THE first Chinese ute claimed to have a five-star safety rating - the LDV T60 - is about to go on sale with an ambitious plan to take 10 per cent of the workhorse market in Australia.
However the manufacturer's five-star score is yet to be verified; previous utes from China have earned between two and four stars for crash safety.
The LDV T60 will be one of the cheapest four-door utes on the market when it goes on sale next month priced from $28,990 drive-away.
It comes with six airbags, a rear view camera and blind spot warning as standard, the latter a first in the workhorse ute class in Australia.
When asked if the new T60 ute would earn five stars after crash tests by the independent Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), the chief technical officer for LDV, Hao Jingxian, said: "We are confident to reach ANCAP five star and final approval will be announced soon”.
However, News Corp Australia has since learned ANCAP has so far only conducted one of four crash tests that contribute to a five-star score.
The LDV T60 was crash tested last week, into an offset frontal barrier at 64km/h.
While the initial "raw” data looked positive, according to ANCAP, the crash authority says it is premature to declare it a five-star score because the data needs to be analysed in detail.
Furthermore, a poor result in any one of the next three crash tests could drop the rating to four stars or lower.
"The LDV T60 is currently unrated until we conduct further tests,” said ANCAP boss James Goodwin. "It would be premature to give any indication of the star rating at this time as testing is not complete.”
The remaining three crash tests will assess how well the T60 protects occupants in a side impact pole test, measure whiplash protection, and pedestrian impact.
Regardless of how it performs in a crash, the LDV ute promises to make a dent on the ute market.
LDV's parent company SAIC is the biggest car maker in the world's biggest car market.
SAIC sold more than 6.5 million vehicles globally last year across various brands and has manufacturing partnerships in China with Volkswagen and General Motors, two of the world's top three automotive companies.
The vice president of SAIC Motor, Lan Qingsong, told Australian media he wants LDV to represent 10 per cent of each vehicle category it enters.
"SAIC has a long term vision for this market, we want to be a major player in every segment and reaching 10 per cent market share,” said Mr Qingsong, speaking through a translator.
However it may be a long road to secure such a large slice of the highly competitive ute market dominated by the Toyota HiLux, Ford Ranger and Mitsubishi Triton.
The independent distributor in Australia for LDV, Ateco Automotive, which imported the Great Wall utes from 2009 to 2014, plans to sell about 6000 LDV double cab utes next year.
At its peak in 2012 more than 11,000 Great Wall utes were sold, however that figure included a cheap cab-chassis "tradie” version, as well as double cab models.
LDV sees itself as a cut above the cut-price Great Wall utes. The LDV T60 is the first vehicle SAIC has designed from the ground up without any external help, although it does have external design influences.
The T60 casts the same size shadow as a Toyota HiLux, has bulging fender flares inspired by the Isuzu D-Max, window openings similar to the Nissan Navara, and a dash top that mimics the Volkswagen Amarok.
Even the name T60 is believed to be a nod to the code name for the Ford Ranger, known internally as the T6.
The LDV ute range starts at $28,990 drive-away to ABN holders for the T60 Pro with six speed manual and $32,990 drive-away to ABN holders for the T60 LUXE. A six speed auto adds $2000 to both models.
Private buyers, which account for about one in five sales, will pay between $1500 and $1800 more, unless they can convince the dealer to match the tradie price.
Both models are powered by a 2.8-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder but it is among the least powerful utes its class with an output of just 110kW and 360Nm. Towing capacity is restricted to 3000kg; most rivals can haul 3500kg.
All models come with a 10-inch touchscreen with Apple Car Play and Android Auto, LED headlights, blind spot warning, rear camera and sensors, a tub liner, side steps, alloy wheels and tyre pressure monitors.
The Lux gains leather seats and steering wheel, push button start, electric adjustment and heating for the front seats, and auto folding side mirrors.
It even comes with a vanity mirror in the sun visor, unlike most utes, including the top selling Toyota HiLux.
LDV says it plans to introduce a single cab "tradie” version of the T60 - with a choice of petrol and diesel power - late next year priced in the low $20,000 bracket.
All LDV utes will be covered by a five years/130,000km warranty - the equal best in the ute class with Isuzu and Mitsubishi. The average warranty coverage for utes is three years/100,000km.
However, LDV says capped price servicing won't be available until later next year.
AT A GLANCE
PRICE From $28,990 to $34,990 drive-away
WARRANTY 5 years/130,000km
ENGINE 2.8-litre turbo diesel
TRANSMISSION 6-speed auto or 6-speed manual
TOWING CAPACITY 3000kg
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