Chinese company Chery is due to return here in the coming months, initially with the Omoda 5 small SUV before a more broad-scale product rollout intensifies in the coming 12 months.
And – no pressure or anything – the entire organisation is pinning its hopes on the company’s local success and future product planning.
The car-maker has a history of playing in developing markets, traditionally offering low-cost models that were basic in terms of features, engineering quality and also trading safety inclusions for a cheaper price tag.
That was the case for the brand here, too, when it was around from 2011 to 2015.
And while the newer models it has on sale in developing countries these days at least look pretty enticing (see the Tiggo SUV range in South Africa, for instance) the brand sees Australia at the heart of its upmarket push.
As such, says Chery Australia marketing director James Curtis, the company has taken unprecedented steps to ensure that Aussie buyers score the best it has to offer.
“The supply chain globally has been impacted by it, but our factories haven’t been impacted by COVID. In fact, it’s probably the reverse; Australia is such an important market for Chery internationally that the whole company is pivoting towards our operations.
“We’re getting priority shipment, we’re getting priority production; everyone is watching us. So it gives us a lot of confidence that the operations globally are geared and ready for us,” he said.
What is it that makes a Chinese brand decide it needs to plant a flag in the ground in a market where there are already more than 50 brands vying for a relatively minuscule pot of sales?
Mr Curtis said it is partly because we in Australia are so exposed to so many brands from different countries that it marks the nation as a vital box to tick prior to further expansion.
“We’re a right-hand drive market, and that’s a rarity, and we’ve got the highest number of makes and models per capita. I think the fact that we’re global consumers, our expectations in safety and in terms of design, and in terms of our lifestyle, are equal to that of North America and Western Europe in particular.
“Australia really is a litmus test for the brand. If it’s successful [Chery] will rise to becoming a truly global company,” he said.
Who, then, is expected to be a buyer of a new Chery product? Mr Curtis suggested that while there are other brands out there with similar offerings, the Chery models sold in Australia will be competitive with the likes of Kia, Hyundai, Toyota, Mazda and more.
“We’re confident that we’ll be stealing market share from the competitors, but I’m also confident that we’ll help to grow the market,” he said.