,000 in 1998, just 12 years af­ter Hyundai was es­tab­lished with the orig­i­nal Excel.

Hull said Chi­nese brands could hit the same 100,000-a-year bench­mark in less than half that time and does not rule out China-made cars quickly over­tak­ing Thai­land — presently the biggest over­seas sup­plier to Aus­tralia at around 220,000 a year — soon af­ter 2020.

‘‘Who re­ally knows? Five years for the Chi­nese to hit 100,000? I think that could eas­ily hap­pen,’’ Hull said. ‘‘And you have to re­mem­ber that the mar­ket in Aus­tralia is now pro­foundly big­ger than it was when the Kore­ans did it.’’

UN­STOP­PABLE: Pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity in China is soar­ing to­wards 20 mil­lion ve­hi­cles a year and an in­dus­try ex­pert tips an­nual sales of 100,000 cars in Aus­tralia within six years

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