After a seven-year absence – and a sudden departure following an asbestos scare – Chinese car maker Chery is returning to Australia. Here’s everything we know so far.
Chinese brand Chery is preparing to return to local showrooms before the end of 2022, with a new small SUV offering electrified power – and more models to come.
However, the brand withdrew after just four years, in 2015, as sales stalled due to poor safety ratings and an asbestos recall.
Seven years on, Chery is taking a second bite of the Australian market starting from late 2022.
The new range will be led by the Chery Omoda 5 small SUV – a rival to the Kia Seltos and Haval Jolion – which has up-to-date styling, the advanced safety technology, and the option of hybrid or fully-electric power.
More new models are due to follow in the coming years – which could include a ute – as the Chinese brand plans an ambitious sales push.
Here’s everything we know so far about Chery’s Australian comeback.
Founded in 1997, Chery is one of many manufacturers building mainstream cars and SUVs in China, rivalling local brands like MG and Haval, and foreign makes such as Kia and Toyota.
In 2021, Chery was the 11th best-selling car brand in China – or the sixth best-selling Chinese marque – behind Haval and BYD, but ahead of seventh best-selling brand in Australia, MG.
When is Chery coming to Australia, and what will it sell?
The Chery brand will return to local showrooms (more on the company’s first stint here in a moment) in the fourth quarter of 2022 with the Omoda 5, a small SUV sized similarly to the Haval Jolion, Kia Seltos, MG ZS and Mazda CX-30.
Contrary to some reports, the larger five-seat Tiggo 7 Pro and seven-seat Tiggo 8 Pro – sized in line with the Mazda CX-5 (4.6m long) and Mitsubishi Outlander (4.7m) – are not confirmed for Australia, though the brand says it’s interested in selling them locally.
Internal product plans seen by Drive suggest the Tiggo 7 Pro and Tiggo 8 Pro could arrive in mid 2023 and early 2024 respectively, if they are green-lit for sale.
Three ‘sample’ cars will be shipped from Shanghai to Australia later this month, which may be shown to prospective buyers, used to re-launch the Chery brand locally, or provide test drives to the media.
More interesting will be a new dual-cab ‘family’ ute, codenamed J Series, which is earmarked for a possible Australian launch in mid 2023, according to internal documents. Few details are known about this model.
Has Chery sold cars in Australia before?
Chery made its first entrance into the Australian market in 2011, through independent importer Ateco – also responsible for importing China’s Great Wall Motors commercial vehicles at the time.
Three models were offered: the Toyota Corolla-sized J3 small car (below), Toyota RAV4 (of the time) sized J11 SUV, and the Mitsubishi Mirage-sized J1 city car (above).
The J11 was the top seller in Chery’s first year on sale, with 1114 examples reported as sold in its first year – and grabbing the headlines was the J1, which by 2013 had its price cut to $9990 drive-away, making Australia’s first sub-$10,000 car in a decade (and its last to date).
However, things soon began to unravel; none of Chery’s models were equipped with electronics stability control (ESC) at launch, meaning they could not be sold in Victoria, which made the technology mandatory for new models in January 2011.
While the J3 and J11 gained the technology by 2013, the J1 did not, and so was pulled from sale nationwide in November 2013, when ESC became mandatory across Australia for existing models.
An asbestos recall affecting 2200 J3 and J11 cars, combined with dwindling sales (down 67 per cent between 2011 and 2015), and a lack of new right-hand-drive products on the horizon from China, meant Chery withdrew from Australia in 2015, though its last new car wasn’t reported as sold until 2018.
How will Chery cars be sold in Australia?
Chery Australia is yet to spell out its full sales plans locally, however internal documents seen by Drive suggest it will distribute cars via a traditional franchise dealer network.
Showrooms are planned in major cities near other top-selling brands – with Hyundai, MG, Great Wall Motors Haval and Toyota named as examples – backed by a parts network out of Sydney.
The company’s warranty is slated to span seven years for the vehicle, or 10 years for the engine.
Internal documents show Chery has ambitious plans for its sales growth in Australia: 30,000 annual sales by 2024, 45,000 by 2026, and 75,000 after 2027.
If this feat is achieved, Chery would break into Australia’s top 15 best-selling car brands within 24 months of launch, before placing second or third outright within five years – competing with the likes of Toyota, Mazda, Hyundai and Kia.
Whether these highly ambitious sales targets could be met within such a short time remains to be seen.
Chinese brand MG is one of Australia’s fastest-growing car brands, yet six years into its latest tilt at the Australian market, MG sold 39,000 vehicles last year and is on track for 48,000 deliveries this year.
What is the Chery Omoda 5?
Set to be the first of Chery’s new models in Australia, the Chery Omoda 5 is a small SUV measuring 4.4 metres long – on par with the likes of the MG ZS, Haval Jolion, Kia Seltos, Mazda CX-30, and new Nissan Qashqai.
Past Chery vehicle generations have been accused of borrowing styling elements from other brands, including a 2005 lawsuit that saw US giant General Motor sue Chery (and win) for copying its Daewoo/Chevrolet Matiz city car for Chery’s QQ model.
The Omoda 5 is one of the more dynamically-styled options in its segment, with a sloping roofline, auto LED headlights, various orange accents and 17- or 18-inch alloy wheels – though some have noted similarities to the Nissan Ariya electric SUV in the profile, front end and rear light signature.
Inside, buyers in China can choose between dual 10.25 or 12.3-inch screens for instrumentation and infotainment, with the latter display offering Apple CarPlay, satellite navigation, face recognition, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and a voice assistant on flagship models.
Other interior and exterior highlights include an electric sunroof, 64-colour ambient lighting, an eight-speaker Sony sound system, leather upholstery, six-way power driver’s seat, heated and ventilated front seats, keyless entry and start and wireless phone charging.
There’s also a heated tilt/telescopic leather steering wheel, power tailgate, ‘HD driving recorder’ function, heated electric side mirrors, and dual-zone auto climate control (with rear air vents).
In contrast to the two- and three-star ANCAP scores of Chery’s first vehicles in Australia a decade ago, the Chinese car maker claims the Omoda 5 “meets the global five-star safety standards in multiple regions” – though it’s yet to be put to the test by the independent safety body.
Available advanced safety systems include autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, lane-change assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, traffic jam assist, traffic sign recognition, intelligent speed limiter, rear parking sensors, and a 360-degree camera.
Powering the Omoda 5 is a choice of two turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engines, with standard automatic transmissions and front-wheel drive.
Entry-level cars feature 1.5-litre engines developing 115kW and 230Nm – on par with a turbo MG ZST (115kW/230Nm), Haval Jolion (110kW/210Nm) and outgunning a Kia Seltos 2.0 (110kW/180Nm) – with a continuously-variable automatic transmission (CVT).
Meanwhile, flagship models offer 1.6-litre engines with 145kW/290Nm and seven-speed dual-clutch transmissions – competing with the all-wheel-drive Hyundai Kona N Line (146kW/265Nm) and Volkswagen T-Roc 140TSI (140kW/320Nm).
Fuel consumption in combined driving according to lenient Chinese testing procedures is 7.3 litres per 100 kilometres for the 1.5-litre model, or 7.1L/100km for the 1.6-litre variant.
A ‘new energy’ variant will be available in Australia, it has been confirmed. An electric option will be available overseas – click here for details.
How much will the Chery Omoda 5 cost in Australia?
Prices for the Chery Omoda 5 in China range from 92,900 to 126,900 yuan ($AU20,200 to $AU27,700) – which compares to between 91,900 and 112,900 yuan for its chief rival, the Haval Jolion.
However, entry-level Omoda 5s in China lack the advanced safety systems standard on nearly all versions of the MG ZS/ZST, and all Haval Jolions – so expect a base for the Chery of around $27,000 drive-away, rising to about $35,000 drive-away with all available features.
The MG ZS is priced from $22,990 drive-away in base ZS Excite guise, with the ZST range – with more technology, and a full suite of advanced safety systems as standard – priced from $25,990 to $33,990 drive-away.
The Haval Jolion costs $28,490 to $33,990 drive-away – while more established rivals such as the Kia Seltos ($29,290 to $45,290 drive-away) and Mitsubishi ASX ($28,740 to $38,340 drive-away, with an automatic) cost more, with fewer standard features than the Chinese cars.
What else does Chery sell in China?
In addition to the Omoda 5 – as well as the under-consideration Tiggo 7 Pro and Tiggo 8 Pro – Chery sells a range of smaller and larger SUVs under the Tiggo brand.
These range from a heavily-updated version of the J11 sold during Chery’s initial time in Australia from 2011-15, known as the Tiggo 3 – priced from 59,900 yuan, or $AU13,000 – to the Arrizo 5, a small sedan sized similarly to a Hyundai i30 Sedan.
Whether these vehicles will be offered locally remains to be seen, with the aforementioned trio the only models flagged by Chery’s local operation for our market.
Alex Misoyannis has been writing about cars since 2017, when he started his own website, Redline. He contributed for Drive in 2018, before joining CarAdvice in 2019, becoming a regular contributing journalist within the news team in 2020. Cars have played a central role throughout Alex’s life, from flicking through car magazines as a young age, to growing up around performance vehicles in a car-loving family.