There’s some big trends sweeping the automotive world. Electrification is an obvious one, autonomous driving is another.
Here in Australia the most significant change has not been the technology driving us, but where the cars we are buying come from. Put simply, China is emerging as a huge player in new vehicle sales.
The closure of the Aussie car manufacturing industry and the rise in price of the traditional Japanese mainstream models has helped Chinese brands establish themselves here.
They now offer the most affordable vehicles in Australian dealerships. But that’s not all. Chinese cars are well-styled outside, good looking inside and are laden with tech.
That improvement has accelerated because the globe’s mayor auto players have spent decades in mandatory joint-ventures with Chinese brands so they could access what is now the biggest auto market in the world.
Inevitably, that knowledge and skill has been soaked up by the locals and is now being used to turn out some world class vehicles from brands many of us have never heard of.
But we will soon because export is a key plank of the Chinese auto industry.
The likes of MG, GWM Haval and have already established themselves here and more brands are either in the process of setting up shop or are planning to be here soon.
So let’s take a look at some of latest metal landing on our shores from China and some of the new brands headed our way as well.
BYD stands for Build Your Dreams. It is a privately-owned company with a significant investment from US billionaire Warren Buffett. It rivals Tesla as the world’s most successful ‘plug-in’ car company.
It arrived in Australia to instant success with the Atto 3 battery electric small car. Its sub-$50,000 pricing and 400km range proved a hit.
But coming later in 2023 is the smaller and cheaper Dolphin, which could well reset entry level pricing for BEVs in Australia below $40,000.
The Dolphin measures up just over 4.0 metres long and has a claimed range up to 425km depending on the powertrain.
Chery Omoda 5
A compact SUV rival for the likes of the Hyundai Kona and Mazda CX-3, the Omoda 5 is the first model on-sale in Australia from Chery.
Well, first model since its relaunch we should say, as the state-owned auto maker made an unsuccessful foray into Australia between 2011 and 2016.
Chery has declared huge sales ambitions in Australia, with a series of SUVs and utes set to follow the Omoda 5 on-sale. Another brand in the stable, Exeed, is also expected to head our way.
The Omoda 5 is an all-new development with a choice of turbo-petrol engines and a battery electric version on the way.
Priced from $29,900 plus on-road costs, the Omoda 5 is not the cheapest vehicle in its segment, but does offer a high level of standard equipment.
Another brand that tried and failed in Australia in the 2000s, JAC is targeting the affordable end of the ute market with its T9 Hunter 4×4 dual cab.
The local importer plans a launch before the end of 2023, taking the fight to rival Chinese utes the GWM Ute and LDV T60.
JAC will offer the T9 in two equipment levels, with both powered by the same 125kW/410Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine mated with an eight-speed auto, part-time 4×4 and low range gearing.
A battery electric version is expected to follow in 2024, although preliminary specs indicate it will be only rear-wheel drive, have a short range and a low payload.
In that it will mirror the electric LDV eT60, which earned the distinction of being the first battery electric ute on-sale in Australia.
Lynk & Co
Lynk & Co is a subsidiary of Chinese auto giant Geely and was founded in Sweden in 2016 alongside Volvo, which has been owned by Geely since 2010.
Aimed at young professionals, Lynk & Co offers sedans and SUVs that are petrol, hybrid or plug-in hybrid. Battery electric vehicles are scheduled from 2024.
Lynk & Co is expected to arrive in Australia pretty soon as well, as the brand has committed to launching here by 2025.
Rather than the usual dealer experience, Lynk & Co sells its vehicles online via subscription.
The name is British, but MG is now very much a Chinese brand owned by SAIC, the Shanghai-based government-owned auto conglomerate that also owns LDV.
MG has been kicking sales goals in Australia in recent years with its affordable line-up of SUVs including the battery electric ZS EV.
But the MG4 BEV shapes as a gamechanger. Already voted UK Car of the Year, it is a ground-up electric vehicle that promises appealing range and performance at an affordable price.
The five-door hatchback will come in a number of variants headlined by the 435km Essence, which has been priced at $47,990 before on-road costs.
The independent Chinese electric luxury brand has dropped heavy hints it will be in Australia by 2025.
The Nio range includes a line-up of sedans, SUVs and coupe SUVs that range in size from medium to large. Its flagship is an electric supercar called the EP9.
Nio’s performance claims are extraordinary; for instance the 5.1m ES8 480kW all-wheel drive SUV has a range up to 900km and a 0-100km/h acceleration time of just 3.8 seconds.
Nio is also emerging as a global champion of battery swapping. That’s where you drive your BEV into garage and exchange your depleted battery pack for a new one in just a few minutes.
GWM Tank 300 Hybrid
GWM is the Chinese auto manufacturer Great Wall Motors and the 300 is the first model from its Tank hard-core off-road brand to be sold in Australia.
Built on a ladder frame and measuring up 4760mm long, the Tank 300 Hybrid comes with 4×4 and low range gearing. It is a competitor for the likes of the Jeep Wrangler and Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series.
But unlike those two, it comes powered by a petrol-electric four-cylinder hybrid that provides a power and low-end torque boost that Tank says is especially helpful off-road.
The Tank 300 Hybrid also undercuts them on price, starting at $55,990 driveaway.
A non-hybrid Tank 300 is also on the list for Australia and that should drop the starting price below $50,000.