Ch­ery ripe for the pick­ing

NT News - Motoring - - CARS GUIDE - By STU­ART MARTIN

THE sec­ond Chinese car maker to land in Aus­tralia had a low-key start as the Aus­tralian new-car mar­ket ‘‘set­tled’’, says num­ber one brand Toy­ota.

March was Chinese brand Ch­ery’s first month on sale, with the brand re­tail­ing 53 units of the $11,990 drive­away J1 hatch­back and 166 of the J11 2WD SUVs na­tion­ally.

Ateco Au­to­mo­tive — im­porters of Ch­ery and Great Wall — spokesman Daniel Cot­ter­ill says the Chinese brand is build­ing up its net­work and ex­pects vol­umes to grow as the deal­er­ships — now num­ber­ing 45 across the coun­try — are es­tab­lished.

‘‘We’re in the early stages of set­ting up the dealer net­work. Those that were set up and had stock sold to our ex­pec­ta­tions,’’ he says.

Mr Cot­ter­ill says the Great Wall brand took 18 months to sell its first 10,000 cars in Aus­tralia but ex­pects the sec­ond 10,000 will be sold dur­ing the 2011 calendar year.

The Great Wall brand — which at present sells only light com­mer­cials and SUVs — sold 537 units last month, tak­ing its year-to-date to­tal to 1654.

Pro­posed in­ter­est rate hikes, higher petrol prices and fewer fleet sales may im­pact on new ve­hi­cle sales but Toy­ota se­nior ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor sales and mar­ket­ing David But­tner says the ab­sence of buyer in­cen­tives has let the mar­ket re­turn to its nat­u­ral level. ‘‘In 2010, the in­dus­try en­joyed a record March as a re­sult of the im­prov­ing econ­omy and the fi­nal in­flu­ence of gov­ern­ment in­cen­tive,’’ he says.

The Ade­laide-built Holden Com­modore re­mained the nation’s most pop­u­lar car and sales and mar­ket­ing ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor John Elsworth says Com­modore and Cruze sales fig­ures set the tone for a pos­i­tive year ahead.

‘‘In the small-car seg­ment, not only has Cruze had its sec­ond best month since launch, sales are up 32 per cent on March last year,’’ he says.

In­dus­try sales fig­ures re­leased yes­ter­day by the Fed­eral Cham­ber of Au­to­mo­tive In­dus­tries for the first quar­ter of 2011 show the new-ve­hi­cle mar­ket at 248,464 — down by 3363 sales on the 2010 tal­lies to the same point.

Light cars and com­pact SUVs were the only seg­ments to re­main ahead of last year’s YTD to­tals, with only the com­pact and lux­ury SUV sales seg­ments show­ing pos­i­tive signs in month and YTD sales over 2010 num­bers.

SUV sales grew in March and over­all for the year so far — al­most 2400 units up the first quar­ter of 2010 — thanks to an in­crease in pri­vate buy­ers.

Light com­mer­cial sales re­mained buoy­ant, up just over 9 per cent for March— a 1547 ve­hi­cle in­crease— and 2.2 per cent ahead for the year so far.

FCAI chief ex­ec­u­tive Andrew McKel­lar says the de­mand for new ve­hi­cles is ‘‘broadly con­sis­tent’’ with other eco­nomic in­di­ca­tors and sales re­main ro­bust and ‘‘well above one mil­lion units over the past 12 months’’.

Chinese car mak­ers ex­pect vol­umes to grow

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