Foton, one of the largest and most successful vehicle manufacturers in China, is set to make its first foray into the South African sports utility vehicle (SUV) market next year when it launches its competitively-priced Sauvana. The model name is derived from the Spanish word “savannah”, which means a tropical plateau, and emphasises the vehicle’s go-anywhere capability.
The Sauvana was shown for the first time at the Shanghai Auto Show this year and enjoyed an overwhelmingly positive reception.
It has just been launched at an international launch event in the United States using its American-designed Cummins engine as a major marketing tool, this is the first ever SUV to feature a Cummins engine. The Sauvana is a hardcore, large-size SUV powered by the 2.8-litre Cummins turbo-diesel engine that is already fitted to Foton’s Tunland range of premium class bakkies which have been on sale locally since 2012.
The Sauvana, which is based on the chassis and running gear of the Tunland bakkies, has been undergoing local evaluation in South Africa covering more than 20,000km’s in extreme conditions since early this year and is performing extremely well.
Designed and developed under the code name U201, the Sauvana is a body-on-frame design which offers rear-wheel or all-wheel drive options with low range. There will be the option of a 5 speed manual or a 6 speed automatic transmission. Foton’s upcoming addition to its existing local product line-up of the Tunland range of single and double cabs, has a wheelbase of 2 790mm and is 4 830mm long, 1 910mm wide and 1 840mm high. The Sauvana will seat five or seven occupants depending on the model.
It uses a twin wishbone independent front suspension and a five-link control system for the solid rear axle.
The interior is well-equipped and has a high quality appearance including full plush leather seats. Standard features include an infotainment touchscreen and steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls. Luxury features extend to keyless entry and keyless starting, sunroof, automatic climate and cruise control.
Foton, which was established in 1996 with headquarters in Beijing, China, is part of the booming Beijing Automotive Investment Company (BAIC) Group. Its main area of concentration until now has been building a range of commercial vehicles from bakkies and vans to large trucks and buses.
It has 20 engine and assembly plants in China and 13 Knocked Down (KD) facilities worldwide, providing a current production capacity of one million units a year. The company strategy going forward is to increase output to three million units a year by 2020.
Foton passenger and light commercial vehicles are distributed in South Africa by a joint venture between Imperial Holdings and Bidvest with sales and service available at 34 dealerships nationwide.
“The Foton brand is making steady progress into the South African vehicle market as we expand the range and we are confident the Sauvana, which will compete in a major segment of the local SUV market, will assist in growing sales volume,” said Mike Scarth, who is responsible for sales and marketing of Foton passenger and light commercial vehicles in SA.