Chinese vehicle manufacturer Foton has added the Thunda single and double-cab pick-up range to its minibus taxi and panel van models available in South Africa since 2007.
Foton products are distributed in South Africa by Amalgamated Automobile Distributors (AAD), a 50:50 partnership between motor retailers Bidvest (McCarthy) and the Imperial Group.
"We are very pleased to be adding this five-model pick-up range to the current Foton light commercial line-up in South Africa," says AAD MD Brett Soso.
"We see the newcomers as functional and affordable additions to the keenly contested one-ton pick-up segment of the local market and, with AAD's support, we are confident they will be worthy contenders."
The Thunda pick-up range is aimed at a spectrum of local buyers, including commercial and recreational users.
Much of the advantage of buying Chinese vehicles in South Africa rests in the pricing, and it is also true in this case. The one-ton workhorse single cab workhorse is priced at R99 950, with this value-for-money DNA continuing up the model chain.
Soso says that the Thunda has undergone extensive testing in China and that a number of changes have been made to cater for South African conditions, including the country's high temperatures, steep hills and local preferences in terms of appearance, trim and functionality. The changes in specifications include the use of an engine-driven fan instead of an electric cooling fan, the rerouting of pipes and hoses, the addition of a load-proportioning valve to the braking system on all the models, as well as antiskid braking (ABS) for the double cabs, the deletion of the wooden finish on the dashboard, high-density foam for the seats, and a trim cloth colour better suited to local conditions.
The Thunda offers a choice of petrol or diesel engines, with the fuel-injected 2,2-litre petrol power unit developing 76 kW and 193 Nm of torque, while the 2,8-litre turbo diesel engine produces 68 kW of power and 202 Nm of torque. Both drive the rear wheels through a five-speed gearbox.
The Thunda models are rated to carry a payload of 930 kg on the single cab and 800 kg on the double cab.
Torsion bars are used for the independent front suspension with five-blade leaf springs at the rear.
The Foton Thunda range has three specification levels - basic (V) and comfort (CV) and luxury (XV) The petrol single cab is available with V or CV specification, while the diesel single cab is available only in the CV trim and equipment level. The double-cab petrol is on offer in the CV level, and the diesel in the highest specification level (XV).
The V models include power steering as standard.
The CV models include electric windows, central locking, an alarm, electric mirrors, reverse park distance control (double cabs) and air conditioning.
The Thunda will be sold through 15 dealers initially, with more to be added over the next few months.
All models are covered by a three-year/100 000-km warranty, and the double cabs have a standard three-year/75 000-km (petrol model) and three-year/70 000-km (diesel model) service plan, which is an optional extra on the single cabs.
The first service, at 5 000 km, is free and includes an oil change and 15-point check. Service intervals are every 10 000 km/one year for the diesel models and every 15 000 km/one year for the petrol derivatives.
Price increases affecting pick-ups in South Africa have reached around 30% over the past 24 months, which has affected the affordability of the one-ton workhorse, says Soso.
He believes that the Foton Thunda range will be welcomed by South African motorists and small businesses alike as being both functional and affordable.
Foton exports its vehicles to 90 countries and is in its third developmental stage as a Chinese manufacturer, which is globalisation.
Annual sales have grown from 26 030 units in 1996, to more than 600 000 last year.