Ateco Automotive, which also imports Chery and Lotus cars, last week announced it had taken over the Australian distribution of Foton Tunland utes from Queensland-based FAA Automotive.
Ateco last year took over the local distribution of Chinese-made Foton trucks from TransPacific Industries, which had struggled to sell the cut-price machines at the same dealerships as its Western Star trucks. Ateco spokesman, Daniel Cotterill, says the company was happy to have the Foton ute business although it didn't try to poach it from FAA. "This development came at the request of Foton (in China)," Cotterill says. "They came to us and said that it is not working for whatever reason, let's do this."
Cotterill says Ateco and Foton are still working out the details of the models it will use to re-launch the brand locally in the middle of this year. Working Wheels understands the crew cab version will be a certain starter, although the recently launched single cab may not be in the new line-up. Ateco is also not ready to start discussing prices of the Foton utes, but Cotterill says "we will come back with sharper pricing."
Rivals have suggested Foton had initially asked too much for its crew cab ute, launched in 2002 from $28,000 to $35,000, and underestimated the caution with which most Australian customers approach a new brand from China. The Foton utes will not be as cheap as the Great Wall workhorses, which start from $17,990, partly because they use more brand name componentry such as Cummins engines and also because of higher quality levels.
Cotterill says Great Wall was not worried that Ateco was taking on another ute brand because the company has already shown it can import rival brands without problems. Ateco will also consider passenger versions of Foton vehicles if they are made available for Australia.