Despite being powered by a relatively small, 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine, with no diesel option, the H9 will attempt to chase the markets of Toyota Prado and Ford Everest.
Helping its cause will be its price, which, starting at $46,500, makes it significantly cheaper than its rivals. It also has a proper four-wheel drive system and a ladder chassis, and Haval is working on a larger diesel engine.
Haval Motors Australia (HMA) – owned by Chinese manufacturer Great Wall Motors – will launch the H9 in conjunction with two softer SUV models, the H2 and the five-seat H8, with Haval’s four dealerships set to get their first cars this week. Haval expects all three models to achieve five-star ANCAP safety ratings, including the leather-trimmed, $41,990 H8, which Haval says is a rival for the Mazda CX-5, Toyota Kluger and Jeep Grand Cherokee.
HMA managing director Parker Shi says he does not fear the slowing down of the Chinese and Australian economies.
“It is a long-term business,” he tells Wheels. “We have the plan, and we must fulfil the plan. My factory doesn’t want to spend millions of dollars – move here, recruit dealers – for fun.”
Nor does Shi admit apprehension over currency fluctuations and their potential impact on the cost of delivering in Australia.
“If we really think that the exchange rate will kill us, and the company cannot afford the risk, then the company would have no future,” he says. “But the company is big, good – we can carry on [regardless].”
HMA says that by the end of this year it aims to add six dealers to the four it has confirmed this week. It hopes to have 25 operating across Australia by the end of 2016.
At the Shanghai motor show in April last year, CEO Wang Fengying said Haval wanted to become the biggest-selling SUV brand in Australia. Shi said this week that this goal still stood, but he declined to post a volume goal or a timeframe.
The SUV market segment is the fastest growing in Australia – and China – this year, accounting for one in three vehicles sold here. Toyota was the segment leader in Australia over the full year of 2014, selling 56,660 SUVs.
Australia is the first right-hand drive export market for Haval, which is the first Chinese passenger car brand to be owned and operated in Australia by its parent company in China.