The Australian importer for Chinese budget commercial maker Great Wall says safety is important to the brand, but concedes any scope to improve the ANCAP rating of its ute range is limited until all-new models arrive further down the track.
Speaking on behalf of Great Wall’s Australian distributor Ateco Automotive, spokesman Daniel Cotterill said only so many improvements could be made to the current-generation bargain-basement ute.
“To achieve the ratings ANCAP are quite rightly encouraging all manufacturers to achieve, it will likely take a new platform,” Mr Cotterill said.
“There certainly is (a new- generation model planned); when exactly it makes it to Australia is not clear at this stage.”
Mr Cotterill denied any corners were cut in regards to safety to keep costs down, saying Great Walls in Australia had the best safety features currently available from the manufacturer.
“It’s important to understand there are no more pieces of safety equipment left on the menu that we don’t order in the ute. If it’s not there, it’s because it’s not available to us yet,” he said.
“A lot of the standards that are par for the course in the Western market aren’t yet required in China. So it’s a matter of them developing them over time towards the standards required in Western markets.
“ANCAP are very professional to deal with in regards to their engineering feedback and we’re in it to make it better over time as well.”
The first Great Wall utes tested, the V240 4x2 and SA220 dual cab, each scored just two stars on their 2009 release, however, the X240 SUV did receive a four-star rating at the same time.
Great Wall currently makes up just 1.2 per cent of the light- commercial sector in Australia so far this year. The company’s local sales have dropped by 54.5 per cent this year.
Mr Cotterill said poor ANCAP ratings didn’t help sales.
“People do buy vehicles for very different reasons; for one customer safety might be the be-all and end-all, others are looking for a particular functionality or some other function, be it an engine or price or what have you,” he said.
“But I think improved crash- safety ratings for Chinese cars in general couldn’t help but assist sales.”
Speaking on the issue, the RAC raised its concerns over Great Wall’s comparative lack of improvement in its light- commercial utes’ ANCAP crash safety ratings.
RAC vehicles and fuels manager Alex Forrest said it was concerning Great Wall had yet to achieve a crash rating of four or five stars in the five years it had been in Australia.
“According to ANCAP, occupants are twice as likely to be killed or seriously injured in a one-star ANCAP-rated car when compared with a five-star-rated vehicle,” Mr Forrest said.
“For some Australians, these cars are used as work vehicles. As new vehicles, they are relatively cheap but we still recommend families and businesses buy safer utes for the same purchase price.”
Mr Forrest said some buyers might believe all new cars had a high crash rating. He added while many consumers were price- conscious, it didn’t need to come at the expense of safety.
“There is no reason why light- commercial vehicles should be built to lesser standards than passenger cars.”
Great Wall isn’t alone in receiving less-than-ideal crash safety ratings. Fellow budget Asian brands Foton, Mahindra and Ssangyong have all also received three-star results for their respective light-commercial vehicles.
Indian brand Tata, however, recently received a four-star rating for its Xenon dual cab after it had scored just two stars from ANCAP earlier this year.