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Foton trucks make new push into Australia

One of the biggest truck players in China means business this time and is backed by import giant Ateco Automotive, the company that brings Great Wall utes to Australia. Foton will now offer a full line of trucks, with two different engine options, both Cummins.

The Foton Aumark was first introduced to Australia in 2010 and was brought in by TransPacific, the same company that imports Western Star, MAN and Dennis Eagle trucks.

Sales were slow and when Foton took its time developing a Euro 5 model, TransPacific walked away. Ateco says it will throw a lot more marketing strength behind Foton, which launched this week at the Brisbane Truck Show.

There will be three trucks offered right from the start, the 4500kg entry-level truck that can be driven on a car license, a 6500kg model and an 8500kg model. Short, medium and long wheelbases will be available and customers can choose from a narrow cab or wide cab.

Ateco is not ready to finalise payload numbers, but says these trucks are significantly lighter which will allow them to carry more. “These trucks have gone on a bit of a diet so there are improvements in payload compared to the previous Aumark and current JAC trucks,” says Foton general manager Andrei Zaitzev.

He says much of the weight reduction can be attributed to different types of steels used. Foton will offer two Cummins engines for the Aumark, both six-cylinders and both made in China at a Cummins-Foton plant. The entry-level unit is a 2.8-litre with 110kW and 360Nm, while the 3.8-litre engine generates 115kW and 500Nm.

Both use Selective Catalytic Reduction, which utlises AdBlue exhaust treatment fluid. Owners will not need to have the engine serviced by Cummins, as is the case with big trucks, thanks to a deal with Ateco.

'It was crucial that Cummins came on board,” Zaitzev says. “We needed the dealers to be able to service the whole truck so that customers know they can just take the truck to one place.” Ateco decided to steer clear of Chinese in-house transmissions, opting for two ZF manual gearboxes including one that is imported from Europe.

There is no fully automatic or automated manual option for now, but Ateco is keen to offer a self-shifter given the increasing demand for them. Ateco was not ready to detail how much the Fotons will cost at the time of writing, but cautions potential customers that they shouldn't expect rock bottom prices.

“They're not going to be cheap, but they will represent good value for money,” is how Zaitzev puts it. With reliability concerns likely to be in the minds of potential customers, Ateco plans to offer a 24 hour roadside assistance package with each truck.

The trucks will all be fitted with cruise control, airconditioning and power steering. There are no airbags, for now, but anti-skid brakes are standard and Ateco says the cabs all adhere to the ECE 29 cab safety standard.

Ateco is yet to finalise the new Foton dealer list, describing it as a work in progress, but says it will represent proper national coverage, including Western Australia.