Many Australians might know Chery from its $10,000 city cars and budget-priced SUVs it sold a decade ago – but the Chinese brand appears to be preparing to return in 2022.
The Chinese car company that was the last to sell a new vehicle for less than $10,000 in Australia – Chery (pronounced “cherry”) – appears to be making plans to return to local showrooms in 2022, starting with a small SUV.
Chery first dipped its toe into the Australian market in 2011 through independent importer Ateco – launching with the J1 city car, J3 small hatchback, and J11 small SUV.
However, the Chery brand pulled out of the Australian market in 2015 – after just four short years – after an asbestos scare, dwindling sales, and poor crash safety scores.
Chery recently advertised online for a “brand manager” in Australia to “assist the national director of Australia, to carry out the marketing promotion plan and handling the PR cases.”
In China, three separate press releases issued late last year claim Chery plans to launch a new SUV (pictured above and below)– factory-built in left- and right-hand-drive – in “Asia, South America, Australia, Africa, and Europe … from 2022.”
The original distributor of Chery vehicles in Australia – Ateco Automotive – is understood to have an ongoing relationship with Chery to offer parts and service support for the 4600 vehicles sold locally from 2011 to 2015.
However, it is unclear whether the return of Chery to local showrooms will be done via Ateco Automotive, another independent importer, or by establishing an Australian office – as is the case with Chinese rivals MG and Great Wall Motors (GWM) Haval.
Drive has contacted the Chinese head office of Chery for clarification, but is yet to receive a response.
The planned return of Chery to Australia comes as fellow Chinese brands MG, LDV and GWM Haval smash sales records locally.
According to a media statement issued by Chery late last year, the burgeoning brand plans to return to Australia (and other international markets) led by a new small SUV. Judging by the information supplied so far, it will likely be pitched at rivals such as the MG ZS and Haval Jolion.
Known as the Chery Omoda 5, the small SUV is the first model in the soon-to-expand Omoda family, and measures 4400mm long, 1830mm wide and 1585mm high – similar in size to the Haval Jolion.
Pricing for the Chery Omoda 5 is yet to be confirmed – it remains to be seen whether it will target the $25,490 MG ZST Core and $26,490 Haval Jolion Premium, or instead the dearer $28,290 Kia Seltos S, $28,990 Hyundai Kona or circa-$34,700 Toyota C-HR GXL (all prices drive-away).
Given the additional technology likely to be on offer – including a standard-fit automatic transmission, and a suite of active safety features now expected of modern cars – it is unlikely the new Chery Omoda 5 will match the $17,990 drive-away price of Chery’s previous J11 small SUV of 2012-13.
It’s also unclear how Chery will sell its cars in Australia: through a traditional dealer network with negotiable prices, online sales, or a fixed-price business model currently being experimented with by Honda and Mercedes-Benz in Australia.
Revealed in China in November, the Chery Omoda 5 is the first in a new “global product series” – its name translating (loosely) to “new fashion trend” in Latin – and will go on sale in China in the first half of 2022, before expanding “to the global market next year , when it is launched in Asia, South America, Australia, Africa, and Europe.”
After Chery’s first entry into the Australian market was marred by poor ANCAP safety ratings and a recall involving mechanical components that contained asbestos, Chery claims the Omoda 5 “meets the global five-star safety standards in multiple regions”, and “is equipped with leading automatic driving technology.”
Available features on flagship models in China will include a pair of 10.25-inch curved interior screens (or 12.3-inch, according to some Chinese media outlets), climate control, parking sensors, leather sports seats, LED headlights, 18-inch wheels, and multi-tone exterior paint.
While the Omoda 5 debuts a new design language for Chery, keen readers may note similarities to the Nissan Ariya electric SUV, in the roofline, front fascia and tail-lights – recalling memories of a 2005 lawsuit, in which American giant General Motors accused Chery of copying its Daewoo/Chevrolet Matiz city car for the Chinese brand’s Chery QQ model.
Powering Chinese-market Omoda 5 models at launch is a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, reportedly develop 145kW and 290Nm – on par with a 146kW/265Nm Hyundai Kona N Line – mated to a seven-speed ‘wet’ dual-clutch automatic transmission.
Front-wheel drive is standard at launch, though Chery’s media materials suggest all-wheel drive will also be available.
Joining the 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine internationally is a fully-electric option, with a petrol-electric hybrid also expected – likely a Toyota-like ‘self-charging’ system, if other Chery hybrid models are any guide. Chinese media reports say these electrified options will be sold globally.
Timing for an Australian launch for the 2022 Chery Omoda 5 is yet to be confirmed, beyond the global statement in China claiming “from 2022”.
However, gaining the correct Australian Design Rule approvals for the vehicle – and establishing a dealer network, and a head office – will take some time.
Drive will bring you more as new information comes to hand.