Great Wall Motors, the Chinese automaker best known for its cut-price work utes in Australia, is aiming to turn its reputation around with a next-generation ute currently in development.
At a media briefing held in Darwin this week, the company revealed key details and a first image of its new workhorse, but not before requesting attendees keep mobile phone cameras at bay.
Although we can’t show you what the new ute looks like, the initial rendering shows a new design direction for the brand, with an imposing open-mouthed hexagonal grille, minimalist headlamps, and a black mask treatment for the front bumper not unlike that of the Ford Ranger Wildtrack.
A rising beltline and squared-off flared wheel arches complete the look, but without an in-the-metal image it's hard to say just how balanced the new design will be.
Along with aesthetic improvements, Great Wall promises an all-new platform, which should address the current Steed ute’s two-star ANCAP safety rating.
Due to appear in either late 2019 or early 2020, the new, as-yet unnamed ute is also expected to grow in size, surpassing the current narrow-bodied Steed (pictured) in every key dimension.
“We’ve given our wish list," Great Wall product specialist, Andrew Ellis, revealed. “We want three-tonne towing, we want all the safety features, we want 4x4, we want an eight-speed auto, and so far no one is saying no to us.”
The announcement of a new ute marks a shift in strategy from Great Wall, influenced by a shift in buyer behaviour in the Chinese home market that sees 4x4 utes becoming lifestyle accessories and not just tools of trade as they were previously.
“There’s been a change in China where diesel utes are now legal in city centres again, and what we’re seeing is machines like F-Series and Silverados are now hugely popular in China, so the opportunity is there,” Mr Ellis explained.
The new ute promises to be an “all-purpose dual-cab ute, that serves as a family vehicle as much as a work vehicle,” with a bigger-is-better ethos guiding the design.
If Great Wall delivers on its early promises the new ute should significantly improve on the current Steed’s specification, hobbled by a small 2.0-litre diesel engine and manual-only transmission that results in a towing capacity of just 2000kg, short of the segment-best 3500kg limit of 4x4 utes like the Holden Colorado, Nissan Navara, and Toyota HiLux.
Before the roll-out of an all-new ute the brand also has plans to introduce a single cab version of the current Steed, to be introduced as a cut-price workhorse beneath the current model which starts from as little as $24,990 in 4x2 petrol dual cab guise.
Although final details of the new variant are still to be revealed, Mr Ellis announced that the new variant would be available from the first quarter of 2018 fitted as standard with an aluminum tray measuring 2.4 metres long by 1.8 metres wide allowing it to carry two pallets.
No indication of pricing has been given, although the single cab was described as “very competitively priced,” and will be introduced in response to existing Great Wall owners who have repeatedly requested a replacement for their earlier Great Wall V200 and V240 cab-chassis utes.