Chinese brand Chery will return to Australia this year with the Omoda 5 SUV, and has announced hugely ambitious longer-term plans to become a top 10 brand here by 2026.
The company says it has a targeted launch date of late October or November 2022 for the petrol-powered Omoda 5 range which will line up against the MG ZS and Haval Jolion, with the larger Tiggo 8 Pro following in the first half of 2023.
Chery has also confirmed the Tiggo 7 Pro, another SUV, for an Australian launch.
Based on 2021’s industry-wide sales figures, reach the top 10 by 2026 would require Chery to sell at least 40,000 vehicles.
While that seems like a lofty goal, it’s worth noting fellow Chinese brand MG is well and truly ensconced inside the top 10 only a few years following its Australian relaunch under a factory distributor. So, there is a precedent.
It will use a traditional franchise dealership model, although it says it is open to trying new retail models such as online sales.
But it’s not positioning itself as a budget brand as it did during its last stint in Australia from 2011 to 2014, when it was distributed by Ateco instead of a factory-backed operation.
“We will not be labelled as a Chinese brand that is cheap… we want to be a technology-driven company,” said Chery International executive vice president Charlie Zhang.
“We want to go to Australia with a brand new image… where customers remember Chery because of technology, because of design, because of the quality of the cars.”
Chery executives noted there’s a plug-in hybrid version of the Omoda 5 as well, while confirming an electric model will join the range.
The Omoda 5 EV will enter production in September 2023, and will be introduced in Europe first ahead of its Australian launch.
The company says that, like others, it’s been affected by semiconductor supply issues, but says that compared to other manufacturers it has been more responsive to the crisis which bodes well for supply.
The Omoda 5 has been developed as Chery’s first truly global model, simultaneously developed in left- and right-hand drive.
The company says a range of future products will also be developed for both left- and right-hand drive simultaneously.
Chery says the Omoda 5 has been engineered to achieve a five-star Euro NCAP and ANCAP rating.
Two small turbo-petrol engines are listed on the spec sheet: a 115kW and 230Nm 1.5-litre mated to a CVT, and a 145kW and 290Nm 1.6-litre using a seven-speed dual-clutch auto.
All-wheel drive will be available with the latter, while there are aforementioned plug-in hybrid and battery-electric versions in the works.
Base grades pair MacPherson strut front suspension with a simple torsion beam rear, whereas the more powerful 1.6-litre models use a multi-link rear setup.
The company says its new products are far removed from the vehicles it offered during its last stint in Australia.
“A long time ago, we developed the products in an isolated manner,” said Mr Zhang.
“They were not developed on the product platforms. Over the past 10 years, we have been through very strategic transformations, we built our R&D systems, we built our forward product development process.
“The advantage of developing the product on the same product platform is there’s a lot of carryover parts, the quality is guaranteed, and also we go through very rigorous product validation process.
“So the quality has been improved so significantly, thanks to the new R&D process.
“Chery is very much different from what we used to be, what we were a long time ago.”
Chery now has a range of modular platforms.
The company has previously said it plans to stand out in the Australian market with over-the-air updates for its cars and exclusive events for owners.
Chery already runs events in markets such as Peru, Ecuador, and Qatar under the With Chery With Love (WCWL) banner. Now in its “second season”, the WCWL program (above) also includes an online element.
Beyond its owner events and OTA capability, members of Chery’s launch team have indicated to CarExpert the brand is considering Lexus or Genesis-style servicing, where technicians collect cars before service, and return them to owners afterwards.
The company sells vehicles in more than 80 countries, and is a top 10 brand in markets like Brazil and Chile.
By the end of 2021, it had sold over 10 million vehicles worldwide.