Mike Stevens | Mar 19, 2012

Chinese giant automaker Shanghai Automotive Industry Company (SAIC) will hit Australia later this year when it launches the Maxus range of commercial and people-moving vehicles.

A few months later, compatriot JAC will debut a pair of multi-purpose commercial vans here in early 2013 - following the local launch of its light truck range in the coming weeks.

The Australian debut of both brands represents a push by the big-guns of China's automotive manufacturing industry (current local representatives Geely and Great Wall being minnows by comparison).



The SAIC family includes the MG and Roewe passenger car marques, and also includes its mammoth local production with joint venture partners Volkswagen, GM and Iveco (Chinese local market sales of Shanghai-GM alone topped 100,000 units in February).

In late 2012, SAIC's Maxus brand will debut in Australia, distributed by Sydney-based WMC Group.

The Maxus line-up will kick off with the brand's V80 van range, launching with three commercial variants and four passenger models.

The cargo vans will include short- and long-wheelbase options, with the latter available in standard and high-roofed versions.

WMC says the commercial pair will offer carrying capacities between nine and 14 cubic metres and a payload up to 1.8 tonnes.

On the passenger side, the four people-moving variants will start with an 11-passenger short-wheelbase model, through to a 15-passenger long-wheelbase variant.

As with the commercial models, the long-wheelbase people-mover will be available with standard and high roof options.

Topping the passenger range will be an 11-passenger version of the long-wheelbase platform, described as a more spacious luxury variant.

The short-wheelbase models measure 4950mm long, with the long-wheelbase models coming in at 5700mm long.

"The Maxus range will go head to head with some established brands, but will offer more creature comforts as standard and a strong European feel," WMC boss Jason Pecotic said.

"Maxus will offer us enormous opportunities in Australia, broadening the appeal of our range particularly in speaking to fleets, whether on the cargo and work van side or as a passenger carrying mini bus," he said.

Pricing details won't be revealed until later this year, but Pecotic said that the range will bring the fight to the upper end of the people-mover market, offering comparable equipment levels at a lower price point.

"It is a very exciting time for WMC and for the entire commercial vehicle market and the new Maxus range is going to really excite the market.

The front-wheel-drive Maxus van range will be driven by a VM Motori 2.5 litre common-rail turbodiesel, delivering 100kW and 330Nm of torque.

Mated to a five-speed manual as standard, fuel consumption is listed at 7.7 litres in Chinese-market tests, although local figures are still to be confirmed. An Allison automatic transmission will be offered as an option.

Suspension is MacPherson struts up front and a solid beam axle with leaf springs at the rear.

The Maxus range will come standard with four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, EBD and BAS, rear barn doors, reversing sensors, dual-zone air-conditioning, 16-inch alloy wheels, dual sliding doors and door-integrated electric entry steps.

Depending on the trim grade, other features include tyre pressure monitoring, reversing camera, LED driving lights, and an integrated anti-theft system.



Scheduled for early 2013, WMC Group will add two new multi-purpose commercial vans - the Sunray and the Refine - to its JAC range, which will kick off with a line of light trucks in the coming weeks.

Previewed at the Melbourne International Truck, Trailer and Equipment Show, JAC says its Sunray van was styled in Italy with an interior penned by its Japanese design centre.

The rear-wheel-drive Sunray features a truck-chassis and an in-house 2.7 litre common-rail turbodiesel, producing 88kW and 280Nm of torque, paired with a five-speed manual transmission.

By the time it hits Australia, the Sunray will also be offered for the local market with a 110kW/360Nm Cummins ISF 2.8 litre turbodiesel, and an automatic transmission.

jac refine

Safety features in the Sunray will include an ABS and EBD braking system and SRS Airbags.

The smaller Refine is a front-wheel-drive monocoque van, powered by a 2.0 litre turbocharged petrol engine delivering 120kW and 235Nm of torque, mated to a six-speed manual transmission.

Both will be offered in commercial and people-moving configurations.

In commercial form, the Sunray will offer a capacity of 14 cubic metres, while the Refine will offer nine cubic metres.

Passenger options will include a 15-seater for Sunray buyers - in standard and luxury versions - and 11 seats in the Refine.


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