June 20, 2024

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Automotive to Us

China’s JAC plans Australian growth, pickups are just the start

China's JAC plans Australian growth, pickups are just the start

As reported last week, another Chinese brand is preparing to hit the Australian market in 2023, with dual-cab utes on the launch menu – both diesel and (shortly after) electric.

The company is called JAC Motors (full name Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group Co., Ltd), and is State-owned, based in Hefei, and trades on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

Little-known here, it sold more than 500,000 vehicles last year and claims to have exported more than 700,000 cars to 130 countries and regions in its history.

As well as making EVs, cars, utes, vans, trucks and buses, it’s also a tier one supplier of chassis, drivetrains and axles. Moreover, the company claims that among its 5000-strong R&D team are a subset dedicated to vehicles for western markets.

JAC also operates a Chinese joint-venture with Volkswagen, and is contracted to produce premium electric vehicles for fast-growing startup Nio through another joint venture announced in May 2021.

When it lobs in Australia from mid-2023, JAC will join other Chinese car-makers making significant inroads here including SAIC Motor (parent of MG and LDV), Great Wall Motor (parent of GWM Ute and the Haval, Tank and Ora brands), BYD, and soon-to-return Chery.

Like BYD and LDV, JAC Motor has opted to use a third-party distributor in Australia, responsible for importing and marketing the cars and signing up the dealer network. This contrasts with MG, GWM and Chery which have factory subsidiaries here.

JAC Motor’s importer is BLK Auto – offices in NSW and Queensland – run by managing director Jason Pecotic.

Mr Pecotic was formerly marketing director for SAIC Motor Australia (helping set up the reborn MG), and CEO of former LDV importer WMC Group, which was later replaced by Ateco.

Mr Pecotic has, in other words, 15 years of experience importing Chinese cars, particularly focused on setting up their operations.

Speaking with CarExpert this week, Mr Pecotic said he’d been in contact with more than 50 dealer operators about signing them as franchisees, to sell the incoming range of diesel and electric utes and trucks – and more.

He said JAC Motors saw Australia as a “pinnacle market” that would have strong supply levels. This suggests a similar approach to SAIC and GWM, both of which have used Australia as pilot expansion country and have subsequently made it into the top 10 brand list in quick time.

The launch plan will, at this stage, kick off with the diesel JAC T9 dual-cab, with the EV version for 2024. Unlike the LDV eT60, JAC’s diesel pickup is understood to sit on a dedicated EV architecture, built from the ground up.

Mr Pecotic said there will be more vehicles where that came from, with next cab off the rank to be an SUV model due around the same time as the electric T9 ute.

There’s no shortage of options, with JAC Motors’ site showing various models such as the JAC JS4 and ES4 small SUVs, which appear to be petrol and electric rivals to the MG ZS.

Another entrant is the mid-size JAC JS6 SUV, a relatively fresh 4.6-metre long mid-size SUV with a 135kW and 300Nm 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine, and a dual-screen setup inside measuring 24.6 inches across.

What we already knew about BLK and the JAC T9

Mr Pecotic said the JAC T9 would be priced similarly to Chinese-manufactured pickups such as the GWM Ute and the LDV T60, which retail at less than $45,000.

The T9 is 5330mm long, 1965mm wide and 1920mm high, while its wheelbase spans 3110mm.

The 2.0-litre turbo-diesel version will produce 125kW and 410Nm and has a 3500kg braked towing rating, while an eight-speed automatic transmission pairs with a part-time 4×4 system.

Interior comforts will include heated power adjustable seats, climate control, a 10.4-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a wireless charging unit, adaptive cruise control, and a 360-degree camera view.

Mr Pecotic added JAC was aiming for a five-star ANCAP safety rating for the T9, with features to include seven airbags, tyre-pressure monitoring system, lane-departure warnings and lane-keeping assist, blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, and autonomous emergency braking.

“By the end of 2023 we will be importing three models of JAC electric trucks, and the two JAC pickup models will significantly add to the product range and help us grow our dealer network by giving our dealers more products to sell,” Mr Pecotic said.