“If this truck can run on Chinese diesel then it will be just fine in Africa,” says Robin Wu, the vice President of Foton, the largest commercial vehicle manufacturer in the world, as he unveils the Tunland, the latest Chinese addition to the highly competitive South Africa double-cab market and a first for Foton. For now they have only introduced the 4×4 ISF 2.8 turbo diesel model (in both a comfort and a luxury spec) but in January 2013 expect to see 4×2 versions, with single and extended cabs launches planned for the end of 2013. As with most things Chinese it is the price that has the tongues wagging as the Tunland comes in a good R50 000 to R100 000 less than its rivals. The comfort model is priced at R334950 and the higher spec luxury costs R354950. For that extra 20 grand they have chucked in leather seats, a rollover bar on the loadbox, tonneau cover and side steps.
This is not a purely Chinese product as Foton have made use of several global component suppliers. The most important of these suppliers is Cummins of the United States, who have 15 manufacturing plants in China. Under the hood of the Tunland is the 2.8 Cummins ISF engine, which develops 120kW of power at 3600 rpm and 360Nm of torque at 1800 rpm. On paper the Tunland is equal to or even more impressive than some of its competitors. The respected Cummins engine delivers good power and torque, claimed fuel economy is 8, 3 l/100km, the emission rating is only 219gm/km plus it complies with Euro IV emission regulations. Also it has all the safety, convenience and security features associated with one tonne pick-ups. But why then is it so much cheaper? Well when you climb into it you know that it is made in China. It just has that cheaper feel and look. Simple as that.
Fair play to Foton as they took four Tunland bakkies to Baboon Pass in Lesotho earlier this year to see how it would match up to the toughest offroad conditions in Africa. They all made it through the test minus a few tyres and with a few dings. One of the hacks on this trip commented: “This is easily the best of the Chinese junk out there and it is going to surprise you.” So to conclude it is Chinese, it is cheaper and yes it did go over Baboons Pass. But can it go over it again and again and again without breaking down? Cause that is what South Africans expect.