Foton ready to hit the road in South Africa

Foton is ready to hit the road in South Africa again, this time with a proper dealer network of around 40 dealerships in place and an expectation to grow that number to 50 across the country before year-end. And most importantly, a new range of products that cannot be ignored.

24 Foton R1

Soon the brand will launch its latest ranges in South Africa. This offering will consist of two legs ­- commercial and lifestyle, with minibus taxis, shuttle busses, panel vans and a 2.5 ton truck on the one side and single and double cab bakkie ranges on the other.

Foton is not an unknown nameplate in South Africa. Various importers and distributors tried their hand at establishing the brand locally and while the product itself got a reasonably good reception back then, unaccountable circumstances led to the withdrawal of the brand from the country after a few years.

But keeping not only Foton on the road in terms of parts, but also other Chinese, Indian and even some Japanese brands, was in the hands of Mandarin Parts Distributors (MPD), which established relationships with the manufactures concerned and took the required steps to keep the wheels rolling.

Qin Zhi Tong (Vice General Manager of Foton South Africa Company) and Marius Smal (CEO).

This is where Marius Smal, the CEO of Foton in South Africa and the Managing Director of MPD, his company that Combined Motor Holdings (CMH) bought in 2020, stepped in. “With CMH’s back-up and an extensive dealership network, our business model is on a solid footing. Also bear in mind that MPD has a 15-year proven track record in the business, and CMH is a JSE-listed company.

“We have also opted to franchise Foton dealerships to other well-established motoring groups in the country that can provide exactly what the product needs. Although the Foton Tunland bakkies and Foton taxis built up a credible reputation locally, the latest generation of Foton products is light years ahead,” Marius tells Dealerfloor.

“I am truly excited about Foton’s electric vehicle range which, like the rest of our range, is already homologated and will be part of our ‘proof of concept’ projects. We will be working closely with customers in different ways to monitor these vehicles. The idea is to prove the viability of electric commercial fleets. In South Africa it is not so much the product but related aspects such as range anxiety and costs that bother potential customers,” he says.

The 10 000 m2 Parts Distribution Centre in Pretoria that will distribute parts to the dealerships.
Foton is back in South Africa.

Marius says as MD of Mandarin Parts Distributors (MPD), with 29 outlets across the country, he got to know the relevant Chinese OEMs, and his relationship with Foton was crucial to set the brand up in the country again. “We have seen the Foton product ranges’ quality, robustness and the back-up to make this a cost-effective alternative for buyers across the spectrum, from commercial to lifestyle applications.

“Another excellent aspect of the vehicles is their extensive use of established technology like the partnership with engine builder Cummins, ZF for gearboxes, BorgWarner for Turbos and other parts of the drivetrain to mention only a few. The value aspect will most certainly play a huge role, but it is the quality, look and feel of the bakkies and other vehicles that will set them apart,” he tells Dealerfloor.

“I firmly believe Foton will get the attention it deserves. In the coming weeks and months, the car-buying public will be surprised as to how far the brand has come with what we have to offer,” he concludes.

More Dealer News stories