Chery Automobile Co. Ltd. will become the first Chinese auto maker to sell vehicles in Australia when it releases three models in first-quarter 2009.

Importer Ateco Automotive Pty. Ltd. says the A1 minicar, Tiggo cross/utility vehicle and A5 small sedan will be launched after their public debut at the 2009 Melbourne International Motor Show.

Last year, Ateco said it would begin selling unnamed Chinese-built cars in Australia beginning in 2008.

“Ateco Automotive has signed a distribution agreement with Chery, and we will be representing them in both Australia and New Zealand,” Ateco Managing Director Ric Hull tells reporters.

“We are not expecting to set new lows, like a sub-A$10,000 ($9,123) car, but we are hopeful of being competitive with the Koreans,” he says, adding Ateco aims to price the vehicles just below the leaders in their respective segments.

Hull says the three vehicles currently are undergoing Australian Design Rule certification but have not yet gone through Euro New Car Assessment Program crash tests.

“They will have to meet ADR69, and if they don’t meet that they won’t come into the country,” he says.

Australian Design Rule 69, which sets standards for frontal crashes, is designed to simulate a crash at 62 mph (100 km/h).

Ateco plans to have in place 75 Chery retail outlets at launch, expanding to about 100 dealers within a year.