The Chinese company announced today its plan to make a return to Australia — one of its key markets outside the homeland — as a full in-house national distribution network run alongside sister brand Haval, headquartered in Melbourne.
The aim is to capitalise on Australia’s roaring light commercial market. Utes make up about 16 per cent of the total new vehicle market by sales.
Great Wall went on sale in Australia in 2009, and under its previous distributor Ateco Automotive (which now imports Foton and LDV), sold about 40,000 utes and SUVs, peaking at more than 11,000 units in the year 2012.
However, when the exchange rate soured, the Chinese brand lost its huge price advantage over its Thai-made rivals from established, mainstream brands. Other factors were also at play. Sales have dried up over the last 18 months, and essentially stopped this year.
The Great Wall brand will return with a new ute model, headlined by a (potentially 100kW/310Nm, based on overseas figures) 4x4 turbo-diesel variant with six-speed manual transmission, Borg-Warner torque on demand intelligent four-wheel drive system and an Eaton diff lock.
It will also feature "high levels of safety", with six airbags as standard equipment.
The images used here are of the Great Wall Wingle 6 ute, though it appears in our market it will simply be called the Great Wall utility. Good call.
Great Wall’s Australian operations has also pledged to support its existing customer base, and hoped to secure agreements with the previous distributor’s Australia-wide dealer network.
“This signals the beginning of an exciting new era for China’s most successful utility manufacturer in the region,” said GWMA managing director Parker Shi.
“As demand for utilities continues to grow, Great Wall Motors decided now was the time to take the brand to the next level by establishing a direct OE presence here,” he added.