A fourth Chinese vehicle producer will enter the Australian market in early 2012, with the Foton brand following Chery, Geely and Great Wall to market.
Foton, established in 1996 in Beijing, produces trucks and agricultural machinery, including a range of 4x2 and 4x4 one-tonne utes that will be imported here next year by Sydney-based distributor WMC Group.
According to WMC, the new Foton ute “has been designed and targeted for both the North American and Western Markets rather than for domestic Chinese sales, and has been benchmarked against the best Japanese rival models”.
It will be powered by a choice of Cummins-built Euro V-compliant 120kW/380Nm 2.8-litre common-rail turbo-diesel or Foton-manufactured 2.4-litre petrol engines.
Although Chinese-built cars have traditionally lagged behind other Asian and European manufacturers in terms of safety and technology, the Foton will be available with a ZF six-speed automatic or Getrag five-speed manual gearbox. WMC also expects the ute to achieve a four-star ANCAP rating, with dual front airbags, ABS and EBD standard – though no word yet on the availability of stability control or side airbags.
The new ute range will be priced “15 to 20 percent less than comparable models from Japanese manufactuers,” accoring to the importer, meaning a starting price of below $20K.
The Foton ute is currently undergoing final ADR compliance testing, as WMC recruits a nationwide dealer network.