A DISPUTE that dried up the supply of Great Wall SUVs has made it harder to establish Chinese brands in Australia, the local importer says.
Neville Crichton, owner of Great Wall importer Ateco Automotive, said legal action between his company and the Great Wall head office in China had left a sour taste in the mouths of dealers and buyers.
“It’s done damage to brand China,” said Crichton. “The dealers won’t have the confidence to go back to them [Chinese vehicles] … because they got burnt.”
More than 50,000 Great Walls were sold in Australia between 2009 and 2015, but the budget-priced utes and SUVs are not currently being imported. A trickle of sales this year has represented the clearing of stock.
It’s understood Great Wall stopped supplying cars to Ateco in 2014. It’s not clear why – neither is commenting - although lawyers are acting on behalf of both parties.
“It’s such a pity – the product is fantastic,” said Crichton. “We loved the brand.”
He said Ateco was in mediation with Great Wall and he hoped the brand would continue in Australia.
Great Wall is expected to launch its Haval brand in Australia this week after many false starts. Haval, claimed to be the top selling SUV marque in China, had planned to be on sale here by the end of 2014.
Meanwhile Crichton’s Ateco has begun importing the Chinese LDV brand. LDV is part of the SAIC Motor Corporation Limited conglomerate, which has joint ventures with established car brands and also has brands such as MG and Roewe.
Crichton said LDV, which sells people mover vans and commercial vans, was gaining popularity but “it hasn’t gone as quick as we were able to get previous vehicles [to take off]”.
“The damage done by Great Wall has affected the dealers … but the dealers are quick to react; as soon as they see a brand taking off they’ll come back,” said Crichton.
Other Chinese brands that have struggled to gain traction in Australia include Geely, Chery and Foton.