PETALING JAYA: Chery is coming back to Malaysia and the Asean region in a big way.
The initial wave of cars entering Malaysia will be all sports utility vehicles (SUVs) — and still sporting internal combustion engines (ICE) even as China’s car-buying public have increasingly pivoted towards electric vehicles (EVs).
Chery’s entry as the principal is expected to materialise early next year.
Just as in Indonesia, Chery’s return to Malaysia is because it says it has advanced to a point where it has attractive and competitive products to offer local customers.
Its strategy is to offer its ICE cars first in countries that do not have urgent requirement for EV models.
In a video interview with CarSifu last week, Chery International country director for Malaysia Leo Chen said the SUV models that Malaysians could get are the Tiggo 4 Pro, Tiggo 7 Pro and Tiggo 8 Pro as well as the Omoda 5.
Chery launched the right-hand drive models of the three Tiggo models and Omoda 5 in South Africa last year and is escalating its distribution to other right-hand drive markets in stages.
Prior to the sale of the cars, Chery, which is headquartered in Wuhu, Anhui Province, China, is giving Malaysians a foretaste of what to expect.
The Tiggo 7 Pro, Tiggo 8 Pro, Tiggo 8 Pro plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) in left-hand drive and the Omoda 5 would be available as demo cars for dealers, the media and the public to evaluate.
They are being shipped in and should arrive by next month.
To burnish the product line-up, Chery has five R&D centres around the world employing some 7,000 researchers.
The company also offers models with fuel efficient turbo direct injection engines, high quality materials and Internet connectivity.
Chery claims the latest generation Acteco engines deliver high thermal efficiency of up to 43%.
It also has a selection of manual and dual clutch transmissions as well as Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).
Electric cars are also in the pipeline.
Chery International vice-president Shawn Xu said Chery is prepping its “new energy vehicles” range for the local market and that they would be introduced at a later stage.
China uses the term “new energy vehicles’” to refer to battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles.
Last year, Chery’s CVT25 transmission won the title of the “Top 10 Transmissions in the World”, and the unit has been fitted into the Tiggo 8 Pro, Tiggo 7 Pro and other models.
The CVT25 is rated to withstand a peak torque of 250Nm, which matches up with the output from a 1.5l-or 1.6l turbocharged engine.
Xu said Chery’s new energy vehicles would be equipped with an Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) with autonomous driving capability.
He said the ADAS would be one of the most sophisticated, and would be endowed with 24 intelligent features such as Active Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning and 360-degree parking view.
Chen said the company also saw the potential for local assembling not only for the Malaysian market but also for the export market.
He said Chery’s completely knocked down (CKD) strategy for the region depends on the model types which are popular in a particular nation.
He said as pick-up trucks are popular in Thailand, multi-purpose vehicles in Indonesia and SUVs in Malaysia, it made sense for each country to locally assemble its favourite body type.
Chery is currently in talks to secure a local partner for CKD operations.
Xu said the company is discussing with local vendors to produce components to be supplied as local assembly parts as well as spare parts.
He said the company is also looking at the possibility of having local partners supply parts to other Chery factories that would be set up in the region.
In the long term, Xu said locally assembled Chery vehicles may rely more on local or regionally supplied parts than those sourced directly from China.
Chery has more than 1,500 overseas dealers and service networks in 80 countries.
The company has significant market presence in East Europe, Brazil, Chile and Saudi Arabia.
According to Chen, Chery had sold one million vehicles last year, of which 270,000 units were exported.
The company has also been China’s largest exporter of vehicles for 19 consecutive years.
The latest milestone was in July when Chery became the first Chinese auto brand to export more than 50,000 vehicles in a single month.
This impressive performance, achieved amidst still-ongoing challenges including the after-effects of Covid-19 and logistical difficulties, means that in the first six months of the year, Chery had exported some 200,000 vehicles, or about a third of its global sales total so far.
On Chery’s previous foray into Malaysia almost two decades ago, Xu said the company had learnt from mistakes of the past and was looking to improve the entire ecosystem.
He said Chery cannot rely only on products alone but would also strengthen marketing, the dealership network and aftersales.
“We will pay close attention to spare part availability, technical training and dealer network development before our launch,” he said, adding that such measures would lead to customer satisfaction.
If all goes according to Chery’s gameplan, Malaysian car buyers can look forward to exciting times ahead. — HONG BOON HOW and GEORGE WONG
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