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China now ranks fourth for sales by country of origin in Australia thanks to MG Motor, GWM Haval and LDV

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The MG ZS is the top-selling small SUV in the country so far this year.
The MG ZS is the top-selling small SUV in the country so far this year.

It’s no secret that Chinese cars are more popular than ever in Australia.

A quick look around any supermarket car park will prove that.

What is surprising is the fact that China now ranks fourth in Australia when it comes to new-vehicle sales by country of origin.

That might not sound like a massive feat given how popular brands like MG are, but it is incredible when you look at figures from just five years ago.

Full-year 2016 sales data shows that just 2927 Chinese vehicles found homes in Australia for the entire year. That’s 0.2 per cent of the entire market. Out of the 28 countries that Australia sourced vehicles from in 2016, China was ranked 22nd.

The 2016 tally was mostly made up of sales for LDV, Great Wall, Haval, the now defunct light-commercial ute brand Foton (they still sell small trucks in Australia), and another brand that has since disappeared, Chery.

The figure was higher back in 2011 when Great Wall was starting to fire. That year, 10,487 Chinese cars were sold in Australia – mostly Great Wall and Chery – but it was still 12th on the country-of-origin list.

Cut to 2021 and 61,953 Chinese-made cars have found homes so far this year, making up seven per cent of total sales. That’s a 178 per cent increase over the same period last year and a massive 2017 per cent jump over the 2016 result.

LDV's new T60 Max joins the regular T60 range.
LDV's new T60 Max joins the regular T60 range.

China now ranks fourth behind Japan (302,221), Thailand (194,195) and South Korea (121,817). More vehicles are sourced from China than Germany (37,289), the United States (28,342) and England (16,838).

Given Japanese carmakers like Toyota and Mazda dominate the Australian market it’s hardly surprising that Japan has the biggest volume.

Thailand can be explained by Australia’s enormous pick-up segment, with most of the top sellers including the Ford Ranger, Toyota HiLux and Isuzu D-Max built there. And Korea is home to the number three and number five brands in Australia, Hyundai and Kia respectively.

China’s 61,953 figure only tells some of the story. It doesn’t factor in sales of the Tesla Model 3 which is sourced from Shanghai. Tesla has delivered approximately 10,000 examples of the Model 3 to Australia so far this year, so the true figure is somewhere north of 70,000.

It’s also not just brands like Haval and MG that make up the numbers for Chinese vehicle sales. About 3000 registrations come from manufacturers like Volvo, a Swedish brand with Chinese ownership under the massive Geely group. The XC60 SUV is sourced from China.

More Chinese models are on the way soon including the Polestar 2 and the BMW iX3 EVs.

The Volvo XC60 is sourced from China for the Australian market.
The Volvo XC60 is sourced from China for the Australian market.

The popularity of the major Chinese players is clear. They offer affordable, attractive, comfortable and, in most cases, safe motoring with pricing that undercuts Japanese and Korean rivals.

MG Motor is now a top-10 brand in Australia with just over 32,000 sales year to date. MG is just 3000 units behind Nissan and Volkswagen for sales and it has overtaken Subaru. It also outsells other major brands like Isuzu Ute and Mercedes-Benz. This would have been unheard of only a couple of years ago.

The MG3 is the top-selling light car in Australia by a country mile and the MG ZS leads the small-SUV segment. The ZS EV is the top-selling non-Tesla electric car in the country too.

Great Wall Motors and its Haval SUV brand are also on the march. Sales for the whole group are at 14,892 this year, a 273 per cent uplift on last year.

LDV is also kicking goals, with sales up by 85 per cent to 12,128 units for the year. The T60 ute is its biggest seller, with the G10 van also selling strongly.

Tim Nicholson
Managing Editor
Calling out the make and model of every single car he saw as a toddler might have challenged his parents’ patience, but it was clearly a starting point for Tim Nicholson’s journey into automotive journalism. Tim launched the program, Fender Bender, on community radio station JOY 94.9 during completion of his Master of Arts (Media and Communications). This led to an entry role at industry publication GoAuto, before eventually taking the role of Managing Editor. A stint as RACV’s Motoring Editor – including being an Australia’s Best Cars judge – provided a different perspective to automotive media, before leading him to CarsGuide where he started as a Contributing Journalist in September 2021, and transitioned to Senior Editor in April 2022, before becoming Managing Editor in December 2022.
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