A Second Bite

Chinese Car Giant Chery Officially Back in SA |

After a first, ultimately unsuccessful foray into the South African market, Chinese car giant Chery Automobile is now ready to take a second bite at it – this time with a substantial array of new model offerings that will surprise even the most cynical local car fans.

In 2007, Chery Automobile was one of the first Chinese vehicle manufacturers to enter the South African market. Under the Imperial banner (now Motus), it sold a wide range of vehicles – from the entry-level QQ (later the QQ3), the J2 and J3 hatchbacks, to the Quantum-lookalike P10 and Tiggo SUV.

Most were based on aged Japanese vehicle platforms (the Tiggo, for example, was based on the third-generation Toyota RAV4) and sold cheaply. Initial demand tapered off as customers realised the products were of dubious quality, and by 2015, most of the Chinese brands here folded (GWM being the notable exception). 

Chery soldiered on here until 2018 when it ended its affiliation with the soon to restructured Imperial. Although unsuccessful in South Africa, Chery fared very well in other overseas markets and has been the biggest Chinese vehicle exporter for the last 18 years.

The manufacturer, headquartered in Wuhu, has spent huge amounts of money on research and development, and besides joint ventures with Jaguar Land Rover and Qoros, it now offers a wide range of new products, also in sub-brands such as Exeed and Jetour. However, the Tiggo range – now completely redeveloped and extended – is still a mainstay product for the auto giant.

Now Chery is officially back in South Africa, with its new product range sales starting next month. As a wholly-owned subsidiary of the industrial powerhouse, Chery South Africa is the latest member of a global network across more than 80 countries. It is now completing the process of appointing the first 30 Chery dealers and preparing to introduce its first vehicles.

Led by Tony Liu, newly appointed Executive Deputy General Manager for Chery South Africa, the company has been hard at work testing its vehicles in local conditions, recruiting the best dealers in key areas across South Africa and growing its parts storage and distribution capabilities.

An Industrial Giant

According to Liu, Chery has reinvented itself as a technology and design leader with over 13,000 technology patents and 5,500 research and development specialists in five research and development (R&D) centres across the globe. 

Chery has become a benchmark for EV technology – its electric EQ1 and EQ5 winning ten awards in the recent China EV Rally 2021, including the award for the best fast charging technology and the best battery endurance. Chery’s current 1.6 TGDI direct-injection petrol engine – delivering 145 kW and 290 Nm of torque – has been voted one of the 10 Best Engines in the China Heart awards, along with five other engines from the group. 

Chery also maintains its forthcoming Universal Hybrid system will offer a real-world fuel consumption of 1 litre/100 km in a combined driving cycle but not at the cost of performance. The system offers a 0-100 km/h time of 5.0 seconds. Besides its own development, Chery also works with global companies such as Aisin, Getrag, Bosch and Schaeffler to perfect its technologies.

Models for SA

Chery 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, the Tiggo Cross and, interestingly, a Tiggo pickup (PUP) model… yes, a bakkie.

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 attractive small SUV, with a stylish hexagonal diamond cut front grille and imposing rear haunches, will come with a choice of two engines – a naturally aspirated 1.5-litre petrol (84 kW and 138 Nm) or 1.5-litre turbo petrol (110 kW and 210 Nm) – 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, and its instrument layout is modern, with a large central infotainment control screen. From first impressions, the Tiggo 4 Pro is well-specced with a host of standard features typically only found in bigger vehicles. Chery did not divulge pricing, but we expect it to start from around R270,000 and go up to just over R300k.

The imposing Tiggo 8 Pro flagship is slightly bigger than the Mazda CX 5, Haval 6, VW Tiguan, and Kia Sportage. It will be available locally from early next year and will come with the ACTECTO 1.6-litre TGDI engine (145 kW and 290 Nm), mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT). Pricing for the Tiggo 8 Pro? We are guessing around the R600,000 to R650,000 mark.

The compact Tiggo 7 Pro, aimed at popular SUV models such as the Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage, will follow the Tiggo 8 Pro here, with availability later next year. It is powered by a 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine rated for 108 kW and 230 Nm of torque, and pricing is expected to be in the region of R400,000 to R470,000.

Not much is known about the Tiggo Cross or the pickup 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.

Report: Ferdi de Vos | Images © Chery South Africa


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