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Believe it or not, for the longest time utes have been banned on most urban roads in China, and according to Reuters they only account for around two per cent of vehicle sales nationwide. Those that are sold are mostly for rural use, operating ‘on-farm’ only.
But mid-last year, following various regional trials running since 2016, the central city of Chongqing became the first in the country to lift the ban on pick-ups.
Other cities and provinces have since followed, and interest in utes has been growing accordingly, with recreational use (most often camping) the primary motivator.
So, domestic carmakers have been ramping up their product offerings, with many developing tricky features designed to make their utes more consumer and camping friendly.
Here are four Chinese utes with interesting special features (detailed by China Pickup Network) that caught our eye.
It takes the concept of a split-folding rear seat from a passenger vehicle and applies it to a ute.
Load-bearing parts of the body structure have been re-engineered to accommodate a foldable rear panel which can drop forward into the cabin, and incorporates the rear window glass (which can be lowered and raised).
The aim is to link the passenger compartment to the load bed making it easier to “get items in the cargo compartment, such as cold drinks in the car refrigerator”.
Known as the ‘Bull’ in China (bull in a china shop?) and big brother to the LDV T60 Max ute already on sale in Australia, the T90 has long been rumoured for local market introduction, but nothing has been confirmed so far.
Its maker has been experimenting with various tray enhancements including an inverter on the right-hand side to provide power for tools, lighting and camping gear.
An induction cooktop is also set to be offered for location in the middle of the tailgate for use when folded down, with storage compartments either side. And on the left side, hidden behind a door, a water tank and multi-purpose hose.
A second, proposed multi-layer design uses roller shutters to secure and divide the load space. The lowest is located just above the wheel tubs to provide a locker unit and flat floor, while the second is a more conventional rolling tonneau to secure the tray.
Chery subsidiary Karry Automobile is, as the name implies, focused on light-commercial vehicles including buses, vans, MPVs and pick-up-style utes. Its evergreen Higgo ute has been a consistent seller since launch in 2015.
So far focused on passenger vehicles, Chery itself has recently gone on the record with its ambition of producing at least one small unibody ute, as well as a full body-on-frame dual-cab model. The latter is potentially a key part of the brand’s long-term strategy following re-entry to the Australian market, currently scheduled for the first quarter of this year.
And current Chery patent documents detail a soft-top cargo box cover designed for utes, turning the two longer sides of the tray into spaces that can accommodate cavities topped by roller shutter covers, similar to Ram’s ‘Ram Box’ storage spaces.
When you need even more space, support and connecting rods can raise the roll-up cover to produce a higher pitched top.
Launched in the middle of last year, the Changan Kaicheng F300 dual-cab ute includes a lengthened version with an oversize 2.0m x 1.5m x 400mm tub.
And to ease access for this and other ute models Changan Kaicheng has lodged a patent application for a fold-out step using a four-bar linkage mechanism.
Folded inside the tailgate the design uses the panel’s sheet metal as a structural element after it’s opened, providing users with a large, sturdy tread area.
Nanchang Guochao is an after-market accessories specialist and its Mobile Vehicle Camping Device looks like a cross between a pop-up movie screen, a Hills Hoist and a tiny house.
Manually cranked into position within, above, and behind the ute tray, one end of the set-up is attached to the lowered tailgate, with the other fixed to the tray bed.
Connect A to B, B to C, crank D, E, then F, and voila, the key structural rod, elastic support straps, main tarp and folded mattress form a roomy camping space. Couldn’t be easier, right?
Nanchang Guochao claims to have interest from several manufacturers, and time will tell if it comes to an Aussie camping ground near you anytime soon.