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Chinese cars set to splash

There is already a Great Wall pickup and SUV in Australia, with Chery about to open with a RAV4-sized SUV at $19,990 drive-away

The total for Great Wall alone, with Chery and Geely to join the action around the middle of this year, will hit 8000 vehicles by the end of 2010.  So says star importer Neville Crichton, whose company Ateco has a long list of successes including a 26,000-year with Kia before the Korean company bought the farm back in Australia.

"In five years we'll see the Chinese with a major, major share of the Australian market," says Crichton.  "I see no reason why we can't do the same (as Kia) with the Chinese brands. We certainly see that within three years we'll be selling in excess of 20,000 Chinese vehicles, between our two brands, Great Wall and Chery."

There is already a Great Wall pickup and SUV in Australia, with Chery about to open with a RAV4-sized SUV at $19,990 drive-away and a 1.4-litre car as the price leader. But Crichton says there will not be a sub-$10,000 car in the Chery family.

"We'd like to stay, probably, dollar-for-dollar, where Hyundai is. But with better specced cars," he says.  He also sees a surprising twist, as the Chinese brands target Japan ahead of Korea.  "I don't see the Japanese disappearing, but I think the Chinese cars will affect them more than the Koreans. Strictly on price,” Crichton says.

"If you walked into one of their factories, blindfolded, you would think it was Volkswagen or Audi factory. They are getting very good, very quickly.  "We've got a lot of faith in our Chinese partners."

While Ateco has Great Wall and Chery - at least a first - the Geely brand will be imported by John Hughes of Perth. He plans to have three WA dealers operating around midyear, with a progressive national rollout.