Chery has now been back on the Australian market for 12 months.

    After relaunching here last March, it went on to sell 5890 vehicles in 2023. That put it ahead of the likes of Jeep, Cupra and Peugeot. But did the Chinese brand meet its own expectations?

    “The short answer’s no, to be honest. We’ve got very ambitious goals, and we would like to obviously like to have seen a few more sales than that,” said Chery Australia managing director Lucas Harris.

    “We don’t want to downplay that it’s a satisfactory result, but really we would have liked to see more to be honest.

    “That’s a bit of inspiration for us this year to keep working hard and see how we can grow that and bring the cars to more customers.”

    He didn’t provide a sales target for 2024.

    “We’re looking for solid growth,” said Tim Krieger, Chery Australia’s head of public relations.

    At its launch, Chery said it was targeting a little over eight per cent of the market in each category it occupies, which would have meant around 10,000 annual sales for its Omoda 5 alone.

    For most of 2023 that was its only model, with the mid-sized Tiggo 7 Pro not arriving until very late in the year.

    The range will grow to include the Tiggo 8 Pro Max this May, with the electric Omoda E5 following in the second half of the year.

    In the first two months of 2024, Chery has sold 1358 vehicles.

    “We’re pretty proud of our first 12 months, with one model for most of it, and only recently introducing a second model – I think it’s a really good sign from Australians that we’ve shown it’s something they think is good value,” said Mr Harris.

    “That commitment and that trust from customers is not lost on us, and to support them in the background, we’ve put a huge amount of time and energy into trying to make sure that we are there for them every step of the way.”

    He said the company is focused on building trust and offering excellent customer service.

    “I think the thing that’s really going to set us apart this time around… is not just about coming in and selling as many cars as possible,” he said.

    “That might work for a year or two or three or maybe even five, but if we want to try and have a long-time success in Australia – and you know, average car ownership is now around seven and a half, eight years in Australia – so if we want people at the end of their journey to be sort of reconsidering to purchase again in five, six, seven years’ time, if we haven’t done a good enough job supporting them early on, they’re not going to buy another car of ours.

    “It’s about what are we doing to support our customers well into the future, so that way if something does go wrong, which – cars are mechanical things, inevitably something probably will go wrong – it’s really going to be about how do we support people? And how do we solve that when it happens?”

    Chery Australia – a fully owned sales subsidiary – has a growing network of more than 70 dealers in Australia, and boasts 91 per cent parts coverage and is working to reach 98 per cent.

    It says it has invested $15 million in growing its parts supply in Australia.

    “As we grow the model range, our intention is not to launch a car in Australia with any less than 90 per cent parts coverage,” said Mr Harris.

    “And in the odd chance, the very rare chance that we don’t have something, we’ve made sure we’ve sped up the process to be able to get things from our parent company overseas, and in most cases we can get things here within three working days – which also I think is a little bit unusual.”

    Mr Harris says there’s little in the way of ill sentiment towards the brand, despite its truncated run under distributor Ateco around a decade ago with vehicles that were poorly received by customers and critics alike.

    “I think in the very early days, you sort of heard it every now and then, but it wasn’t really a common feature… And the dealers’ anecdotal feedback is they virtually never have it brought up,” said Mr Harris.

    “So I think perhaps we’re fortunate in that space, that it was long enough ago that people see it as some distance.

    “But also it doesn’t take much to look at the vehicles – what they were and what they are now – in that short period of time there’s been a substantial improvement in the vehicles themselves and I think that’s characteristic of a lot of Chinese brands, having such a rapid development and improvement in quality in that time.”

    In calendar year 2023 alone Chery sold more vehicles than during its entire run under Ateco.

    William Stopford

    William Stopford is an automotive journalist based in Brisbane, Australia. William is a Business/Journalism graduate from the Queensland University of Technology who loves to travel, briefly lived in the US, and has a particular interest in the American car industry.

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