VIENNA – OOO Avtomobilnaya Kompaniya Derways, the small Russian SUV manufacturer based in Cherkessk, plans to use Chinese-made chassis for its Derways 3131 Cowboy all-wheel-drive SUV.

Originally, the Cowboy, unveiled in 2003, sourced its underpinnings from Romanian SUV maker ARO S.A. They included the frame, transmission and various other parts.

Derways 3131 Cowboy SUV

However, due to problems with these components, Cowboy output fell short of expectation, Derways says. Only 162 vehicles were built in 2004, the first production year, with another 60-70 vehicles produced in the first half of 2005.

Alexander Romanov, technical head of Derways, says the low quality of the components was the primary reason his company decided to stop purchasing from Romania. Additionally, ARO’s future is uncertain, he says.

Derways currently is testing Cowboy prototypes based on several Chinese chassis. Two prototypes are based on a Beijing Automobile Works chassis, a third chassis is sourced from Baoding Dadi Auto Industry Co. Ltd. and a fourth prototype is using a chassis from Baoding Tianma Automobile Ltd. Co.

“We plan to build a fifth prototype on a chassis from Shanghai Wanfeng Auto Co. Ltd., which is currently on the way to us,” Romanov says.

For the time being, Derways has decided to buy 72 chassis from Baoding Dadi and 78 from Baoding Tianma. A decision on a future chassis will be made at a later date. “We will assemble Chinese chassis from semi-knocked-down kits,” Romanov says.

A new-version Derways 3131 Cowboy, using a Chinese chassis, could be officially unveiled as early as August. The body is expected to receive slight modifications, with a restyling scheduled for 2006.