So far, all of the attempts by Chinese truck makers trying to break into this market, which is extremely competitive and dominated by three highly professional Japanese truck manufacturers Isuzu, Hino and Fuso, have not been successful. JAC Trucks came and went. Likewise, JMC trucks appeared for a short time then disappeared in a short few months.
Foton is now pushing its product in to the Australian truck market in its third attempt. The brand first appeared here over 10 years ago, imported by the company which was then also importing Western Star, MAN and Dennis Eagle. The brand reappeared a few years later under the Ateco umbrella, bringing in both small trucks and utes, but again, this was relatively short lived.
This latest entry to the market also has the advantage of being an up-to-date truck and not something which looks like it might have been available from a Japanese manufacturer 15 or 20 years ago. The latest models have been specified to get a lot closer to their more established Japanese competitors.
The driver seat is firm but comfortable and there are a number of buttons on the steering wheel for cruise control, the entertainment system and the telephone via bluetooth. It is possible to connect the phone to the truck via bluetooth, an auxiliary socket and a USB. The USB socket is hidden behind something which looks like a button and this cover looks like it could be a little frail.
In terms of storage, the design is quite well served. The central seat folds down and on this is a document holder, two inadequate drinks holders and another small compartment. However, between this seat and the drivers’ seat, behind the gear stick, there is more storage and good drinks holders in a good position.
The display directly in front of the driver is actually quite well-designed with a very clear and crisp LCD screen in the middle telling the driver speed, distance etc. This is joined by a speedometer and tachometer on either side and an air gauge and fuel gauge above. The adblue gauge is integrated with the fuel gauge and this is lit up in a blue colour to differentiate it from the diesel level in the tank.
In terms of noise levels, this truck works quite well. It is relatively quiet while the engine note is quite strong, but this is a Cummins is after all.
Overall, the truck tested here appears to be very well finished. This is a lot better, in terms of overall manufacturers finish, than any other Chinese truck makers trying to break into this market and tested on the roads of Australia. It looks like the Foton organisation in China really want to have a genuine go at a long term presence in our market. On the strength of the product on offer and the overall packages being sold, it must be worth a look.