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by Tim Beissmann

The arrival of the Chinese-built Foton ute has been delayed indefinitely and potentially stopped altogether as the Sydney-based WMC Group has decided not to move forward with its import plans.

The announcement comes less than four months after WMC initially revealed its plans to distribute the Foton ute, which, on paper at least, sounded like it had plenty of potential for our market.

WMC Group CEO Jason Pecotic confirmed pricing was the major factor behind the company’s decision not to go ahead with the distribution of Foton in Australia.

“We have withdrawn from the Distribution Agreement for a number of important reasons, most significantly uncompetitive pricing, particularly on the back of an unstable US Dollar and as a result of Japanese manufacturers lowering prices,” Mr Pecotic said

He said WMC was also worried about the brand’s lack of history in Australia and quality issues surrounding the previous-generation Foton ute. The combination of these factors made WMC doubtful that the new Foton could command a premium price in our market.

“Despite protracted negotiations with Foton they would not meet the pricing model that we believe was appropriate for a vehicle such as this in the Australian market, in our view this would be 30 per cent below it’s Japanese rivals,” Mr Pecotic said.

Mr Pecotic made the announcement from China, where he was securing the distribution rights to another, unnamed automotive manufacturer. He said WMC would continue to focus its efforts on expanding its Higer Bus and JAC Trucks and light commercial ranges.

WMC planned to launch the Foton Ute (codenamed P201) in early 2012. Engine options were set to include a 120kW/380Nm 2.8-litre Cummins diesel engine and a 2.4-litre Mitsubishi petrol engine, while transmissions included a Getrag five-speed manual and a ZF six-speed automatic.

The new ute was set to be larger than the Toyota HiLux in all dimensions and WMC was targeting a four-star ANCAP safety rating.




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