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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Chinese electric car for Australia

Vehicle importer Ateco Automotive plans to have an electric car on sale in Australia by 2011.

A Chinese electric car looks set to go on sale in Australia by next year, likely to join Mitsubishi and Nissan in the race for emissions free motoring.

The Australian importer of Chinese brands Great Wall Motors and Chery, Ateco, says it expects to be selling an electric car here by 2011.

"I think we'll have an electric car in 011 - I can't comment any further," says Ateco governing director Neville Crichton, refusing to reveal details or even suggest which brand it would be sold by.

"I'll be surprised if the Chinese makers don't come out with an electric car in a very short period of time." Mitsubishi plans to sell a limited number of its iMiEV electric cars in Australia this year, building up to more meaningful volumes over the next few years.

Nissan also wants to sell its Leaf electric car in Australia by 2012.

Toyota is also working on a plug-in electric version of its Prius, while Holden is planning to sell the Volt plug-in in Australia from 2012.

Crichton says Ateco has "been working quite closely with the government with the facilities for electric cars over the last 18 months and we want to be in that business".

It's not known which Chinese brand is likely to have the electric car on sale, with most testing or expressing an interest in developing electric vehicles.

Crichton confirmed Ateco would begin selling the Chery brand in Australia from mid-2009, joining the GWM models currently on sale here.

However, there could be options beyond Ateco's existing two Chinese brands.

Chinese maker BYD - currently in negotiations with unnamed Australian importers about selling the brand here - wants to lead the global electric car charge.

Backed by billionaire investor Warren Buffett, BYD has aspirations of becoming the world's largest car maker by 2025 and wants to lead sales of electric cars.

BYD unveiled an electric car concept at the Detroit motor show last month and plans to begin selling a production version soon.

Crichton has never mentioned BYD but admits he is always negotiating on other brands, including at least one from India.

Crichton refuses to speculate on pricing for the upcoming Chinese electric car, but says it will be competitive, making it an attractive proposition for city commuters.

"Anyone wants to get in to the marketplace properly it's got to be priced right," says Crichton.

"I don't think the electric cars that will come in initially ... won't be twice the price of an electric car."

He named the diminutive two-seater Smart car as one that was overpriced "for what it is", leading to niche sales levels.

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