Quiz: What company is the largest manufacturer of commercial vehicles in the world?
Unless you’re better informed than I, you answered wrong. The correct response is Foton, a Chinese industrial giant. Now the company is introducing a mid-sized double-cab pickup to the South African and Australian markets, designed to compete directly with such well-established trucks as the Toyota Hilux, Nissan Navaro, and the Volkswagen Amarok.
Lest you dismiss the Tunland, as the model is known, as another Chinese knockoff product produced solely to compete on price, consider the design process undertaken by the company, and the range of componentry used in the construction.
In addition to its own engineering staff, Foton employed 50 engineers from Japan and the U.S. (interesting, the U.S. bit . . .) during the design phase. The company produced 120 prototypes during a three-year development program, putting each through 150,000 kilometers of testing on poor rural roads as well as urban highways. Foton contracted with Cummins to design a 2.8-liter, common-rail turbodiesel engine that produces 120 kw (160 hp) and 360 Nm (265 foot pounds). The transmission is a five-speed Getrag, other components come from Bosch, ZF, and Dana. A rear diff lock is available on the four-wheel-drive model. Tow rating is an impressive 2,500 kilograms.
Styling of the Tunland is anodyne, but proportional, unlike, say, the awkward Mahindra that never made it to our shores. The interior is likewise unremarkable but functional.
The Tunland will be equipped with SRS driver and passenger airbags and ABS brakes, as well as other potentially North-American-friendly features such as iPod integration, Bluetooth connectivity, and options such as leather upholstery. Given all that, the tapping of American engineers, plus the fact that the Cummins engine can be specced for Euro 5 emissions standards, could Foton be eyeing the U.S. market? Sooner or later we will see Chinese brands here; it would be good news if one of them were a turbodiesel pickup.