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Chery on top: Chinese manufacturer posts record 2023 sales in South Africa

Chery on top: Chinese manufacturer posts record 2023 sales in South Africa
The new Chery Tiggo 7 Pro Max. (Photo: Chery SA)

Since its local relaunch two years ago, Chery SA has climbed the sales charts and plans to flood the market in 2024 with a host of new products.

I’ve made no secret of my scepticism for Chinese cars. While many of my fellow motoring writers have gleefully embraced brands like Haval and Chery, I’ve droned on about quality, reliability and questionable resale value. I’ve embraced and bet on the good old German classics, the BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes, the VWs and Audis. But try as I may to ignore the slew of Chinese cars that have in recent years flooded the market, the sales charts have been telling a different story. 

The motoring industry was spiralling downward this past year. In November, it registered its fourth consecutive month of decline. Not so for Chery SA, which will finish off the year showing growth of 25.1%. Globally, between January and November, the Chery brand posted 47.8% growth year on year.

When Chery SA launched its Tiggo 4 Pro back in November 2021, I turned down the invite and chose to attend an event for a German brand that was running simultaneously. When Chery launched its Tiggo 4 Pro LiT, targeting the sub-R300K market with its competitive price of R279,900, I was also a no-show.

I hardly gave the Tiggo 7 and Tiggo 8 a second glance when they were added to the Chery SA portfolio. 

Despite my snobbery, these Cherys have been hitting the sweet spot with customers in terms of specs and pricing, enabling the manufacturer to maintain a pretty consistent sixth position in SA’s overall passenger vehicle market. 

Despite my efforts to ignore it, I have been unable to refute the numbers showing the brand’s success in its massive offensive to increase SA market share.

The all-new Omoda C5 GT. (Photo: Omoda SA)

I finally sat up and took notice when, earlier this year, the Omoda C5, with its unique futuristic visage, landed in SA. While it’s not, as many of us first assumed, the luxury arm of Chery (like a Lexus is to a Toyota), Omoda is housed under the Chery umbrella as a sub-brand. 

(If you’re wondering, the letter “O” in Omoda is derived from the word “oxygen”, while “Moda” means “modern”.) 

According to Omoda SA, it’s aimed at a “tech-driven and fashion-conscious market”. It’s a good-looking compact SUV, filled with generous specs.

Chery has been particularly strategic in its design department, poaching as head of design Kevin Rice, who previously worked for BMW, Opel, Saab and Mazda. Chery’s chief designer is Steve Eum, an American Korean wunderkind who cut his design teeth at Ford and Hyundai. 

I was recently invited to test-drive the all-new Tiggo 7 Pro Max and speedier Omoda C5 GT as part of Chery’s second birthday celebrations in SA. Feeling somewhat embarrassed that I had yet to accept an invite to one of their launches, I RSVP-ed “yes”.

The Tiggo 7 Pro Max’s luxurious hi-tech cabin. (Photo: Chery SA)

Tiggo 7 Pro Max

When I got behind the wheel of the new Tiggo 7 Pro Max, a 5-seater medium-sized SUV, I was not expecting to like it. At all. But, somewhat reluctantly, I did. The new model is offered in 2WD and AWD derivatives and I found the drive, to the west coast and back, well-balanced, which has much to do with its front and rear multilink suspension, allowing for a decent blend of comfort and firmness. 

The Pro Max has an entirely new 1.6 turbocharged petrol engine, delivering power to the front wheels, or all four wheels, through a 7-speed DCT gearbox. (The new engine increases performance to 145kW and 290Nm, compared with the straight Tiggo 7 Pro, which offers a more sedate 115kW and 230Nm.) 

While the array of safety systems is commendable — this Chery has eight airbags — I experienced the safety tech alerts way too invasive with their loud beeps and overly enthusiastic warnings. Every time I crossed a lane, I felt like I was being policed by the Gestapo. For the life of me, I couldn’t find a way to stop the assault, but was later told that these systems can be turned off, you just have to know how. I didn’t.

The Tiggo 7 Pro Max has a panoramic sunroof. (Photo: Chery SA)

The new Pro Max 7 has increased the levels of already generous specs found in the straight 7 with stuff like an 8-speaker Sony audio system, a 360-degree camera system (in the top-of-the-range Executive derivatives), a new pair of 12.3-inch screens and a panoramic sunroof. To enhance mood, there are 64 shades of ambient lighting, which by anyone’s disco standards is somewhat extreme. 

Fuel consumption is claimed at just under 8 litres/100km in the 7 Pro Max — I got closer to 10 litres/100km. However, there are so many merits about the Pro Max 7, especially its pricing, that one may be swayed to turn a blind eye to the tanks. 

Next up, I got behind the wheel of the new Omoda C5 GT. 

Omoda C5 GT

The Omoda C5 GT is a compact crossover and the speedier version of the straight 1.5-litre (115kW) C5, with its 1.6-litre turbocharged powerplant offering 145kW and 290Nm. 

For those who like bling, there’s rose-gold GT badging, 18-inch rose-gold alloys, as well as a rather huge rear tail wing to give it, according to the PR spiel, a “supercar vibe”. 

Rose-gold finishes on the Omoda C5 GT. (Photo: Omoda SA)

Inside, it looks the biz with its black leatherish seats and dual 26cm screens that form a single unit and dominate the cabin. There’s a wireless charging pad in the centre, dual-zone climate control, plenty of ambient lighting and electrically adjustable heated seats.

When it came to the drive, I found the C5 GT engaging and nippy. I could feel the increase in power, especially when overtaking on highways, and was impressed with its 7-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. I’m also a sucker for a heated steering wheel. 

Like its Tiggo 7 stablemate, once again I found the safety systems with their incessant beeping a bit full-on, but they were thankfully more subdued than in the Chery. They too can be deactivated, although I have yet to find out how. However, the Omoda must be praised for its recent 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating and comes with stuff like front and side airbags, parking sensors, a rear-view camera, an all-round visibility system as well as active cruise control.

Plans for 2024

The Jaecoo J7 will be launched locally in 2024. (Photo: Jaecoo SA)

It’s going to be a busy 2024 for Chery SA. Along with the introduction of an entirely new brand called Jaecoo, the company also intends to unveil plug-in hybrid variants of its Tiggo 7 Pro and Tiggo 8 Pro. The new Omoda flagship, the C9, will be launched in the first quarter and, somewhere along the line, Chery SA’s first battery-electric vehicle, the Omoda E5, will be unveiled.

I have come somewhat late to the party in being open-minded about Chinese brands. However, one can’t deny the inroads these nameplates are making these days in SA with driveways parked full of Chery Tiggos and Haval Jolions. 

China’s global car industry has quadrupled exports in just three years, surpassing Japan in 2023 as the world leader in this terrain. It’s prudent to remember that there was a time when bestselling Toyota was sneered at and South Korean Hyundais and Kias were derided. My prediction is that in the next five years we will see at least one Chinese brand playing in the Top Three bestselling passenger vehicle local charts. My bitcoin is on Chery.

Pricing

Tiggo 7 Pro Max Distinction 2WD: R529,900 

Tiggo 7 Pro Max Executive 2WD: R559,900 

Tiggo 7 Pro Max Executive AWD: R609,900

Omoda C5 GT: R589,900 DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Reinier Breytenbach says:

    As a professional mechanic for the past four decades, I share the author’s misgivings about all Chinese-made cars. The Chinese are simply incapable of producing anything that is reliable over the long term, and in the case of Chinese cars, I am waiting for the first pattern failures on these cars to begin appearing in about a year or so from now.

    Buying anything made in China never ends well.

    • Voyagerfan 2001 says:

      Now i know thst you arent really a mechanic, because i have personally seen old chinese cars still going on outh africas roads, and Im just an amateur car enthusiast

      Ive see the following cars still going:
      Chery QQ (crappy hatch back)
      Old J5 sedan
      Old chery tiggo 3
      Old j3, j2 hatchbacks
      Old gwm h5 hovers
      Old florid hatchbacks
      Old steed 3 and 5 bakkies
      Old geely panda hatchbacks, mks
      Old meiya bakkies

      Ive even seen pictures of people trading in their old chery tiggo 3s arter owning them for 10-15 years and buying the new pro 4

  • Alan Salmon says:

    I consider China to be a threat to the world on multiple levels – ideology, human rights, overfishing everywhere, and a policy of stealthily invading Africa and other countries through the back door of cheap loans etc.
    I try to avoid buying anything Chinese, though it is getting harder and harder to do so !

    • Voyagerfan 2001 says:

      Oh you mean those fake accusations which have been proven to be made up by the CIA? Because its been scientifically proven that western media is racist?

      China hasnt bombed anyone in decades but tell me about israel and their excuses for genocide?

    • Voyagerfan 2001 says:

      Have you also been avoiding buying western made things? Recently henry kissinger died after papers from the CIA revealed that he was involved with causing wars in many parts of the world and used the CIA to create propaganda. He was involved with installing the butcher dictator pinochet in chile during the 70s. Did you stop bying american products. The amazing journalist john pilger who has been disproving all the lies against china has also recently died, he had also interviewed an old CIA agent and humiliated him because the CIA agent admitted on tv that they were responsible for the massacres that pinochet committed.

      Did you know that the CIA admitted to paying of the dalai lama for decades to lie about so called genocide?
      All youve is spout racist propaganda which has already been disproven

    • Voyagerfan 2001 says:

      Remember julian assange? The famous journalist who became a modern hero? Because he founded wikileaks and revealed the horrendous atrocities that the US and its allies committed in iraq after the twin towers disaster? Remember how it was revealed that they murdered saddam hussein for nothing making false accusations that he had weapons of mass destruction? There was no evidence of WMDs just as there is no evidence for chinas genocide.

      And now julian assange was falsely arrested and put in jail for telling the truth of false western democracy! So why are you still buying western products?

  • John Patson says:

    My sister and brother in law got stuck in the bush when the Chery they were driving while their Toyota was in the workshop, had “multiple organ failure”.
    Turns out the nut on the bolt holding the main pulley for the fan belt was made of plastic. Probably saved all of 50 cents when it was chosen instead of a good, hardened steel one.
    The garage laughed and said it happened all the time.
    At the time my brother in law was a factory manager — when he got back he had the firms mechanics go through every Chery a cheap-skate predecessor had bought, removing the plastic nuts and replacing them with proper stuff. Not the sort of thing customers should have to do.

  • bruiners.joe says:

    I still go for the “… good old German classics…”

  • Andrew Turnbull says:

    To my mind the success of Chinese manufacturers in RSA says more about the value of the rand than anything else. A country that finances vehicles over 80 months has lost sight of living inside its means. The desire to purchase a new vehicle overtakes sense and at 19 rand to the u.s dollar then lower priced brands are the only option. It would be interesting to compare this brands success here versus Australia where currency value has remained stable. In 1994 2 rand bought 1 aud. Now it takes more than 12 rand for 1 aud.

  • jmn.calitz says:

    I enjoy the reading of all.

  • Yeah…give the other brands a run for their money.

  • Iam Fedup says:

    I know close to zero about cars and how they are built, and to be frank I have no interest in anything automotive. I also don’t buy banks’ propaganda that a car should be replaced every 3 years. “Drive it until it’s dead” is my philosophy.

    But I do know about marketing, and given the pressure that consumers face right now, there is no doubt that Chinese products will succeed. Many forget that Toyota in the 60s and 70s was considered “cheap Japanese junk,” and look at where they are today. Yes, as the author suggests, car snobbery makes you poorer, and there’s no way I will further enrich already-wealthy German, European and American brands.

  • John P says:

    I am constantly amazed by the SA consumers lack of caution when making buying decisions. Chery as a brand just a few years ago dumped the QQ into this market, a piece of junk with no safety rating and endless quality and reliability issues. They then pulled out of SA leaving these customers in the lurch. A few years they are back and Bang, an instant sales success. Reputation must mean nothing anymore.

    • Melinda Ferguson says:

      I think that was one of the main reasons why I took this long to give Chery a chance 😉

      • John P says:

        Melinda that is a refreshing choice compared to the majority of reviewers who have been singing the praises of Chinese vehicles based mostly on a brief drive of carefully prepared vehicles on a fully funded press day.
        Yes these vehicles have very attractive pricing compared to the big brands but what will the cost of ownership look like over 5 years? Will they hold enough value to cover the large balloon payments most of these purchasers have likely signed into?

        • Jerez Daniels says:

          absolutely crap vehicles driving a 8pro bought in 2023,engine light came on a month after purchase and its a year ,it still comes on at least once a month,been driving courtesy cars more than my own

  • Voyagerfan 2001 says:

    Excellent! 👍

  • robby 77 says:

    I got a Tiggo 4 due to budgetary aims. It wouldn’t have been in my top alternative choice, probably ever, normally. But I can’t complain too much. It feels decent, has all the modern conveniences, pretty comfortable. And it has a 10 year or 1 million km engine warranty if I continue to keep it as original owner. I guess that is at least a decent safety net for me. But we’ll see.

  • Jerez Daniels says:

    I bought my Chery Tigo 8pro in October 2022 was very impressed with its handling and luxury,but it did not last long ,on the 16th December 2022 the engine light came on and its a year plus that it has been coming on then into the workshop for few days then its off only to reappear after a couple of days.
    service from the customer care centre is non existent as the persons you want to talk to has either just stepped into a meeting or are on lunch.
    as i write here the light has come on again after it has been to the dealer for close to a month.
    I received the vehicle on the 20 12 2023 the light came on 26 12 2023 ,i tried calling Ronel, Lucia they were not available ,still waiting for their reply.
    So i just wanted to share my experience with everyone out there that,these vehicles are good looking etc etc,but once you experience problems you are on your own

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