El Cheapo: Another Chinese Made Car Enters Australia

It seems everything is being built in China now – but only recently has that trend extended to all-things automotive. But if China’s track record of dodgy gadget knock-offs and poor craftsmanship is anything to go by, then I’d be very, very afraid of driving a one-tonne missile down the street. Even if it does have a slightly girly name like 'Chery'.

For years, Japan have long occupied most Australian’s dreams of an affordable and safe car. However, I’ve put emphasis on the latter characteristic, because most auto critics are already slamming the soon-to-arrive Chery J1 hatch because of China’s long-feared and much derided passenger safety record. Checkout the YouTube video below to get an idea of the structural integrity issues that older Chinese cars suffered from:

The Chery J1, not to mistaken for the soon-to be released Chinese made ‘Lemon’ (Okay, bad joke – but I had to go for it) looks like your regular city dwelling hatchback, and will retail for a measly $11,990 drive away, which I believe is cheaper than the black market kidney price being offered for your precious organs after a roll around in one of these cheapies.

In all seriousness, any Chinese-made car entering the Australian market will need to be fairly safe by default, in order to get clearance to operate within the strict legal framework of our roads. However, with that said - Chery's will not be available to purchase in Victoria because of some questionable stability control issues. Chery isn't the first Chinese car in Australia however, but it does appeal as one of the cheapest. It joins Great Wall Motors and Geely Motors (who recently purchased Volvo to my dismay) in a race to the bottom.

There isn't much in the way of extras with the Chery, but that's to be expected when you're paying less than $12,000. As for geeked out gadgets, there's the usual MP3 stereo, but not much else, says the SMH:

The J1 is a 1.3-litre five-door hatchback, available only as a manual. Standard equipment includes airconditioning, alloy wheels, power windows and an MP3 compatible stereo.

I know 'you get what you buy' in this world, but there is this little part of me that hopes Chinese made cars will provide decent value at the price of a 2nd hand Japanese car. While the cars go on sale next week, the ultimate question still needs to be asked: given the image of Chinese made cars, would you trust your family in one of these, no matter how safe the manufacturer tells you it is?

Giz readers, would you buy a Chinese made car? And how much would you pay?

Update: Some Giz readers are claiming the YouTube video is old and they are obviously correct. But the post had made it clear, that previous Chinese made cars had poor safety ratings and newer models will only be able to enter the Australian market if they pass stringent guidelines set up by the nation's car regulators (on a state by state basis, I might add). The video is designed to give some context of that lingering fear and is not representative of Chery or newer model Chinese cars. Besides, no car is perfect and crash test videos are usually worst case scenario's.

[Via SMH]



    See the way that sucker crumpled!!! It's like a death trap on wheels...

    Watching the video:

    "Oh wow, car crash, awesome."
    "Whoa, it's crumpling a bit more than I expecte--"
    "Oh shit. That airbag does nothing"
    "How fucked would your legs be?"

    I've never seen a car crumple that badly.

    I'd consider it, but I'd want to see the crash tests for the Australian model..
    I think it's biased journalism that asks you to watch crash test videos of older model Chinese cars and then judge whether you'd buy a different, newer design!
    Similarly, I'd want to see crash tests of similar small/cheap Korean/Malaysian/Phillipino/Brasilian/South African vehicles.. For all I know, they may be just as terrifying as the video above!

      I know that, and that's why the article included the part about most of the cars being safe in Australia due to our legal framework. Of course, the Video was old - it's meant to shock and it's not meant to be illustrative of the Chery or today's Chinese cars. But the point had to made, because that is what makes many people fear purchasing a Chinese car. For clarity, I'll add an update to this post.

    The airbag, it does nothing!

    It's kind of unfair to show old footage of crash tests when there is new footage available. Kind of reminds me of what china did with the Top Gun footage.

    I don't have a family, but it's still safer then a motorbike.

      You will notice that I mentioned the word 'Older', just for clarity. The Youtube video is not representative of the Chery, but it does exist to show how far Chinese manufacturers have gone in their pursuit for a safer car. Besides, the car will not be avaliable in Victoria for safety reasons, so it's not a slam dunk for the manufacturer on any level.

    relax...my friend actually has one in china. not bad driving. sure you would not expect paying AU$12,000 for a quality of AU$100,000 car, or ARE YOU?

    Just love the tone of your article... Not!

    I think that this whole analysis is just a bit precious. It is easy to forget that car safety, economy and creature comforts have 'evolved' at a furious pace.

    Just look at some of the small Japanese cars the 1960s and 1970s. Safe? By the standards of today - laughable. Creature comforts? Ditto.

    BUT, I think that it is arguable that the entry of new cut-price competitors AND filtering down of the lessons learned from including new technology in high-end vehicles combine to result in us having access to ever safer, more comfortable and lower fuel-consuming vehicles. And all at vastly lower REAL prices than we've had in the past. A good thing for most of us.

    As for me? I'll pass on the Chery - but I'll probably get either new Nissan Micra or something similar. My price/safety/comfort equation for driving around town now seems to be suggesting that the 'sweet spot' is dropping below $15,000. I'll still be watching out for large 4WD vehicles moving at speed - that won't be changing whether I'm driving a Chery - or any other small vehicle.

    I'm also happy to wager that in 12 months, the base model Chery will have not only have the mandated stability control, but will have 6 airbags as standard equipment.

    [Just for interest, the ABS (www.abs.gov.au) noted that there were 3,800 road fatalities in 1970 - a rate of 30+ fatalities per 100,000 persons or 8 per 10,000 vehicles. By 1999 the number of road fatalities was less than half the 1970 figure, a rate of less than 10 fatalities per 100,000 persons or 1.4 per 10,000 vehicles]

      You have made some great points dear sir - but I do have to point out that Gizmodo is built on a tone of cheekiness and humour.

      Of course, it's easy to bash China. And given their recent history of recalls, it's not hard to see why too. But, I also made a case for why I would like to see Chinese cars succeed in this country (ie I would purchase one if I could be swayed by the safety data). In any case, go ask the average person on the street what they think of buying Chinese made cars and 9 out of 10 will cite safety fears. So obviously, it's not a mute issue. But any discussion that makes people learn more about the issue is a discussion worth having.

    Firstly, to stereo-type China's "track record of dodgy gadget knock-offs and poor craftsmanship" is probably a little short-sighted. The vast majority of consumer products imported into Australia are Chinese built, including many Japanse brands. I think the main influencing factor on this perception is the quality control enforced by non-Chinese-brands-manufactured-in-China. On a related note, China is now starting to challenge established world leading brands in the market place - Huawei is one such example.

    Admittedly, there IS still a lot of crap that comes out of China; but I think thats comes down to the quality control of the company manufacturing the product, not nation it comes out of.

    Having said that, I don't think I would be in a rush to buy a Chinese car at the moment - however concern over build quality isn't the primary factor in influencing that decision (almost all Chinese passenger vehicles on the market have a sub 2-litre engine, a little on the small side for my needs).

    Really though, whats happening now is a repeat of the invasion of Japanese cars 40 years ago. Japan entered the market with brands that were unknown, unproved, and untrusted. With great value for money cars being produced (albeit they weren't necessarily the best on the market, but definitely the best for the price asked), they did eventually win the market over. Give it 5-10 years, and I reckon you'll see a greater and greater volume of Chinese cars entering the market.

      I like your ideas Sam and they are all valid points. That said, would you buy one and trust your safety in it? That's the bottom line here, I believe.

        Honestly Dan, I can't answer that with a simple yes or no, as I'm not in the market for a car at the moment, and unaware of what what competition the Chery is up against in its price range. Further, I'm driving a ~17 year old car. Any new car is likely to rate highly when it comes to safety when compared to my current daily drive. Hardly a fair comparison, is it?

        What I will say though, is that considering the Chery is priced at ~$12k - I'd take an educated guess that for a similar car at the same price you'd be looking at buying second hand. Even if a second hand vehicle has the balance of the factory warranty included with it, it has an unknown history between when it was sold at the dealer, and when you buy it. The Chery would presumably come with a factory warranty, so I'd dare say it wins this round.

        Further, you'd have to consider how the Chery scores with its ANCAP rating is compared to the competition. From what I'm aware, passenger safety is an area that's jumped forward in leaps and bounds over the last ~5 years. Especially when you consider stability control is now a standard feature across the board, something that wasn't the case merely 2 years ago.

        Another point that hasn't even been discussed yet, is how well does this thing drive? I've heard bomb-shelters are safe as houses, but they don't handle for shit.

        Where it really comes down to the crunch though (so to speak), is how well the car holds together and the quality of construction. No impact tests, or safety ratings can really prove this one way or the other on any car. Sure, recalls have been issued on Chinese cars recently, but do a bit of research and you'll find that Toyota and other major manufacturers have been dogged by mass scale international recalls lately too.

        It really comes down to; of these Chinese cars that are on the road in the next 6 months or so, how many are still driving about in 5-10 years time?

    Nitpicking linked videos: Serious Business.

    I for one enjoyed the sight of a crash test dummy being pretzelized by a car made from aluminum foil. Made my day.

      That's chinese made foil McTavish, for superior performance and not your usual run of the mill supermarket stuff.

    I saw tonnes of them in China. They very popular but I seem to remember things not quiet closing properly or lining up all the time. Interestingly in the Chinese market they're less than half the price we're being charged for them.

    I think the recall from Great Wall showed us how crap these cars really are.


    In the crash test the seat belt failed and the airbags were useless, the heads of both passenger and driver still made an impact on the dash and steering wheel. A pillow taped to the dash would most likely have done a better job!

    WTF? That car must be made out of aluminium to crumple like that!

    Yes I agree the build quality of this car would be pretty ordinary but until I see one in the flesh I suspect it won't be any worse than some of the Korean cars when they first arived here. The car in the vbideo by the authors own admission is an older model Chinese car and therefor not subject to australias strict ADR compliance built for their own market. To compaire this with the cherry would be unfair it would be the same as taking a current Commodore and comparing with a '64 holden Special, in '64 we had almost no design regulations and safety equipment in cars was next to non. For those of you who say wow I would not like a car that crumples like that well guess what thats what cars are meant to do in an accident. If they don't crumple they don't absorb energy and you as the driver or passenger cop it. What is important here is the integrity of the passenger capsule after the impact. By this I mean when the car has crumpled the interior space of the vehicle should be intact and as little deformed as possible there by protecting the ocupants. For those of you who think driving around in a big four wheel drive is safe, your so wrong, they don't crumple in the same way as a passanger vehicle, there by tranfering energy into the capsule and you. They are are higher off the road and easier to roll over in an accident. The big tyres pool water more easily on wet road making them more likely to lock up under braking and being heavier in lock up is they hit harder. No I'm not suggesting this vehicle is the bee knees but I am saying this article smacks of stereo typing chinese productd as inferior and in the case of this car less safe. No I won't be rushing out to buy it but it does have to comply with our design and safety rules. For a passenger vehicle this is higher than some 4x4s and comercial vehicles. One other thing to remember about Chinese products is they make just about every computer on each and every one of our desks, is that inferior quality?

    hold your horses, manufacturing expensive cars every one can do, but cumming up with value for money no many factories can do. Your negative criticisms are obviously another case of deja-vus ... remember the first Japanese cars or the first Korean cars appearing in Europe or US ?

    As a journalist, I see this a a perfectly valid personal blog.
    A journalist, on the other hand, goes to where the news happens - or as close as possible. If that's impossible, interviews someone else who has expert experience.
    For me, articles like the one above are unhelpful.

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