Mike Stevens | Jun 22, 2011

Update: official Australian details added.

A new Chinese utility is set to hit the Australia market in 2012 through local distributor WMC Group, following Great Wall's V240 which launched here early last year.

Known by the pre-production codename P201, the new pickup will mark the Australian debut of Chinese commercial vehicle manufacturer Foton in the light commercial vehicle segment.

The announcement follows news late last year that the P201 will be offered globally in commercial and recreational specifications, powered by a range of Euro V-compliant petrol and diesel engines.

Australia will be among the first markets to see Foton's new utility, with launches in South Africa and the Americas to come in the following year.

The model name to be used for the new Foton ute is yet to be determined and is currently under discussion.

Unlike the slow-selling V240, the P201 will offer a more compelling package against the mostly-Japanese segment leaders - including the Toyota HiLux, the Nissan Navara and the Mitsubishi Triton.

Jason Pecotic, CEO of Foton's Australian distributor WMC, said the P201 has been designed from the ground-up to tackle the Japanese brands on quality and features, rather than wage a bottom-end price war with the Great Wall V240.

Engines are expected to include 96kW and 120kW Cummins 2.8 litre diesel engines and a 100kW 2.4 litre Foton-built petrol engine.

In Australia, the engines will be mated to a Getrag five-speed manual transmission at launch, with a ZF six-speed auto to join the range later.

"Apart from those impressive specs the new Foton will be priced at a level that will be between 15 and 20 percent less than comparable models from Japanese manufacturers, making it a compelling proposition for buyers whether they are tradesmen, farmers, fleet operators or private buyers," Mr. Pecotic said.

"Australia is a very important market with the third highest sales of utes in the world and Foton will be using us as a launch pad ahead of its planned move into North America and Europe over the next two years."

Although production is not scheduled to begin until November, the P201 will debut in a 4x4 dual cab diesel, a 4x2 dual cab diesel, and a 4x2 dual cab petrol, along with a 4x2 extra cab diesel and 4x2 single cab models with either diesel or petrol power.

The P201 measures 5310mm long, 1880mm wide and 1810mm tall, with 220mm of ground clearance - making it 180mm longer, 120mm wider and the same height as the top-selling Toyota HiLux.

According to WMC, a dealer network has already been assembled, with representation planned across the country in major rural and regional centres as well as metro markets.

Mr Pecotic added that that the pickup is being engineered to achieve a four-star ANCAP crash safety rating - putting the P201 two stars ahead of the Great Wall V240.

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