Imported Chinese cars – for better or worse?

Isn’t it fantastic that the Australian public now has a choice of an ever-growing array of bargain-basement new cars that have the very familiar “Made in China” stamp.

The invasion, which began over one year ago, has spawned three new makes, Chery, Great Wall Motors and Gelly, with about a dozen more makes that are about to flood the market.

The variety of body styles on offer will appeal to many different potential customers as well – sedans, hatchbacks, utes, SUV’s, 4WD’s for the outback farmer and everything in between. What else could a teenager – who has just been licensed to drive a vehicle (with a big red “P” stuck on the windscreen) – want or an aged pensioner as a run-about to the local supermarket or the lawn bowls club.

The Chery J11 SUV for example, costs just $17,990 drive-away (rated as Australia’s most affordable SUV). It allows the “not so well heeled” – which constitutes a large proportion of the population – to be able to purchase these cars that previously were down-right unaffordable.

However, it’s not all good news. Aside from being unrefined, poorly built (inside and out) and dangerously slow, their safety levels are the primary concern. The Chery J11 SUV was rated only two stars out of five by independent local crash-testing organisation ANCAP. The J1 city car, which is another recently released model from Chery, achieved a slightly better three-star result. It seems that these cars are a time-bomb in the event of an accident.

What price do we pay for safety you may ask. Well it seems you’ll need to pay a noticeable amount more which will no doubt hurt the hip pocket. All of a sudden, a Hyundai/Kia becomes an attractive proposition (in the next highest price bracket).

I’m absolutely dumbfounded that the Australian Government does not apply a minimum safety standard for ALL cars available in the new car market. That is, unless the car has a minimum 3.5-4 star safety rating, do NOT make it available for sale. At least this will protect the unsuspecting consumer who does not know any better. With regulations being applied to so many other parts of Australian society regulated, I’m totally surprised that something so simple yet potentially life-saving has been missed.

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