Chinese car brands have come and gone in Australia for the better part of a decade, though only one — Great Wall Motors — could claim to have gained significant market share so far.
With the Australian market more fragmented than ever before, housing more than 60 brands competing for a tick under 1.2 million sales in the car, SUV and commercial segments, the job for these conquest brands to cut through isn't getting easier.
Indeed, brands such as Chery, Geely and ZX are either dead or on ice here, and never made a dent regardless - though you never know what the future holds. But how are the others here faring in 2016?
Pictured: LDV G10 people-mover (pictured at top is the Haval H9)
We’ve seen the recent arrival of self-proclaimed ‘luxury’ SUV maker Haval and the even more recent (noisy) return of sister company Great Wall, while van maker LDV has expansion plans and is selling in good numbers. Foton Light is hanging in there, and just a few weeks ago, iconic MG re-launched.
Not that they're taking the market by storm just yet. This year, 2628 vehicles sold in Australia were sourced from China, up 22 per cent on a dismal 2015 result. But despite the growth, this is only 0.25 per cent market share. Australians have bough more vehicles made in Turkey and Mexico.
Pictured: LDV T60
Leader by volume is bargain van-maker LDV, imported by private company Ateco Automotive, with 1420 vans and people-mover sales led by the G10. All told, the range is up 110 per cent. Still, its market share in commercials is just 0.5 per cent, though the G10 people-mover has a respectable 4.7 per cent share.
In the second half of next year, the LDV T60 ute should arrive as a budget rival to the Mitsubishi Triton, boosting the brand’s sales appreciably. The T60 will be available with 4x2 and 4x4, a 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine, a 3.5t towing capacity and a modern cabin.
Pictured: Foton Tunland
Meanwhile, fellow Chinese ute brand Foton, also imported by Ateco, has managed 798 sales this year from the Cummins diesel-engined Tunland 4x2 and 4x4 (650 for the latter), though this is down 20 per cent despite the brand sitting in a strong growth segment.
Beyond this pair, we have two in-house Chinese siblings: Haval and Great Wall.
Pictured: Haval H6
To the end of November, Haval has registered 197 sales of the H2 (104), H6 (20), H8 (39) and H9 (34), in addition to a smaller number of units plated before it signed up to the VFACTS industry database. This is 197 units in a market with 1,079,370 YTD.
This is not for a lack of ambition. At launch, Haval rather boldly said it wanted to be Australia’s top SUV brand (Toyota has sold almost 60,000 SUVs this year, Mazda 44,000) like it is in China, though it has since greatly tempered those ambitions.
Pictured: Great Wall Steed
Still, with the new H6 impressing, plus a sleek new H7 due soon, alongside heavily updated H8 and H9 models, and a future range of plug-in hybrid cars supposedly imminent, the only way is up.
The revived Great Wall launched inside the past few months, now under factory distributorship shared with Haval in Melbourne. GW sold 45,000 units between 2009 and 2015 under old distributor Ateco — with a lot of service issues along the way — and wants to sell 5000 next year.
Pictured: MG 3
In two months this year, it has sold only 67 units (38 being the Steed 4x4), though its volume-selling two-door base Steed utes won’t arrive until next year. That said, with Mitsubishi Triton dual cabs going for $33,990 before haggling, it’s a tough sell.
Finally, a few weeks ago, Chinese-owned British icon MG returned to Australia for yet another stab, with the MG 3 city car and aged MG 6 Plus small car, priced at $13,990 and $21,990 plus on-road cost respectively.
Pictured: MG ZS
The MG ZS small SUV will arrive late next year to bolster its stocks, though things are less clear regarding the extant GS crossover. Of course, to the complaints of many, there’s no sign of a slinky little Mazda MX-5 rival, despite the MG badge.
On a side note, Swedish-based but Chinese-owned brand Volvo — a slightly more familiar badge — has managed 5515 sales this year, up 20 per cent thanks to revised pricing and the new XC90 SUV.
When will you consider a Chinese car? Tell us in the comments. Or, do you already have one? Tell us if so!