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by Tim Beissmann

The price of the Chinese-built Chery J1 has been cut to $9990 driveaway, making it the first passenger car in 15 years to be available for less than $10K.

Chery has slashed $1000 from the five-door J1 city car (above) and $2000 from the larger J3 hatchback (below) – now $12,990 driveaway – as it aims to turn around dismal 2012 sales.

The Chery J1’s budget pricing makes it $2000 cheaper than its closest competitor, the $11,990 driveaway Suzuki Alto. The 1998 Suzuki Alto was the last passenger car available for $9990 in Australia before the J1’s price cut.

Daniel Cotterill from Chery’s Australian distributor, Ateco Automotive, admitted management from both Chery and Ateco were disappointed with the brand’s sales last year, which are expected to tally fewer than 1200 units, down more than 30 per cent from 2011. To November 2012, the J1 totalled 373 sales (down 9.0 per cent) while the J3 tallied just 164 (down 15.5 per cent).

“The results are not what we would have planned for or hoped for,” Cotterill said, “but there is a very high level of determination at Chery to do what it takes … to gain a successful foothold in this country.”

Chery will get a boost in the second quarter of this year when it adds electronic stability control (ESC) to the J3, which will finally allow the brand to start selling the car in Victoria.

Victoria’s unique ESC rules make it the only state in which Chery cannot sell its vehicles (none of which are currently equipped with ESC), although the introduction of the potentially life-saving safety technology to the J3 will be followed quickly by the launch of the Chinese brand’s Victorian dealer network.

Cotterill confirmed the first Victorian Chery dealership could open by the middle of the year, and expects about 10 to open in the south-eastern mainland state before the end of 2013.

Chery will also add the option of an automatic transmission to the J3 later this year in a move that is also tipped to increase sales. The smaller J1 will continue without ESC or an auto option for the foreseeable future.

The Chery J11 SUV retains its $17,990 driveaway price for 2013 ($19,990 driveaway for the automatic version).

Cotterill said Chery was planning to consolidate its current range in 2013 and at this stage has no plans to add new models to its line-up.




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