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Chery says it's here for the long haul in Australia - but when will it crack the top 10 to challenge MG, Hyundai and Kia?

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Chery is confident it will crack the top 10.
Chery is confident it will crack the top 10.

Chery is no doubt envious of MG’s top-10 automaker position in Australia.

MG was quick in our market, and was willing to make some mistakes and learn some hard lessons to get there. Its work paid off. The marque is now back in the general consciousness of Australian buyers thanks to its keenly priced and attractive vehicles with long warranty terms.

Like MG, GWM is also close to cracking the top 10, sitting just a few thousand units out in 12th place, and plans to be there before the end of 2025 off the back of its range of hybrids and off-roaders that are making an impact with buyers.

Will Chery be the next to get there? Or will it be beaten to the punch by either BYD or one of the other many Chinese brands committed to launching in our market in 2025?

Speaking to CarsGuide at the launch of the Tiggo 8 Pro Max seven-seat SUV, the brand’s local managing director, Lucas Harris, shared his thoughts.

“A brand which doesn’t have top 10 ambitions? I think they’re few and far between” he said. “Of course we want to and we want to be there as soon as possible, but our focus is less about being in the top 10 for now, and more about laying that foundation which is going to make sure we can get there.

“We need the right products, the right positioning, we need to be fit for purpose for customers and give our dealers confidence. It’s going to take time for that to propagate.”

“Its easy for us to talk about it. I’m confident about it, but we still need a bit of water under the bridge.”

Its relaunch a year ago with the Omoda 5 small SUV promised big new things.
Its relaunch a year ago with the Omoda 5 small SUV promised big new things.

Adding to these comments, Chery communications boss Tim Krieger said: “Word of mouth is still really important. We get customers who are happy with their product and share that with their friends and family, that takes time.

“We’re literally just coming up to one year in. So it’s early days when it comes to spreading the message.”

Indeed, unlike MG or GWM which have had significant time in the Australian market, Chery is a relative newcomer despite having been in Australia once before.

Its relaunch a year ago with the Omoda 5 small SUV promised big new things, and the brand now has a three-model range including the Tiggo 7 and Tiggo 8.

When asked if the response had been what the brand had expected to its current range, Harris explained the initial feedback on Tiggo had been positive.

“The biggest surprise is how enthusiastic our buyers have been. Feedback from owners has been positive - their enthusiasm online and in social media groups has been really pleasing.”

When it comes to volume though, Harris did admit there was work to do in order for the brand to have the same level of success as MG and GWM.

Both Omoda 5 and Tiggo 7 are good value for money, but we’d love more people to get exposed to them.
Both Omoda 5 and Tiggo 7 are good value for money, but we’d love more people to get exposed to them.

“It’s less where it is now and more where we would like to see it. Content is how I’d describe the current sales performance. Both Omoda 5 and Tiggo 7 are good value for money, but we’d love more people to get exposed to them.

“One thing we’ve noticed is the test drive to sales ratio is really high. What that tells us is that if we can get people in to look at the car, to drive the car, more often than not it seals the deal for them.” He added the Tiggo 8 Pro Max is an important piece of the puzzle “being able to offer seven seats is a big drawcard.” he added.

Chery will expand its range to five by the end of 2024 with the Omoda E5 - the electric Omoda 5 - and the Tiggo 4 small SUV that will compete with the Hyundai Venue and Kia Stonic as an affordable entry-point for the brand.

When asked if this rapid expansion was too much too fast, or if it needed to compete in more segments to stay ahead of the incoming competition from China, Harris said:

“Expansion is important and offering customers options is important, and ultimately we want to be led by our customers.”

“Let’s put it this way: There’s plenty of vehicles on the market currently which customers don’t seem to be choosing.”

Chery will expand its range to five by the end of 2024.
Chery will expand its range to five by the end of 2024.

Chery will take a punt at an unusual segment for a Chinese newcomer - the semi-premium market.

Its Jaecoo sub-brand will launch imminently with a mid-size SUV as something of an alternative to the Tiggo 7. It will sit above the current Chery range price-wise, but won't be positioned to compete with traditional luxury rivals like Lexus, Harris confirmed.

Chery will have its work cut out for it in the next 12 months. Multiple new Chinese brands have announced their intention to launch in Australia during or before 2025, with the primary two rivals being GAC and Geely, as it seems likely these two will have a similar combustion and hybrid range rather than a pure-EV play like Xpeng or Skywell.

Harris remains confident, however.

“Let them come” he said, “What sets us apart is that we have a long-term commitment to Australian customers. We’ve already got an established dealer network - we’re in every major metro, regional and rural - and that’s not just to sell cars, but to support customers too. We put our money where our mouth is when it comes to parts supply. Everything from a small fender bender to more major parts, we’ve got them. Invariably, if something goes wrong, we can get them back on the road quickly.”

“How many brands talk about their parts coverage and availability of materials? We want to be here long-term and that comes with a commitment to our customers.”

Tom White
Senior Journalist
Despite studying ancient history and law at university, it makes sense Tom ended up writing about cars, as he spent the majority of his waking hours finding ways to drive as many as possible. His fascination with automobiles was also accompanied by an affinity for technology growing up, and he is just as comfortable tinkering with gadgets as he is behind the wheel. His time at CarsGuide has given him a nose for industry news and developments at the forefront of car technology.
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