Chinese car maker launches Australian campaign in Hunter 

CHINA’S biggest car and commercial vehicle maker, Shanghai Automotive Industrial Corporation (SAIC), has become the latest car maker to hit the Australian market, launching its campaign with a national launch of two commercial vans in the Hunter Valley yesterday.

In a move that is sure to put a cat among the pigeons in the commercial vehicle sector, SAIC – marketed in Australia by the Sydney-based WMC Group – revealed its LDV V80 vans to the Australian motoring media with a 150 kilometre drive program from Williamtown Airport to Pokolbin.

In what was described as an ‘‘historic occasion’’ for the Australian car industry, WMC Group chief executive officer, Neil Bamford, said the launch of the vans, which will lead a range of cab/chassis vehicles, light trucks, people movers and mini-buses onto the local market, was the end result of two years’ work in Australia and China.

‘‘The LDV V80 range brings a European specification and feel to the market at an extremely competitive price and will be a cost-effective alternative to the established European and Japanese competitors,’’ Mr Bamford said.

Typical of the cars launched here by the Japanese in the 1960s, the Koreans in the 1990s and other Chinese manufacturers in the last decade, the LDV V80 range uses the tried and true formula of solid equipment levels and attractive pricing to attract interest.

What makes this particular vehicle different though is that SAIC has virtually outsourced its technology, buying its 2.5litre turbo-diesel engines from Italian company VM Motori, the internals for its five-speed manual gearboxes (a six-speed semi-automatic gearbox will be added later this year) from South Korea and its chassis has been developed by German companies ThyssenKrupp, ZF and Bosch. Even its suspension and chassis tuning for Australia was carried-out by Britain’s MIRA.

Underlining the importance of LDV’s Australian debut, Mr Qiu De Ya, Minister Counsellor for Economic and Commercial Affairs at China’s Canberra Embassy and Mr Lan Qing Song, SAIC Motors’ Commercial Vehicle President, attended the Hunter Valley launch.

SAIC builds around 4.5million vehicles annually in China. Pricing for the LDV van range starts at $32,990 and the new model will be sold nationally  through a 34-strong dealer network.

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