China’s Changan coming to Australia with Toyota Prado rival

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One of China’s largest car companies has set its sights on Australia with a new hybrid four-wheel-drive planned to be produced in Thailand.


Changan – the fifth-largest car maker in China – has announced plans to sell a new range of ‘Deepal’ vehicles in Australia, starting with a four-wheel-drive pitched at the Toyota Prado.

The Chinese car giant – which sold 2.55 million vehicles globally last year, and is active in 60 markets worldwide – has unveiled the third production model from its Deepal sub-brand, a five-metre-long four-wheel-drive known codenamed G318.

Officials from the company say it will be produced in right-hand drive in Thailand for export to global markets, including Australia – but the factory building it will not be ready until 2025 at the earliest.

Deepal will be hoping to emulate the local success of Chinese brands such as MG, Great Wall Motors (GWM) and LDV, after sales of Chinese-made cars overtook those from South Korea for the first time in Australia last year.

The Changan 4WD is the latest in a number of dedicated off-road models from Chinese brands, designed to rival the GWM Tank range – including the 300 sold in Australia – plus the FangChengBao from BYD, and the Jetour from Chery, both sold in China.

Its styling combines a boxy shape with rugged details such as a tailgate-mounted spare wheel, and contemporary cues including a blanked-off front fascia, C-shaped LED headlamps and a roof rack housing four driving lights.

No technical details on the G318 have been published, however Changan representatives say it stretches to almost five metres in length.

They also hint it is based on a new heavy-duty ladder-frame chassis aimed at providing it with greater wheel articulation and off-road ability than Deepal’s previous two models, the L07 sedan and S07 SUV, which are based on passenger-car underpinnings.

It is also unclear what will power the G318, however it is expected to be initially sold with a petrol-electric plug-in hybrid system in which the petrol engine acts as a generator to power the electric motors that drive the wheels.

The Deepal L07 and S07 combine a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine and two electric motors – one powering the front wheels, and the other driving the rear wheels – for 192kW combined.

In the other Deepal models, buyers are offered the choice of 28.4kWh or 19.0kWh lithium-ion batteries good for hybrid driving ranges of between 515km and 1200km in lenient Chinese CLTC lab testing, depending on the battery and fuel tank capacity.

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As well as being charged by the petrol engine while driving, the battery can also be plugged in on an AC or DC charging system.

The Deepal L07 and S07 are also available as purely-electric and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles but it is unclear if these options will be available with the G318 4WD.

Officials from parent company Changan have told Drive the Deepal brand – launched in 2022 – plans to enter Asian and European markets and achieve annual sales of 450,000 vehicles by 2024.

This represents more than 17 per cent of Changan’s overall global sales of 2.55 million in 2023.

As part of its global push, the Chinese car maker is investing 8.8 billion Thai baht ($AU375 million) in the construction of a new vehicle manufacturing plant in Rayong, Thailand.

Set to produce left-hand-drive and right-hand-drive vehicles, it is planned to reach an annual production capacity of 100,000 cars in its first phase in 2025, increasing to 200,000 examples over the longer term.

The Rayong, Thailand plant will act as a right-hand-drive production hub for global markets, including Australia.

In a statement made during a signing ceremony with the Board of Investment of Thailand in October 2023, Changan said it would export cars to the Australian, New Zealand, UK and South African markets.

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Together with Deepal models, the new plant is also planned to produce models for Changan’s other sub-brands, including Avatr and Qiyuan (Nevo).

Changan says it plans to launch 15 New Energy Vehicles (NEVs) – the Chinese term for plug-in hybrid, electric and range-extender hybrid vehicles – and aims to increase its group sales to over five million vehicles by 2030, of which 1.2 million sales are earmarked to be in markets outside of China.  

The Chinese car giant also operates joint-venture operations with Ford and Mazda in China.

Changan-Ford’s plant in Chongqing is Ford’s largest factory by volume outside of its manufacturing headquarters in Detroit, USA. 

Kable is one of Europe’s leading automotive journalists. The Aussie expat lives in Germany and has some of the world’s most powerful executives on speed dial.

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