Australian importer WMC Group signs a long-term distribution agreement with Chinese auto maker SAIC and orders an initial shipment of 120 vehicles as launch stock for its 45-strong dealer network.

WMC CEO Jason Pecotic signs the agreement at SAIC headquarters in Shanghai and says the multi-year deal will allow his company to invest strongly in aftersales support and parts backup with confidence.

The first SAIC products launching in Australia will be the LDV van and minibus lineup, due to go on sale in the second half of October with other models and variants to follow in 2013.

Pecotic says the agreement also signals SAIC’s confidence in the Australian distributor by entering into a long-term multi-year arrangement months before the first LDV van hits Australian roads.

“Commercial in-confidence precludes us from revealing the exact terms of the agreement, suffice to say that so long as performance requirements are met, WMC Group will be distributing SMCV product in Australia for most of the next decade,” he says in a statement.

SAIC Managing Director Lan Qingsong says Australia is an important new market for the auto maker, adding the LDV van and minibus range will come with a high level of standard features not available, or are options, on other brands.

Standard features include rear barn doors, tire-pressure monitoring, 16-in. alloy wheels, dual sliding doors and door-integrated electric entry steps. The LDV vehicles meet European crash and safety standards.

The import agreement comes nine months after WMC Group quit as Australian distributor for Chinese pickup-truck maker Foton, citing a number of reasons, “most significantly uncompetitive pricing.”