Chinese off-roaders are getting tougher – check out this GWM Ute

Chinese off-roaders are getting tougher – check out this GWM Ute
Chinese off-roaders are getting tougher – check out this GWM Ute

The GWM Tank 300 is off to a strong start in Australia, and could be followed by more rugged, Tank-badged SUVs. Among all this Tank chatter, however, we shouldn’t forget the humble GWM Ute Cannon, its place in the market and its continuing success here and overseas.

Like the Tank 300, the Ute Cannon has been well-received overseas and we are seeing a growing number of collaborative offshoots sprouting from Chinese aftermarket manufacturers.

Working directly with GWM, aftermarket pioneers like Yunliang 4×4 and TopFire have developed mutually beneficial relationships.

These firms supply an extensive range of aftermarket accessories, have them fitted by the vehicle manufacturer at their factory, and then partner with them to market and sell the modified vehicles using their own established and popular social media platforms.

The dual-cab 4×4 ute market in Australia is a phenomenon. During the GFC (Global Financial Crisis) of 2008, it was the dual-cab 4×4 market in Australia, some well-planned tax incentives and the humble ‘tradie’ who literally rescued the Australian economy (a little tongue-in-cheek), bolstered the entire automotive market and kept our extensive 4×4 aftermarket industry in business.

Australia’s passion, need and fascination for dual-cab 4×4 utes appears to be insatiable and there seems to continually be a new offering hitting our market.

While Great Wall started with an extremely budget product called the V-Series back in 2009 (known in other markets as the Wingle), the rebranding to GWM has heralded a new era in the company’s commitment to quality manufacturing.

By all accounts, the current GWM Ute Cannon offers a substantial improvement in features, safety, performance and durability over the old V-Series and Steed, and at an excellent price point. But it’s what’s happening back in China that is creating even more of an eyebrow raise for those in the know.

The recent TopFire GWM collaboration with GWM and the Cannon is continuing a new trend, as mentioned above, in relationships between vehicle manufacturers and aftermarket suppliers, which in turn is helping fuel a consumer frenzy for 4x4s and 4×4 accessories in China.

It’s the long game and bigger picture that has auto industry buffs, like myself, excited. The benefits of these relationships and the interest in 4×4 on a global scale are comprehensive and profound.

It’s my belief that these collaborations are fuelling three distinct key areas of innovation and growth for the 4×4 automotive sector that will in essence overflow to global markets, and we are already just seeing the tip of that innovation right here in Australia.

Firstly, such collaborations are placing an emphasis on aftermarket accessories and with many accessories being made in China, if their manufacturing, design and markets grow (and improve), that is an extremely positive indicator for the state of the 4WD market globally.

Such collaborations and sales channels are setting a new playing field for the marketing of the 4WD sector and while we have seen the slightest hint of it here with the close relationship between the industry aftermarket icon ARB and Ford (and their projects with the Ranger and Everest), the level the Chinese are at now is certainly inspiring and should be carefully observed.

Secondly, as these vehicles create local consumer thirst for off-roading, that need will in turn be filled by local manufacturers providing further growth and improvements in the manufacturing and supply of vehicles and aftermarket parts, substantially improving the offerings globally as more and more companies try to compete within this space and the demand continues to rise.

Finally, with such a level of growth, improvement in quality and greater competitiveness, the playing field for sales back here in Australia will reflect the same levels of quality and value.

Outside of the 4WD enthusiast community and industry being the overall winners, the only point to debate is whether or not these Chinese vehicle manufacturers, like GWM, will see the same greed and opportunity that other more established Japanese brands have here, and try to bring their prices up to match the likes of Toyota.

Or, will their lower prices force the other big brands to be more competitive? For anyone who has checked out the ballooning cost of a Toyota LandCruiser recently, you will know exactly what I mean.

So you can understand my interest in this rapidly growing sector in China, why I feel it will have positive ramifications for us here in Australia and why it is worth following, understanding and learning from. This brings us back to the particular example of the TopFire Cannon.

We can see that a lot of the enhancements are cosmetic, but there are clearly some good basic upgrades that will in fact add plenty of value to the vehicle’s off-road capability.

Simple yet appealing visual additions include a new grille, replacement bonnet with vents and wide body flares. Actual off-road improvements include front and rear steel bumpers (with the front being winch-compatible), steel side steps, a snorkel, a roof basket, wider rims with 285/70 R17 BFGoodrich KO2 all terrain tyres and a two-inch lift with performance remote reservoir adjustable shock absorbers.

It’s a decent overall package, it’s a proactive collaboration that provides a win-win situation for the manufacturers (vehicle and accessory) and consumers, and it’s a sign of what is likely to be coming to Australia.

Do you like it or hate it? Have you been won over by GWM’s commitment to offering quality and value for money or are you still waiting to see more long-term tests? Do these pimped-up off-road vehicles in other countries whet your appetite or are you after more simple, utilitarian offerings?

The regular GWM Ute

There are so many questions and I’m sure you will have plenty more of your own. For me, I’m excited by what this new breed of improved, feature-packed 4WDs are bringing to our shores.

I am also keen to see how these value-added offerings will disrupt the market and I am enthralled with these innovative collaborations that are unifying vehicle and accessory manufacturers to make consumers the winners.

Ultimately, they are concept prototypes that are actually being turned into production models and what they represent for our industry is extensively positive no matter what your take is on overseas offerings or Chinese-made vehicles.

Sadly, we will not see the likes of the TopFire Cannon being offered here in Australia although, from what I hear, there may well be something on the horizon from a different manufacturer.

You will have to wait and see, but if or when it does eventuate, you can trust that CarExpert will have the scoop!

MORE: GWM Ute off-road review
MORE: Best off-road ute revealed: Ranger vs HiLux vs RAM vs Silverado vs Triton vs BT-50 vs D-Max vs Cannon vs Navara vs Musso vs Gladiator

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