Australia Reacts To The Chinese Invasion

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

China’s assault on the auto markets of the west may have been delayed another five years, but Australia is going to be the canary in the coal mine. The first mature Western-style market to see any significant imports of Chinese vehicles, led by the Chery J1, is adapting to a new era of low-cost, low-content cars. And it seems that the Chinese OEMs are right to be waiting for future generations of vehicles, as the J1 seems unlikely to make even the impact that Hyundai’s departed Excel made. One reason: safety. Or lack thereof. Hit the the jump to see what we’re on about.

Not wildly inspiring, is it? On the other hand, it could be worse: after all, Holden’s Barina (a rebadged Daewoo Kalos/Chevy Aveo) got a similar two-star rating back in 2005. So, weak safety scores alone shouldn’t keep the J1 back…

Similarly, the marketing for the new Chery is weak… but not fatally, embarrassingly bad. To wit

But, if we look to South Africa, which has already been exposed to earlier Cherys, the perception of the J1 is something along the lines of the recent crop of Chrysler 200 reviews: still not competitive but a huge improvement. Or, in the words of this reviewer, a “scarily large improvement.”

In short, the J1 seems to represent a step in the development of China’s car industry: better than the rolling jokes of even a few years ago, but still not ready for primetime in the Western markets. And if China makes the most of the next five years of development, the next wave of export-oriented Chinese cars could begin to make the kind of impact we’ve seen from Hyundai over the last several decades. But neither the Koreans nor the Chinese will enjoy the opportunity afforded the Japanese, which came into the US just as Detroit’s automakers were fatally losing their way in a rapidly-changing market. If China’s going to make good on the angst it inspires in the Western automakers, it’s going to have to earn it vehicle by vehicle, generation by generation. This is only the beginning.

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • Athos Nobile Athos Nobile on Oct 17, 2011

    Using Matt's method for determining sales volumes... down here Aussies buy cars mostly from C-segment up. There are few B-cars and seeing a Spark is rare. From the Chinese, I've spotted so far some Great Wall's utes, not enough to even make a dent on the Hilux, despite being dirt cheap. The cheapest one goes for around AU$ 17K and the cheapest Hilux is around AU$ 21K. No need to explain what's the obvious choice. I've seen very few Protons also. And for AU$ 11K there are plenty of decent options in the used market.

  • Bimmer Bimmer on Oct 18, 2011

    But we already have Chinese and Indian vehicles here aka Volvo, Jaguar and Land Rover.

  • Probert A few mega packs would probably have served as decent backup.
  • Lou_BC Lead sleds. Now-a-days GM would just use Bondo.
  • Jrhurren This is a great series. Thanks Corey
  • Tane94 Not as stylish as the Soul which it is replacing but a practical shape and bonus points for EV only.
  • Ronin What is the magical white swan event in the foreseeable future that will suddenly reverse the trend?Success tends to follow success, and likewise failure. The perception, other than among true believers, is that e-cars are a lost cause. Neither government fiat, nor government bribery, nor even the promise of superior virtue among one's peers have been enough to push past the early adapter curve. Either the bust-out is right now for e-cars, or it doesn't happen. Marketing 101.Even subtle language-manipulation, such as deeming those possessing common sense as suffering from some sort of vague anxiety (eg, "range anxiety") has not been enough to induce people to care.Twenty years from now funny AI-generated comedians will make fun of the '20s, and their obsession with theose silly half-forgotten EVs. They will point out that, yes, EVs actually ran on electricity generated by such organic fuels as coal and natural gas after all, and then they will perform synthesized laughter at us.