Once upon a time, it used to be that the most sought-after cars would come from countries like Germany, the United States, Japan, and other countries in Europe. Each country had a reputation, too; American cars for their powerful engines, Japanese cars for their efficiency, German cars for their engineering, and so on.
At some point, carmakers from other countries started becoming more prominent, like some South Korean companies. These days, China is also a rising power in the car making industry. You may already know China as a significant source of car parts used by carmakers the world over. However, Chinese manufactures have since stepped up to producing whole vehicles of their own, and some of them can be quite impressive.
Here's a quick look at the top 5 Chinese car brands that you can find right here in Australia.
Great Wall Motor
Let's start with Great Wall Motor. They're one of the most prominent Chinese auto groups around right now. Unlike some of the other Chinese brands that you'll read about below, Great Wall Motor's business doesn't involve buying up western car brands. Instead, they seem to be going about things with their own cars.
One that you might recognise is its affordable dual-cab utes like the Steed, which is available on the Aussie market. Next to that, you may also have seen its Haval SUVs on local roads. For both Great Wall and Haval, the company is set to release a whole new lineup of vehicles soon. Definitely worth looking forward to!
Have you ever heard of Foton? You probably have. They make commercial vehicles, including the Aumark light- and medium-duty trucks and other utes that you see on local Aussie streets. What you probably didn’t know is that Foton's parent company is – you guessed it – a Chinese auto company. The company in question is a global automotive company known as the Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Corporation or BAIC.
BAIC's pretty active elsewhere in the automotive industry, too. For example, they have a partnership with Daimler AG, which involves taking a 35% share in Mercedes-Benz leasing based in China. Aside from that, one of their many subsidiaries is an engine parts and components company, through which they sell aftermarket car parts.
Geely Auto follows another business model that seems to be familiar with Chinese car companies. In Australia, Geely first appeared in 2010 with its Geely MK hatchback, a subcompact sedan. In the years since then, they've focused more on buying up other car companies like Volvo, Lotus, and even Malaysian car brand Proton.
One reason why few people today might even know the name Geely is that they rarely interfere directly with the companies that they buy. Each brand owned by Geely focuses on its vehicles, like how Volvo continues to be developed back home in Sweden and manufactured elsewhere in Europe. This way, companies owned by Geely can focus on doing what they do and how they do it best. Another way of looking at it is that there are loads of Geely vehicles on Aussie roads, but they're carrying other brand names.
You may have heard of SAIC Motor in Australia before. For the past ten years or so, the company, formerly known as 'Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation', has been buying up European companies like MG and LDV.
After they’ve acquired these companies, SAIC then relaunched them. They use the MG Motor brand for marketing its passenger cars. For the most part, SAIC motor has been using the LDV brand to sell commercial vehicles to the Aussie market. Their latest offering, though, seems to be bridging the gap between the two markets. The 2020 LDV D90 is a family-friendly SUV that fits seven people.
Overall, SAIC seems to be doing quite well. It appears that one of their secrets to success is designing the cars it sells in Australia outside of China, before producing them in Chinese factories.
Dongfeng is a little bit of a dark horse in this arena. The name might not sound familiar to you right now, but it's one you should keep an eye and an ear open for. See, the Dongfeng Motor Corporation has been a behind-the-scenes kind of player in the global automotive industry. So far, they've worked with European and Japanese carmakers on joint ventures for them to sell their cars in China.
That's about to change. Dongfeng Motor is set to ship its vehicles to Australia sometime in 2020. Working with an Aussie startup called EV Automotive, they'll be shipping small batches of their electric cars to Australia soon.
In the long-term, the plan seems to be for EV Automotive to put its branding on Dongfeng's Glory E3, a mid-sized electric SUV. EV Automotive won't be selling these vehicles at dealers, though. Instead, they'll sell directly to customers online.
Chery Automobile Company
Chery is a Chinese state-owned car manufacturer that's been around for quite a bit. Chery vehicles were easier to spot on Australian streets around the years of 2011-2014. Sadly, back then, they had a terrible reputation. Their sales were low thanks to car designs that seemed a little too old-fashioned, and their safety features and ratings left lots to be desired.
They've come a long way since then, at least back in their homeland. Back home in China, Chery has modernised their lineup with a bunch of slick-looking sedans and SUVs. Unfortunately, it might be a while before they make a real comeback in Australia. For the time being, Chery's focus seems to be on left-hand-drive countries.
On the plus side, Chery has been spotted conducting road tests in Australia for their Chery Exeed, their mid-sized crossover utility vehicle. This isn't a confirmation that they're going to return to Australia just yet, but it does give us something to be hopeful about!
By Ray Hasbollah