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Chery moves to improve J1 safety

The seats in the J1 were criticised for their design and integrity.

The Chery J1 only managed three stars and was criticised for a "considerable injury risk" in the latest test, which follows a previous two-star effort by the Great Wall ute at the end of 2009.

The good news for consumers is that Chery has launched a recall program on the seats in the J1 in a follow-up program similar to the one by Great Wall, which eventually earned a four-start ANCAP tick with its X240 SUV after the problem with the V240 pickup.

The seats in the J1 were criticised for their design and integrity, but ANCAP testing also revealed a structural weakness in the passenger compartment. Both Chinese brands are imported by Ateco Automotive, which is also the Australian agent for a range of makes including Ferrari and - following an appointment last week from Britain - Lotus.

Chinese engineers were present for the ANCAP testing of the Chery and work on the J1 has produced an updated seat back which is being fitted to more than 700 cars already delivered in Australia in a national recall program.

"We're replacing the backrests on both sides. 702 cars are involved," says Chery spokesman, Daniel Cotterill. "We have started the work. We have the parts and we're doing the change."

He says Chery's quick reaction is typical of the company, which had previously changed the final-drive ratio in the J1 after complaints about the hill-start ability and general performance of the car. "It was a case of looking to find out why the car performed the way it did in the NCAP testing. We were impressed with the speed that Chery produced a solution. They have moved very quickly."

Cotterill believes a re-test of the J1 would give a better ANCAP result, although he stops short of predicting a four-star rating to Carsguide after being slammed by ANCAP after an earlier suggestion of a one-star improvement.

"These comments are clearly incorrect, as the modifications would not impact the overall crash test result, and the ATECO engineering staff should be aware of this," says Lachlan McIntosh, chair of ANCAP.

"The Chery J1 performed poorly in the crash tests - the passenger compartment lost structural integrity in the frontal impact test, providing limited protection from serious chest injury for the driver." Still, Cotterill is confident Chery has learned from the ANCAP result.

"I think Cherys will get better over time. I'm confident the J1 is significantly improved. That confidence is based on independently- conducted crash tests. Whether it gets another star is up to ANCAP."

There is no confirmation from ANCAP yet on a test date for the other Chery model sold in Australia, the J11 SUV, or the Geely car from China that is currently only available in Western Australia.