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"It is going to change dramatically": Kia says Chinese brands like MG, Haval, Chery, BYD, GAC, Leapmotor and Geely will permanently reshape Australia's new-car market, putting legacy brands like Toyota, Ford, Hyundai, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Mazda at risk

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Kia says Australia's new-car market is set to change
Kia says Australia's new-car market is set to change

Australia's new-car market is set to "change dramatically", with the influx of Chinese brands, putting legacy car makers at real risk of failure.

That's the word from Kia Australia's CEO Damien Meredith, who says that the growth of brands like MG and Haval, combined with the rush of newcomers like BYD, Leapmotor, GAC, Geely and others, will put real pressure on Australia's legacy carmakers.

With the Australian new-car market set to deliver around 1.2 million vehicles this year, and with Toyota forecast to account for 20 percent of those sales, that leaves some 960,000 sales to be shared across Australia's 50-plus car brands.

But with a new Chinese car brand seemingly announcing its intention to launch in Australia almost weekly, Kia says every legacy brand will feel the pinch. Some, like Toyota, will see their sales fall, while others could disappear altogether.

"Some projectionists are saying that China will be 40 per cent of the Australian market by the end of the decade. So six years," Mr Meredith says.

"So you're left with say 700,000 sales. Now we know that Toyota won't sell 200,000 cars if that's the situation, so let's say it is 150,000. So that's 550,000 left.

"If (Kia) wants to do 100,000, and Hyundai wants to do 100,000, that's 350,000 left. It gets tight.

"I believe (the market) will look very, very different. I think that the mix of country-of-origin is going to change dramatically.

"There will be some successes, and there will some failures. Will it affect some of the legacy brands that are in Australia? I think probably yes. People hate the status quo changing, but guess what? It's going to change. And I think it's going to change dramatically."

So far this year, China has leapfrogged Korea to sit third on the country-of-origin list for new cars in Australia, sitting behind only Japan and Thailand.

They currently account for 12.8 percent of the new-car market, a staggering climb from around one percent in 2018.

"The cycles of change are happening far quicker than they did in the '60s, '70s and '80s. You had the slow change from American to the Japanese, then you had us with Kia and Hyundai, and that took a while.

"And now you're seeing a rapid change with another country of origin."

But Mr Meredith says the influx of new brand won't force Kia to "go to the corner and suck your thumb".

"It's obvious that Australia is going to get more and more brands into the country. And you have a choice. You can go to the corner and suck your thumb, you can leave the market, you can play the discount game, or you can have faith.

"And that's what we are going to do. We will believe in our product, we will believe in our brand, we will believe in our dealer network to still do the job that is required in regards to customer satisfaction, to volume, to market share, and to ensuring there is growth in our brand ongoing.

It's going to heat up, there's no doubt about that, and we look forward to it."

Andrew Chesterton
Contributing Journalist
Andrew Chesterton should probably hate cars. From his hail-damaged Camira that looked like it had spent a hard life parked at the end of Tiger Woods' personal driving range, to the Nissan Pulsar Reebok that shook like it was possessed by a particularly mean-spirited demon every time he dared push past 40km/h, his personal car history isn't exactly littered with gold. But that seemingly endless procession of rust-savaged hate machines taught him something even more important; that cars are more than a collection of nuts, bolts and petrol. They're your ticket to freedom, a way to unlock incredible experiences, rolling invitations to incredible adventures. They have soul. And so, somehow, the car bug still bit. And it bit hard. When "Chesto" started his journalism career with News Ltd's Sunday and Daily Telegraph newspapers, he covered just about everything, from business to real estate, courts to crime, before settling into state political reporting at NSW Parliament House. But the automotive world's siren song soon sounded again, and he begged anyone who would listen for the opportunity to write about cars. Eventually they listened, and his career since has seen him filing car news, reviews and features for TopGear, Wheels, Motor and, of course, CarsGuide, as well as many, many others. More than a decade later, and the car bug is yet to relinquish its toothy grip. And if you ask Chesto, he thinks it never will.
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