Maxus vans and people movers will go on sale later this year, representatives of the Shanghai Automotive Industry Company (SAIC) revealed at the Melbourne Truck Trailer and Equipment Show last week.
The Maxus brand will be distributed in Australia by WMC, the company that recently rescinded an agreement to support the Foton brand in Australia before announcing the following month that it would set up a Chinese arm to check for quality assurance issues pertaining to vehicles sourced from the country in future. WMC, the local distributor for Higer and Jac Trucks, will offer the Maxus V80 vans (pictured) in a seven-model range for the local market.
"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," said Jason Pecotic, WMC managing director.
"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. They also represent a real challenger in the upper end of the people mover MPV market where they represent real value and serious alternative to Japanese and European models."
Based on front-drive Leyland LDV vans snapped up by SAIC, a Chinese company that acquired the MG Rover Group from the moribund Phoenix Consortium, the V80 is powered by common-rail turbodiesel engines supplied by VM Motori. Power and torque are rated at 100kW and 330Nm respectively. The standard transmission is a five-speed manual, but an Allison-supplied automatic transmission will be offered as an option.
According to press information to hand, the V80 has been revised by SAIC since the British commercial vehicle operation and the vehicle design were both picked up in 2009. Australian-delivered models will feature four-wheel disc brakes with electronic safety aids including ABS and Brake Assist. Suspension is by MacPherson struts at the front and a leaf-sprung dead axle at the rear. 16-inch alloy wheels are shod with 215/75R16 tyres. More sophisticated comfort and convenience features include reverse-parking sensors, anti-theft system and dual-zone air conditioning.
The seven models to be sold in Australia will comprise four passenger-carrying and three goods-carrying variants, all to be launched during the fourth quarter of this year. The three vans will be available in short and long-wheelbase, with standard roof height, plus a long-wheelbase model in a high-roof configuration. Load capacity will range from nine to 14 cubic metres and the vehicles will carry a payload of up to 1.8 tonnes.
People movers will consist of a short-wheelbase model licensed to carry 11 passengers, 15-passenger standard or high-roof models, plus an 11-passenger long-wheelbase luxury model. Sliding doors on both sides are complemented by barn doors at the rear.
SAIC is perhaps better known in this country as the company that took MG Rover off the hands of Nanjing, which acquired the firm and property rights from the Phoenix Consortium — before that British Aerospace and BMW — and renamed 'Rover' to 'Roewe', rather than incur the wrath of Ford, by then the owner of the Rover name prior to on-selling Land Rover to Indian group, Tata.
Now is as good a time as any for MG and Roewe brands to come to Australia, but WMC — a firm focused on distributing commercial vehicles rather than passenger vehicles — is perhaps an unlikely starter. The Roewe 750, which was sold here as the Rover 75, is due for a facelift and upgrade — to be unveiled at the Beijing motor show next month. Don't be surprised if there's an announcement made there and then.