Great Wall’s Australian reboot under a new in-house distributor hasn’t exactly been a smash success, with the two-star ANCAP-rated Steed managing just 0.2 per cent ute market share in 2017 and netting about one-tenth of its internal target.
However, the Chinese company isn't lacking ambition, or the resources to make goals a reality – especially given it’s intending to branch out into other sizeable ute markets such as South Africa and India, and has noticed a growing pickup market at home in China.
By 2020, it plans to launch a properly new light commercial model with a global focus. This part isn’t exactly new news, though it’s worth revisiting. Interestingly though, there also appears to be strong internal debate over whether to call it a Great Wall, or rebadge it as a Haval.
Calling it a Haval (Great Wall is effectively Haval's parent company) would give the marque a rugged load-lugger to complement its SUV family, building its brand. It’d also help clean house, given the inauspicious end to Great Wall’s first Australian operation under its old independent importer, which left a bad taste.
This new Great Wall/Haval ute model is apparently going to be as big as a Ford Ranger or Toyota HiLux, thanks to the brand-new platform it’ll sit on, but should have pricing topping out closer to $40k instead of $60k - pitching it above the Chinese LDV T60, a product we're mysteriously battling to source for testing through PR channels, still...
The company reckons it’ll have a three-tonne tow rating - 500kg below the current leaders - be available as a 4x2 and 4x4, come with a diesel engine option as well as a petrol-electric hybrid (something Chinese regulations are demanding) and an eight-speed automatic transmission.
It’ll also come with safety tech rarely found in the ute segment, although it should be more common by 2020. Expect autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning and adaptive cruise control.
You may laugh at Great Wall/Haval’s prospects, but don’t forget the former enjoyed significant success when it launched here in 2009, selling about 40,000 utes and SUVs (the latter is now the province of Haval) over a short tenure, peaking at more than 11,000 units in the year 2012.
But over time, mainstream utes such as the Triton became way cheaper and eroded GW’s advantage, while business tax incentives also saw people willing to splash out more than ever on LCVs.
In the meantime, Great Wall will attempt to give the ailing Steed a prod with the launch of a new cab chassis family, with a diesel engine and a bargain-basement price, pencilled in for March this year.