Chinese truck and carmaker Foton has made its first significant appearance on the Australian market this week, with the introduction of the Tunland utility to Australia’s fiercely competitive light-commercial segment.
Until now, Australia has seen just very small numbers of Foton-branded buses and trucks imported under minor distribution arrangements.
The brand's new presence won’t stop with the Tunland though. New distributor Foton Automotive Australia (FAA) is planning to add an SUV model and 12-seat passenger van to the local line-up by the end of 2014.
These models are currently available on the Chinese domestic market as the Tunland CX and View W. However, FAA’s Daniel Phelan has confirmed plans to use Australia-specific model names when they arrive locally.
The local introduction of the SUV model is also expected to see stability control (ESC) added to the Tunland utility line-up.
This will follow promised running changes early next year that will see child-seat anchorage points added to the dual cab’s rear seat, and multifunction steering-wheel controls and Bluetooth connectivity added to Luxury models.
Also planned for early 2013 are single cab, extra cab, and cab-chassis versions of the Tunland, along with the option of a six-speed ZF automatic transmission.
Single cab models will use a detuned 96kW/280Nm version of the ISF turbodiesel engine.
Later in 2013, a petrol drivetrain option is planned for the Tunland range, though FAA would not comment on specific details at this stage.
Speaking at this week’s Tunland launch, Foton’s international Vice President Xiangyin Wang outlined the Chinese brand’s five-year strategy for the Australian market.
“Australia has always been (seen as) a strategic market for Foton," Mr Wang said.
FAA will be responsible for distributing the Tunland, SUV, and 12-seater models, while the Aumark medium-duty and Auman heavy-duty truck ranges will be distributed separately (the Auman range arriving here in 2013).
Ironically, distribution of Foton medium and heavy duty trucks has been taken over this month by Ateco Automotive, distributors of the Tunland’s only fellow-Chinese light commercial competitor, Great Wall.
Mr Wang expects Australian sales of Foton products - trucks, buses, light commercial and passenger cars - to grow from 2330 units (1530 Tunlands) in 2013, climbing to 16,930 units for 2017 (of which, he projects, 11,520 will be Tunland models).
FAA now has 12 dealers across the country, with this number expected to grow to 15 by the end of the year. A total of 31 dealer locations is targeted by the end of 2013.
Foton Automotive Australia
FAA is a joint venture between the Queensland-based entrepreneurial team of Peter Llewellyn and Rod James, and high-profile bus dealer Grant Phelan.
Llewellyn and James have a background in automotive finance, with their company, PR Finance behind ventures such as Kwik Finance and Motor Finance Wizard.
Phelan was the catalyst for the distribution of Foton consumer vehicles, having established ties with the Chinese brand over 15 years of importing Foton buses.
FAA’s Daniel Phelan (son of Grant) told TMR that there are no plans for further synergies between PR Finance and FAA, stating that the two will be operated as separate entities.