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by Tim Beissmann

A mandatory safety recall of Australia’s cheapest car, the Chery J1, will “almost certainly” turn it into an unofficial four-star safety-rated car, according to the vehicle’s distributor.

A total of 702 Chery J1 five-door hatches have been recalled in Australia to repair a defect in the front seats. The defect was identified off the back of local crash testing conducted by ANCAP (Australasian New Car Assessment Program) in April.

The Chinese-made Chery J1 was awarded a three-star ANCAP safety rating in May, making it the equal least safe new passenger vehicle available in Australia. Fitted with just two airbags, ABS and EBD – and without electronic stability control or the option to fit additional airbags – the J1 cannot be sold in Victoria for this reason, and will need to be updated before November 1 to meet new national safety regulations.

Among the criticisms from ANCAP were:

“The passenger compartment lost structural integrity. Protection from serious chest injury was poor for the driver”, and,

“There was a high risk of a life-threatening chest injury for the driver.”

Daniel Cotterill from Ateco Automotive, the distributor of Chery vehicles in Australia, said Chery Automotive Australia believed a second crash test after the recall would elevate the J1 above its current rating.

“We think that it would almost certainly get a four-star rating,” Mr Cotterill said.

Despite this, Chery will not get a chance to prove the J1’s improved integrity, as ANCAP will not test the car again so soon after the initial crash round.

 

Around 300 Chery J1 vehicles have been sold to the public since the car’s launch in February. Approximately 400 other vehicles are currently in the hands of dealers and in other holding zones in Australia.

The official recall notice on the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission website explains:

“There is an internal non-conformity of both front seat backrests. Under certain operating conditions, the integrity of the seat frame structure may be compromised.”

Ateco Automotive says it will contact all customers advising them to bring their vehicles into dealerships.

“The dealers will remove both front seats from the vehicle and replace the backrest assembly on each seat. Both front seats will be refitted to the vehicle using the new mounting bolts as per recommendations.”

The recall repair will take around 40 minutes to complete.

The Chery J1 went on sale in Australia with a price tag of $11,990. In April, a $1000 cashback offer – which remains in place today – brought the effective driveaway price down to just $10,990, making it the outright cheapest new car in the country.