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Chery, Chery baby! Here comes another of China’s vehicle manufacturers!

At a time when the legendary Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons are actually performing a one off show live in Australia, how appropriate is it that Ateco have launched the new Chery brand. Sadly most of the demographic that they are targeted at have never heard of Frankie Valli, but go and see Jersey Boys and you will see the link, albeit a very bad play on words!

Chery is one of China’s largest auto manufacturers, making over 700,000 vehicles last year. In China, they offer 32 different models, from the very small, to sedans, SUVs and vans. Here, they are opening their account with just two models, the JI hatchback and the J11 compact SUV.

With prices from just $11990 drive away for the J1 and $19990 drive away for the J11, they will obviously attract some attention, especially given the standard features at this price level.

The J11 undercuts the most affordable SUV previously available in Australia, Suzuki’s Jimny ($20,490, plus on-road costs), by about $3000 and is also $4000 cheaper than Great Wall’s conceptually similar X240 ($23,990 drive-away).

For the startlingly low on-road price, which is at least $6000 less expensive than the lowest-priced small 2WD SUVs from mainstream brands, the J11 comes fully equipped with leather seat trim, air-conditioning, power windows and mirrors, a four-speaker CD/MP3 sound system, 16-inch alloy wheels, fog lights and remote central locking.

But what about safety? Yes, it is an issue and Ateco are saying that these initial offerings are 3 star safety rated. They only have two front airbags and they do not have electronic stability control (ESC) so they will not be initially for sale in Victoria as this is now mandated as a standard feature. However their 45 dealers spread across the nation are expecting to sell around 5000 Cherys this year, along with a 3 year , 100,000 klm warranty. That would be an amazing effort from a standing start.

Later in the year we will have a Corolla sized ‘J3’ which I am told will sell for under $25K with every option including leather and heated seats and I have no doubt that the next generation will have all of the expected safety features offered by their Japanese and Korean rivals and they will be snapped up.

Interestingly in Sydney, there are only 3 Dealers, all currently in the West, which shows they have done their demographic marketing and the vast majority of Dealers are in country areas, where Ateco believe the buyer is more frugal. Probably right!

Their marketing slogan is ‘Why would you pick anything else?’ and let’s face it, who wouldn’t prefer a brand new car with that new car smell, instead of the 5 year old Yaris or RAV4? Watch used small car resale values drop again as a result of this predatory pricing!

I think, barring any build quality disasters, Chery will very quickly get to where the Japanese did in 40 years and the Koreans have in 25. I firmly believe that if you build good looking, quality, safe, well specced, well priced cars the market will come to you. Ask Mazda and Hyundai!!