LAUNCHING an unknown brand in Australia’s overpopulated car market is a risky venture for any company.
For an individual, it’s virtually beyond belief.
But Perth motor magnate John Hughes is doing just that with a Chinese brand called Geely (say it: jee-lee), and he has the reputation and track record to make it a household name.
He is largely credited with propelling Hyundai to success and the respected multi-franchise car dealer thinks Geely has the makings of another winner.
“Let’s say we’re hopeful about that,” he said.
The first model is now on sale at John Hughes Geely at the group’s Victoria Park headquarters.
It’s called the MK and is a 1.5litre, 70kW four-cylinder sedan with manual transmission.
It has airconditioning, dual airbags, remote central locking, alloy wheels, power windows and a five-year warranty. And it sells for $11,990 drive-away.
He has 100 of them in stock.
Arriving about mid-year will be the LC, a cute 1.3litre city car, known as a Panda in some markets.
“It will have to be called something else here because Fiat owns the Panda name,” Mr Hughes said.
It will be followed by the CE, an update of the MK, which, like the LC, will have stability control and the option of automatic transmission.
The stylish and bigger EC7, also called the Emgrand, will arrive towards year-end.
It will have a 1.8litre petrol engine and CVT (continuously variable transmission).
Mr Hughes said the MK would be sold only in WA because it did not have electronic stability control or auto transmission, which would limit its appeal.
“But those features are standard on the LC, the CE and the EC7, all of which will be sold nationally.”
Despite its relative youth, Geely is a substantial company.
It started building cars in 1998 and now owns Volvo, one of the world's premium brands.
Apart from its modern domestic facilities, Geely has assembly plants in Russia, the Ukraine and Malaysia, and exports cars to many world markets, including New Zealand, South Africa, Turkey and some South American nations.
And it owns Albury-based DSI, a world-class automatic transmission maker.
Mr Hughes’ success with Hyundai went well beyond Australia: he was the world’s top-selling Hyundai dealer for several years.
In Australia he is still the nation’s leading Hyundai dealer and often also the leader in Mitsubishi and Kia sales.
Other brands in his vast multi-franchise operation near Perth’s Swan River Causeway include VW and Ford.
He also has WA’s biggest used car business and separate operations for used prestige cars and recreational vehicles.