The Australian distributor for China’s fast-growing LDV brand aspires to double the current market share of its T60 ute, to somewhere near 10 per cent, over the next few years.
The company believes it’s entitled to aim for such a target after doing the hard yards locally for six years, building up its reputation among fleet buyers. It also points to the precedent set by its G10 model, which is achieving double-digit share of the less-competitive van and MPV markets.
The company also plans to launch as-yet undisclosed model updates to the T60 during the course of 2021, and has confirmed plans for further iterations of its T60 Trailrider halo models with more off-road dynamism engineered in locally.
LDV is part of the enormous SAIC Motor group, which has ties with both General Motors and Volkswagen. It also owns the MG brand, which is growing in Australia at a rate of knots. But unlike MG, LDV is imported and distributed through a third party – Ateco Automotive.
Ateco’s head of Chinese brands is Dinesh Chinnappa, who we spoke with for this story. On the topic of market share for the T60 pickup, he’s confident of further growth as the nameplate becomes more established.
“We are starting to consistently claim somewhere in the 4 to 4.5 per cent market share [for 4×4 utes], and I think it’s reasonable for this brand to aspire to push that over the next couple of years towards 10 per cent,” he said.
That’s quite a target, considering the 4×4 ute market in which the T60 competes is the single largest vehicle segment by sales. With 606 sales in October, the T60 claimed 4.5 per cent segment share.
It also claimed 4.8 per cent share in September and August alike.
To give this figure some context, the leaders in the 4×4 ute market at present are the Ford Ranger (24.9 per cent share this year), Toyota HiLux (21.9 per cent), Mitsubishi Triton (10.7 per cent), Nissan Navara (6.5 per cent), and Isuzu D-Max (6.1 per cent).
As well as these competitors, there’s the newly launched Mazda BT-50, evergreen Volkswagen Amarok, the more niche SsangYong Musso, and intriguingly a new-generation Great Wall contender that is aimed squarely at LDV.
“I say that knowing we currently take 10 per cent in the van business, and roughly 10 per cent in the MPV business [with the G10 people-mover], so there’s a track record in that area, and it’s the aspiration for the brand over the next 12-18 months,” Mr Chinnappa added.
“Not every month, but consistently getting close to that 10 per cent share of the 4×4 dual cab market. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy or something we’re going to do overnight, but I think it’s something we’re entitled to aspire to based on our track record with vans and MPVs.”
Part of this plan for further growth naturally suggests a need to grow the dealer network, which currently sits at just over 80 sites – though Chinnappa says any Ateco appointments must not be predatory towards existing sites, eating into an existing franchisee’s catchment area.
We asked if ex-Holden dealers were a good source of new dealer partners.
“They are, but they’re not a lay-down misère for us. We’ve had great success with a number of Holden dealers in recent times,” he said.
“There’s a point in time where a brand starts to get noticed, and when you’re not tapping on their [multi-franchise dealers] door… I’d say at the moment the dialogue is roughly 50:50,” he added.
What about reliability, though? It’s all well and good to offer sharp pricing and a decent product, but without a long legacy, what guarantees are there outside of a five-year warranty?
“We get asked that question a lot,” acknowledged Mr Chinnappa. “The first point is, we’re not new to the market, we relaunched LDV in October 2014, we have been around now.
“The second thing is, where have we earned our credentials? Until T60 came, [it was] in the van market,” he added, saying LDV’s two most popular fleet codes were subcontractor couriers to Australia Post and Startrack.
“We have a multiple of large contractors who’ve been with us for numerous years, who started with five vehicles, and went to 10, 20, 30, or 40. There’s only one reason that happens, and that’s because the cars didn’t cause problems,” he claimed.
“And it’s the ability to earn that trust, it’s the only way you can grow the business as we have.
“You can stand up and tell everyone how great your products are, but they’ve seen and heard it all before, everybody makes promises about parts on the ground, being reliable and supportive, but you actually have to earn the trust over time, and that’s what this brand has slowly and progressively been doing over time.”
Ok, so what comes next? We’ve seen a preview of a new or heavily updated LDV ute in China, with a new look, upmarket cabin, and mooted plans for hybrid, electric and even a fuel-cell variant in the domestic market. How much of this will translate to Australia remains to be seen.
“I know I’m expecting changes to T60 in 2021… what is available in left-hand drive often never makes it in right-hand drive because of conversion costs. We’re expecting ongoing improvements, [but] will we get the full gamut? I cannot tell you at this time,” Chinnappa said.
One thing we might speculate upon is for the 2.0-litre bi-turbo diesel engine used in the LDV D90 SUV – making a Ford Ranger-esque 160kW and 480Nm and mated to an eight-speed automatic – to trickle down to the T60.
The current range-topping T60’s diesel makes 120kW and 375Nm by comparison.
We’re also expecting to see a third iteration of the flagship LDV T60 Trailrider. Existing versions have suspension work conducted by Walkinshaw, and toughened-up exteriors. The first Trailrider’s suspension tune actually trickled down into all other T60s, addressing some concerns that earlier iterations were too soft and wallowy.
“We’ve done two versions now, and we are considering Trailrider 3,” Chinnappa said. “We see it as an important brand, and we see it as an important way of establishing the T60’s credentials more quickly.
“So yes, yes and yes, we do see further visions of the Trailrider, and we see them becoming more dynamic. We also see them as a way to get some of the improvement across the broader range.”
LDV Australia sales in 2020:
- T60 4×4 – 3864 units, up 33.1 per cent
- G10 van – 1184 units, up 3.4 per cent
- G10 MPV – 573 units, down 16.5 per cent
- D90 – 504 units, up 145.9 per cent
- V80 van – 399, down 9.7 per cent
- Deliver 9 van (just launched) – 37 units in month one
LDV Australia sales growth since 2014:
The period for each year was Jan – Oct, so that 2020 didn’t appear an outlier or out of scale