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2010-06-07 12:34

Hailey Philander

After a hiatus of roughly seven months, Gonow returns to South Africa under new distributors who have a new game in mind.

The manufacturer, which started production in 2003 with a range of light commercial vehicles, now exports fully-built up vehicles from four manufacturing sites within China to 80 countries around the world. It has an annual production capacity of 385 000 units.

Through its new distributor, Vermillion Holdings, the carmaker aims to import and distribute a range of automotive products to South Africa and the rest of the SADC region.

Six new dealers are lined-up – four in the major centres in South Africa, and one apiece in Botswana and Zambia. Vermillion envisions that 16 dealers will eventually represent its four brands in a multi-franchise arrangement.

LCVs first to market

For now, the Gonow range gets top billing. Its facelifted single- and double-cab LCVs will be re-introduced to the market. The LCV range benefits from a new common-rail turbodiesel engine (the 2.2 petrol is Toyota-based while the 2.8 turbodiesel is Isuzu-based), completely new interior trim, a new tail light cluster and “overall body panel and build quality improvement”.

Two specification levels are offered, with Standard being more workhorse-oriented, while the Luxury spec is meant to appeal to the leisure buyer.  

New product comes with a three-year/100 000 km warranty provided by the factory. Vermillion will provide technical support for the vehicles, with assistance from the manufacturers and it will provide warranty support for the existing Gonow car park in South Africa.

The range available from July 2010 will include the LCV mentioned above along with an SUV and a minivan. In 2011, the range will be expanded to include new generation pick-up, SUV and minivan models.

Vermillion promises new owners will see the benefit of improved communications between the local company and the Chinese parent company, manifesting in continuous technical support and dealer-level training.     

Gonow was first launched in South Africa in July 2007 and the previous importer failed in October 2009, ostensibly due to its inability to buck the economic downturn. Vermillion, which will later include Meiya (formerly imported by McCarthy), Hafei and another as-yet unnamed manufacturer in its profile, believes it has a better chance of surviving where others have failed.

It will need to overcome buyer cynicism based on the previous Gonow (and the collective Chinese) experience, but what the re-introduction of these brands signal is just how important the South African market is considered to Chinese expansionists.

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