China's carmakers making inroads in New Zealand

Updated: 2012-01-10 14:47


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WELLINGTON -- Chinese automakers Chery and Great Wall could be jostling for New Zealand market share with Japanese giants like Honda, Mazda and Mitsubishi in 10 to 15 years, a senior New Zealand motor industry official said Tuesday.

While the two Chinese manufacturers saw sizeable increases in sales last year, they needed to gain "market acceptability" by improving vehicle performance and safety standards, said Motor Industry Association of New Zealand (MIA) chief executive officer Perry Kerr.

"Ten years ago the Koreans entered the market with Hyundai and Kea and it took a while for them to satisfy the market and that 's where the Chinese are now," Kerr told Xinhua in a phone interview.

"I would say that in the next 10 to 15 years after about three model changes, which is what it usually takes to get everything right they could have 5 to 6 percent of the market," said Kerr.

"That puts them in the same league as Honda, Mazda and Mitsubishi."

According to the MIA, New Zealand sales of new vehicles last year were at 84,640 units, up 5.2 percent from 2010, with passenger car sales up 3.2 percent to 64,019 units and commercial sales up 11.9 percent to 20,621.

However, Great Wall saw passenger vehicle sales accelerate from just 97 in 2010 to 126 last year, while commercial vehicle sales more than doubled from 209 in 2010 to 412 last year.

Meanwhile, Chery, which competes only in the passenger car market, saw sales rocket from just one vehicle in 2010 to 172 last year.

Kerr said the two Chinese companies had got the distribution right, going through the Australia-based Ateco Automotive, which also marketed Fiat, Citroen and Alfa Romeo models.

"They're picking up all the compliancing for the New Zealand market via the Australian standards, which means they're lowering the costs of getting vehicles into the New Zealand market," said Kerr.

"They're predominantly selling on price and they're doing that very effectively. They're slowly building up customer demand and getting acceptance in the market place."

Kerr said the Chinese brands were effectively pitching new cars in competition with the second-hand car market.

He cited as an example Great Wall's dual cab, four-wheel-drive, diesel, manual V200 model, selling new at about NZ$29,990 ($23,794) in a "like-for-like" comparison with a Toyota Hilux, which sold new for about NZ$53,190.

"If you're a tradesman and you have the vehicle out in a work situation, you might be looking at a second-hand Hilux, maybe about four years old, but if you see a comparable vehicle brand new with a three-year 100,000-km warrantee, airbags and an established distributor for parts and service at a competitive price, then it's probably an obvious choice, isn't it."

However, Chinese manufacturers had to improve performance and safety standards if they were to become commonplace on New Zealand roads.

Chinese cars had performed "quite poorly" in crash test ratings, generally getting one or two stars out of the maximum of five, while companies and government departments with large fleets usually required four or five stars to be considered for procurement.

"The quality has to be reasonable," said Kerr. "But the Chinese have shown they can improve quality in every other market and there's no reason to think their vehicle standards won't improve too. Presumably they're focusing on it because they're going into the global market."