There are more than 150 carmakers in China, although most are tiny firms producing for local customers. But three of the larger Chinese brands are already established in the passenger-vehicle ranks - Chery, Great Wall and Geely - with Foton and JAC selling trucks, Higer with buses and all looking for future growth.
Great Wall is easily the most successful to date, with 4838 sales to the end of May mostly thanks to its utes, with Chery on 696 and Geely not included in the national VFACTS total despite taking a toehold in Western Australia last year.
Carsguide has learned of another six contenders and believes they are already negotiating with freelance importers about local distribution. "The Chinese embassy has contacted us about finding local partners for six car companies," a senior source at the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries reveals to Carsguide.
"We are trying to help. They seem pretty keen." The importer with the strongest Chinese ties, Ateco Automotive, already has Chery and Great Wall on its books and company chief Neville Crichton admits he is looking to spread his influence. Ateco has recently lost the local agency for Alfa Romeo and Fiat, which were reclaimed by their owners at Fiat Chrysler Group, and has previously imported both Suzuki and Kia vehicles before selling the franchises back to head office.
Crichton will not discuss his targets but a team from Ateco was one of the Australian groups in China recently for the Beijing Motor Show. There are now seven Great Wall models in Australia but none are passenger cars, at least yet, while Chery has three with the J11 SUV selling best with 374 delivers to the end of May.
The Geely importer, John Hughes in Perth, is regrouping before a stronger push with a bigger range of the company's latest models in 2013. Two other brands, JAC and Maxus, are being handled by the import company WMC, which began with Higer buses.
JAC is beginning its Australian push with small trucks, planning to follow with vans and a ute in 2013, and likely passenger cars in late 2014. Maxus, which is part of the giant Shanghai Automotive group that includes MG, is starting with vans but has perhaps the greatest potential of all once it commits to a local program with its Chinese cars.