Who gives a Foton?

Distribution of Chinese light commercial vehicle now in doubt, following backflip by local company

A company appointed to distribute Foton's light commercial vehicle range in Australia has backed out of the deal with the Chinese factory.

WMC Group officially announced its appointment by Foton to handle distribution of the pick-up models as recently as June, but has now informed the manufacturer it will not continue in that role.

"We have withdrawn from the Distribution Agreement for a number of important reasons, most significantly uncompetitive pricing, particularly on the back of an unstable US Dollar and as a result of Japanese manufacturers lowering prices," said WMC CEO Jason Pecotic.

"The other aspect that particularly worried us was that, despite Foton's insistence on premium pricing for the upcoming P201 model, the fact is it has no history and given the previous model (SUP) has had quality issues, which WMC has been monitoring closely with the South African importer, we don't believe this product can command a premium price.

"Despite protracted negotiations with Foton, they would not meet the pricing model that we believe was appropriate for a vehicle such as this in the Australian market, in our view this would be 30 per cent below its Japanese rivals.

"WMC is sad to end its relationship and wishes Foton good fortune in its future endeavours in Australia," Pecotic concluded.

On-going distributors for Higer buses and Jac trucks, WMC is not letting the grass grow under its feet, with Pecotic already engaged in negotiations with another — as yet unnamed — Chinese brand seeking export markets for its products. The company has also revealed that it will soon commence importation and distribution of Joylong vans, another product range from China.

When WMC first announced it would import and distribute the Foton LCV range, back in June, the company was promoting the modernity and safety of the new range, which was expected to rate four stars in ANCAP crash testing. The LCV range was to be powered by either a Euro 5-compliant Cummins turbodiesel or Foton's own 2.4-litre petrol engine. Two transmission alternatives were to be available, a Getrag five-speed manual or ZF six-speed automatic.

"Foton will be a game shifter in the ute sector delivering a sedan style interior on a wide body configuration boasting a full one tonne pay load and a three tonne towing capacity with power from Cummins, the world's largest and most experienced producer of diesel engines," Pecotic said at the time.

"Apart from those impressive specs the new Foton will be priced at a level that will be between 15 and 20 percent less than comparable models from Japanese manufacturers, making it a compelling proposition for buyers whether they are tradesmen, farmers, fleet operators or private buyers.

"Australia is a very important market with the third highest sales of utes in the world and Foton will be using us as a launch pad ahead of its planned move into North America and Europe over the next two years."

That plan now looks to be on hold, although Foton's truck range continues to be sold here, under the auspices of Western Star Trucks.

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Published : Tuesday, 18 October 2011
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