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by Tim Beissmann

A new Chinese brand will launch in Australia early next year when Foton, a light commercial vehicle manufacturer, introduces a new ute range.

A Sydney-based automotive distributor, WMC Group, has secured the rights to sell the brand in Australia. Foton vehicles are currently undergoing Australian Design Rule compliance testing, which will be finalised within the next two months.

Foton customers will have a choice between a Cummins 2.8-litre turbodiesel engine and a Mitsubishi-sourced 2.4-litre petrol engine.

The diesel engine will produce up to 120kW of power and 380Nm of torque.

Transmission options will include either a five-speed manual by Getrag and a ZF six-speed automatic.

WMC is planning a range of six model variants at launch including a 4×4 dual cab diesel, 4×2 dual cab petrol and diesel, 4×2 extra cab diesel, and 4×2 single cab petrol and diesel.

At 5310mm long, 1880mm wide, 1810mm high and with a ground clearance of 220mm, the Foton will be 180mm longer, 120mm wider and have a 10mm larger ground clearance than the comparative Toyota HiLux.

WMC is targeting at least a four-star ANCAP safety rating and will offer ABS, EBD and dual front airbags as standard.

WMC managing director, Jason Pecotic, said the new Foton ute has been benchmarked against Japanese rivals and designed for North American and Western markets rather than for domestic Chinese sales.

“Foton will be a game shifter in the ute sector delivering a sedan-style interior on a wide-body configuration boasting a full one-tonne pay load and a three-tonne towing capacity,” Mr Pecotic said.

“Apart from those impressive specs, the new Foton will be priced at a level that will be between 15 and 20 percent less than comparable models from Japanese manufacturers, making it a compelling proposition for buyers whether they are tradesmen, farmers, fleet operators or private buyers.”

He explained Australia – the third largest ute market in the world – was very important to Foton, and would be used as a launch pad ahead of a move into North America and Europe over the next two years.

WMC will be hoping Foton can replicate the success of Great Wall with its utes. The Great Wall V240 4×2 has so far this year outsold the 4×2 variants of the Holden Colorado, Isuzu D-Max and the Nissan Navara, while the 4×4 variant has been more popular than the Nissan Patrol pick-up and the Volkswagen Amarok 4×4.

One detail yet to be finalised is a model name for the new Foton ute, which is still under discussion.

What do you think of the all-new ute? And can you help WMC with a name for it? Feel free to post your suggestions in the comments section below.