Chinese SUV specialist Haval will officially open for business in Australia in June.
The top-selling SUV manufacturer in China is a division of Great Wall Motors though will operate in Australia as a subsidiary of its Chinese parent company separate from Great Wall, which is currently distributed here by independent importer Ateco Automotive.
The ambitious, up-and-coming brand, which has only been building cars since 2002, will initially launch in Australia with two models but plans to expand its range with another in July and two more in 2016.
Haval Motors Australia chief marketing officer Tim Smith confirmed the H2 would be priced from the low-$20,000s while the H9 would start at around $45,000 (both before on-road costs).
The H8 is a similar size to the H9 but has a more urban focus. Unlike the H9, which is based on an off-road-focused ladder-frame chassis, the H8 is underpinned by a more sophisticated, car-like monocoque chassis.
Scheduled to arrive in January or February 2016 is the Haval H6 Coupe, which made its international debut at today’s Shanghai motor show.
The H6 Coupe (we’re told it may drop the optimistic ‘Coupe’ suffix for our market) will launch into Australia’s toughest SUV class, the mid-sized segment currently dominated by the Mazda CX-5 and Toyota RAV4. Prices will range from around $27,000 to $35,000.
The local team plans to launch a fifth model later next year, the Haval H7, which, as the badge suggests, will fill the small niche between the H6 Coupe and the H8. Expect pricing to likewise straddle the two, likely from mid-$30,000s to low-$40,000s.
Smith says Haval (pronounced like ‘gravel’) hopes to have between 10 and 20 dealerships operating across the country this year, and plans to expand in 2016 and beyond.
He says Haval is a “premium SUV manufacturer” that will offer “affordable luxury” and will stand out from other Chinese car makers currently in the market that have a reputation for being cheap and nasty.
All models will launch with four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engines – a 1.5-litre in the H2 and a 2.0-litre in the H8 and H9 – while a 2.0-litre diesel and 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines are all possibilities to expand the H9 range around the end of this year.
Every model will be available with four-wheel drive (it will be optional on all but the H9, where it comes standard) and all will be available from launch with an automatic transmission – either a conventional torque converter or a dual-clutch unit.
Smith says the company is targeting five-star ANCAP safety ratings for all its models after achieving top ratings from China’s independent crash-test authority, though the vehicles remain untested and unrated locally at this stage.
All Havals sold in Australia will also be covered by a five-year warranty in an attempt to assuage fears of below-average build quality and long-term reliability, matching the likes of Hyundai and Mitsubishi, and bettering all Chinese brands in the market as well as many established ones such as Toyota, Holden, Mazda and Ford.
While the company isn’t talking sales targets for Australia at this stage, Smith is confident the brand and the cars will attract a healthy number of people away from more established makes and models.
“It’s certainly got a place,” he said. “Haval has the opportunity to steal some share from some of the volume players.
“I think people are ripe for a bit of a change of styling. I think traditional styling in cars… people will accept a new styling vision.
“I’m not suggesting that we’re going to conquer Land Rover or … Jeep very quickly, but given time I think we’ve got a really compelling product and I think in Australia we just need to get people to consider us and let the product do the talking.”