• Chery is back in South Africa and will partner with 30 national dealers at time of launch in November 2021.
• The product range will kick off with the Tiggo 4 Pro, and will gradually include more upmarket offerings.
• As part of its initial four-year plan, Chery could introduce a bakkie to the local market.
• For more motoring stories, visit Wheels24
Chery, one of the most respected vehicle manufacturers in China and the winning brand in the 2020 China National Car of the Year competition, is now officially back in South Africa, with sales of its new product range starting in November this year.
At a briefing at its new head office in Bryanston, Johannesburg, the company announced the establishment of Chery South Africa, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the industrial powerhouse and China's top vehicle export brand for the past 18 years.
South Africa now becomes the newest member of a global network with a family of over 9.5 million owners across more than 80 countries and regions. Indeed, according to Chery, a new overseas owner is added to its family every two minutes. Chery South Africa is now completing the appointment of the first thirty national dealers and preparing to introduce the first vehicles - expected here by November.
Familiar faces at the briefing
Walking into the briefing room, it was interesting to see some familiar faces (many formerly with Haval South Africa). Tony Lui, who led the media briefing, held a position at GWM/Haval but is now the newly appointed Executive Deputy General Manager for Chery South Africa.
Lui said in his opening address: "For Chery, the South African office has special significance. The country welcomed our vehicles in 2007, and we have been supporting our customer base of over 15 000 owners with parts and servicing ever since. Now we have the opportunity to enter the market directly, with a national network of dedicated Chery dealers and our completely new range of vehicles."
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He added that while sales will only start in November, the company has been hard at work testing its vehicles in local conditions and recruiting the best dealers in key areas across South Africa. In addition, Chery SA has been growing its parts storage and distribution capabilities beyond what it can currently offer.
"By entering the market directly, customers will be able to experience the best Chery has to offer, both in customer service and in our next-generation of products, Lui says. "If our experience in other global markets is anything to go by, then customers will be blown away."
A Chinese industrial giant
While many South Africans are familiar with the brand, the new model offerings from Chery are a far cry from the QQ (later the QQ3), the J2 and J3 hatchbacks, and the Tiggo SUVs proffered here previously. They will surprise even the most cynical amongst local car fans.
After first making its (mostly older) products available to importers in South Africa, Liu explained that Chery had reinvented itself as a technology and design leader. The company focused on developing its core technologies, including a range of engines, vehicle platforms and safety technology, and Chery is recognised as a global leader on these fronts.
With over 13 000 technology patents and 5 500 dedicated research and development specialists in five research and development (R&D) centres spread across the globe, Chery has become a benchmark for many technologies. For instance, its electric EQ1 and EQ5 together won ten awards in the recent China EV Rally 2021, including the award for the best fast charging technology and the best battery endurance.
In terms of internal combustion technology, Chery's current 1.6 ACTECTO TGDI direct-injection petrol engine - delivering 145kW and 290Nm of torque - was voted one of the 10 Best Engines in the China Heart awards, along with five other engines from the group. Chery has also unveiled its 2.0 TGDI engine with 192 kW of power and peak torque of 400 Nm, unleashing robust and peerless performance in its competitor set.
Liu also explained that like its focus on proprietary engine and electric technology, Chery has developed best-in-class vehicle platforms for its SUVs, sedans and future new-propulsion vehicles - including the SUV-focused T1X platform, the M3X platform for high-end SUVs and MPVs, the M1X platform for sedans, and the forthcoming NEV platform for its range of New Energy vehicles.
Chery also maintains its forthcoming Universal Hybrid system will offer a real-world fuel consumption of 1.0-litre/100km in a combined driving cycle. This will not come at the cost of performance, with the system offering a 0-100km/h time of five seconds. Besides its own development, Chery also works with world leaders like Aisin, Getrag, Bosch and Schaeffler to perfect its technologies.
Models earmarked for SA
As alluded to in our preview article on 11 August, Chery South Africa confirmed the first models earmarked for the country would be the Tiggo 4 and Tiggo 8 models with Pro Series specification levels, followed by the Tiggo 7 Pro and the Tiggo Cross. Interesting, a Tiggo pickup (PUP), yes, a bakkie, is also on the cards.
Tiggo 4 Pro
The Tiggo 4 Pro sub-compact SUV, similar in size to the Hyundai Creta, Kia Seltos and Mazda CX 3, will be the first model available (from November). The small SUV boasts modern design features, including a stylish hexagonal diamond cut front grille and imposing haunches at the rear. It will be available with a choice of two engines: a naturally aspirated 1.5-litre petrol (84kW and 138Nm) and 1.5-litre turbo petrol (110kW and 210Nm) - coupled with a five-speed manual gearbox or six-speed CVT.
Interior materials and trim (with soft-touch surfaces on the front fascia) compare well with the best in the class. The instrument layout is modern, with a large central infotainment control screen, and from first impressions, the Tiggo 4 Pro is well-specced with a host of standard features typically found in bigger vehicles. While Chery did not divulge pricing, we expect a price tag starting from around R270 000 and going up to just over R300k for the range-topper.
Tiggo 8 Pro
Seeing the Tiggo 8 Pro in real life, is even more imposing than on pictures. It is slightly bigger than the Mazda CX-5, Haval 6, Volkswagen Tiguan, and Kia Sportage. It is the flagship in the current range available to overseas markets and exudes quality and class.
According to available information, the Tiggo 8 Pro will be available locally from early next year (around February 2022). It will come with the award-winning ACTECTO 1.6-litre TGDI engine (145kW and 290Nm), mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT).
In 2020, the Tiggo 8 Pro beat all comers with over 1 million votes to become the Chinese National Car of the Year. Shortly after that, it won the Annual Innovation Award for its outstanding quality and innovative technologies. According to Liu, the Tiggo 8 Pro (called the Tiggo 8 Plus in China) is just the latest example of Chery's design and engineering expertise. He says: "It has, alongside its many siblings, helped Chery to be recognised as one of the 'Chinese Brands with the Best Global Image' for the fifth time in 2020."
Pricing for the Tiggo 8 Pro? We guestimate around R600 000 - 650 000.
Tiggo 7 Pro
The compact Tiggo 7 Pro, aimed at popular SUV models such as the Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage, has been a mainstay for Chery in its home market and will follow the Tiggo 8 Pro here, with availability around half-year in 2022. It is powered by a 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine that produces 108kW and 230Nm of torque, with expected pricing in the region of R400 000 to R470 000.
Not much is known about the Tiggo Cross or the "bakkie" at this time, but as part of Chery's roll-out plan for the next four years, these models are expected to arrive here by 2023. It would also seem that, at least for now, there are no plans to introduce examples from Chery's premium Exceed or Jetour brands locally.
While its primary focus will be on establishing the authentic Chery brand in South Africa, according to Liu, the company aims to grow its footprint across the continent. "South Africa is a very important market for us. Customers have high expectations, and we want to meet and exceed them. Once we have established a firm foothold in this market, we will use the expertise in the country and its import position as a springboard into the rest of the continent."
Chery will back up its local dealer network with an extensive parts warehouse, a strong mechanical warranty and service plan, and a comprehensive 24-hour roadside assistance service.
Chery is also studying the local introduction of its global Chery app, allowing owners to monitor their vehicle's health and connect directly with Chery South Africa to book a service or interact with the Customer Service team.