Forget all that you know about Chery – if you even remember the last time they were sold – because they’re launching four SUVs next month. Yes, it’s the same brand, but with an all-new look, benchmarked performance, and highly upgraded appointments.
Two days in their headquarters in Wuhu, Anhui province, wasn’t nearly enough to show us how big of a leap the marque has taken since the last time it was in the Philippines.
Chery has four manufacturing plants in the area stretched out over 500,000 square meters, but more than just being a plain automaker, it boasts of an R&D center that’s already working on new energy vehicles and smart technology, it has a separate building doing some 2,600 tests and verifications for 23 modules of vehicles, parts, components, and NVH for all 30 models, and even a driving track to test vehicle performance on different road surfaces and conditions.
We got our hands on the four SUVs they’ll be launching, plus a few other nameplates, and each of the units were thoroughly impressive, inside and out. While we can’t disclose the models yet, but we can certainly give you a few notable highlights.
The exterior is so much more refined; with sharper lines, a sleeker and more uniform design philosophy, chrome highlights, and up-to-date accessories like daytime running lamps and LED lighting systems.
You can argue that it’s what’s on the inside that counts and that’s what surprised us as well – the cabin and overall performance is lightyears away from nine years ago.
Cabin fixtures fit firmly and tightly, with a more modern and ergonomic layout, and contemporary amenities, e.g. large touchscreen systems, digital instrument panel, and even a multi-function steering wheel.
Since Chery is one of few Chinese automakers that make their own powertrains, the drive was the biggest eye-opener. The engine and transmission now felt in sync – shift points were very precise and smooth, from the CVT (continuously variable transmission) to the DCT (dual clutch transmission), and even the 4-speed automatic transmission; the engines were strikingly robust and came with more palpable oomph during the 0-100 km/h test.
Steering feedback was more accurate and it passed the comfort test through a variety of road surfaces with flying colors.
I know it may sound like highfalutin praise for a once forlorn brand, but considering its history, to simply say it has improved is a massive understatement.
As for their local partner, it’s United Asia Automotive Group, Inc. (UAAGI). It may not be a familiar name to many, but the company has quietly brought Foton up to rank 9th in local vehicle sales versus stiff market competition, as well as third in the light duty truck segment. They’ve opened up a 45,000-square-meter assembly facility in the Clark Freeport Zone, and inaugurated dealership number 28 early this year. And UAAGI did all that in just a little over a decade.
Both companies made it official on October 15, creating Chery Philippines with the signing of a cooperation agreement between Rommel Sytin, president of UAAGI and Chery International president Zhang Guibing. Their aim is a long-term partnership built on consistent and open dialogue with customers and dealers to be able to provide the best sales and service experience possible.
According to Sytin, the units we’re getting in the Philippines won’t be plain, stripped down base models. We’ll get the same appointments and even premium trims for more variety. Each unit comes with UAAGI’s formula – “the best product at an affordable price and with the best after-sales service.” They’ve even set their sights on launching a full electric car and artificial intelligence automobiles within the next three years.
While there are no specifics yet, exact models, launch date, etc., exciting times are ahead for the industry. Chery’s return will mean greater options for customers, more competitive market pricing, and will certainly raise the level of customer service across the board.
Let go of your old biases because four new SUVs are going to make their Philippine debut in November and it will change your mind and win your trust, so get ready to pop that Chery, again.
By Eric Tipan