Chinese fill gap in market

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Fleets can now buy right-hand drive Chinese light commercial vehicles here for the first time after a link-up between the Dongfeng Motor Corporation and Minehead-based Coastal 4x4.

The Somerset dealer is offering a range of vans - including micro panel vans, double-cabs and pick-ups – and is now looking to appoint dealers across the country.

Coastal partner Cliff Jones said when Suzuki stopped selling its Carry light van three years ago it left a gap in the market. “We always used to sell quite a few of the pick-up versions and after Suzuki stopped making them people kept asking to buy them,” he said.

“I called Dongfeng in China as they had been selling these vans in Europe for some time. They didn’t do a right-hand drive version but when I said I wanted to import them to the UK and sell them here, they said it would be no problem.”

The first batch of pilot vehicles arrived in October last year. “They are very well made and the only problem with the first batch was that they had a speedometer in kilometres per hour,” said Jones. “Once again they changed these to miles per hour with no fuss.”

The DFM vans, which cost £6,995, use Suzuki technology including a Suzuki-based 1.3-litre 82bhp petrol engine.

“We have a converter in Lincolnshire who is buying five per month to make into snack wagons and interest from as far away as Guernsey,” said Jones who hopes to sell 50 this year, 1,000 next year and more as his dealer base builds up.

The vans come with a two-year/30,000 mile warranty but Jones said he was prepared to negotiate on this, especially as so far, none of the vehicles had shown signs of a problem.

“They all use simple technology and have very cheap spare parts. We’ve had no problems at all with them so far.”

Jones is also looking to offer a breakdown and recovery package, although none exists at present.

The vans have a payload of 700kg and a load area of 2,000mm x 1,320mm x 1,310mm.

A three-way tipper is due to be added to the range in October.

Author: Trevor Gelken

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