By on October 16, 2011

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.

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22 Comments on “Australia Reacts To The Chinese Invasion...”

  • avatar

    “…earn it vehicle by vehicle, generation by generation. This is only the beginning.”

    If the west will still be a large market by then, and people of the current and next generation are still as interested in cars by then…

  • avatar

    Holden still sells the old Barina as the Barina Classic for $14,500. The video says the Chinese car scored 3 stars, which is better than the 2 stars of the Daewoo anyway. I don’t think people selling cars at the bottom of the Australian market would be wise to pretend scare tactics will avert bargain shoppers from taking a 20% discount.

  • avatar

    Sounds like a practical little car. Not necessarily a machine for a car enthusiast, but for someone who just needs a car, it might be exactly what is needed.

    Actually, I’m really impressed with any car that isn’t destroyed by a cast of Top Gear…!

  • avatar

    “…first mature Western-style market to see any significant imports of Chinese vehicles…”

    Hmm, I thought Chinese-made cars have been sold in Europe for quite a few years – including the infamous Jiangling Motors Landwind.

  • avatar

    Will they sell them at wal-Mart with the other back-to-school appliances?

  • avatar

    Don’t give the Red Chinese anymore of our hard-earned money.

  • avatar

    I think the learning curve for building good, reliable cars has been dropping rapidly. It took the Koreans, what 10 years to get this done right?

    I’m sure Chinese made cars will be commonplace as Chinese made clothes in about a decade from now.

  • avatar

    These are selling online in New Zealand. The crap Barina from Korea sold on its previous reputation of Opel based cars.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Before ‘it’ happens two things will most certainly take place.

    1) The Chinese manufacturer will likely use the apparatus of an existing automaker to sell their first models in North America (USA & Canada.)

    2) The Chinese manufacturers will be consolidated through ‘encouragement’ of the central government, so that as many resources can be deployed as possible to make it a success.

    So much can happen in five years… unless you sell Alfa Romeos.

  • avatar

    Do I not understand something, which is likely, or would this be a $7K new car at American retail?

    At that price you can sell ’em. I don’t care what it is.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t think it would be that cheap. Near as I can tell, the only tax built into the price is a 10% GST, and the Australian dollar is worth a bit more than the Bernanke buck. OTOH, cars do seem to cost quite a bit more in Australia, more than is explained away by their punitive taxation.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    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.

  • avatar

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

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