JAC ready to roll

In May 2024, Features9 MinutesBy Gavin MyersJune 16, 2024

Kiwi truckies might remember JAC, which has had a presence here and across the ditch in the past few decades. Now, the brand has re-entered with real backing from a local automotive juggernaut – and it’s aiming high with a new range of light- duty trucks.

At the end of 2023, JAC Motors New Zealand announced it was on the brink of a launch, with a new range of electric light-duty trucks going through local evaluation and testing. In March, the company celebrated its official opening and vehicle launch.

It enters the market with some serious backing from NZ Automotive, a subsidiary of Colonial Motor Company. Among the 21 other brands within the Colonial Motor Company stable are Southpac’s Kenworth and DAF truck brands – and that means JAC will leverage Southpac’s network for servicing and logistics of JAC parts. Retail is currently offered through Southern Autos JAC Manakau City in the North Island, and Avon City JAC Christchurch in the South Island.

“We’re proud that JAC can continue to build on the incredible reputation Southpac has in the industry,” says Andrew Craw, general manager JAC Motors NZ.

JAC has tested the new models to a range of 200km. Photo: JAC.

“Our partnership with Southern Autos is a little different for a truck brand, breaking the mould for traditional truck sales by offering Kiwis the opportunity to be fully supported by a more traditional vehicle dealership experience. We see this as a great option for some of the smaller businesses that may only have one or two trucks, and want a team that can do the heavy lifting for them in the transition to EV.”

Speaking at the Southern Autos launch event, Jason Robb, dealer principal Southern Autos JAC, adds: “We feel we can be more flexible. With EV trucks, there is a lot more to it than just selling the truck. We’re adopting a more consultative approach and working hard on customer experience, whether someone’s after one truck or 100.”

JAC Motors was established in 1964 and currently employs 33,000 staff across 130 countries. In December 2022, it entered a joint venture partnership with VW. It has an existing joint venture with Cummins, a 50/50 auto finance company with Spanish Santander Bank, and has entered a joint corporation with Huawei to develop smart EVs.

Representing JAC Group at the launch, Mr Xiang explained that in 2023, JAC had a total sales volume of 592,000 units (of all kinds of vehicles), with an 18.4% year-on-year increase. It exported 250,000 vehicles, a 60% year-on-year increase, to 132 countries. The company invested CN¥2.2 billion (NZ$514 million), or 5% of revenue, in research and development. In 2024, it plans to up this to CN¥4.5 billion ($1.052 billion), 8-9% of revenue. In the next five years, R&D will exceed CN¥20 billion ($4.677 billion), with more than 30 products planned.

The interior seems good quality and comfortable.

“New Zealand is a high-end strategic market for JAC. New energy vehicles play an important role and more and more operators are choosing low-carbon, green, intelligent, efficient solutions. Based on a deep understanding of commercial vehicles, we bring two high-end, intelligent EV truck products that represent JAC’s R&D results in advanced motors with low power consumption, and electronic control systems and driver assist systems,” Mr Xiang said.

The first trucks to launch are three of the brand’s electric light-duty models, with Cummins-powered diesel units currently undergoing compliance testing. These will be fitted with Cummins 3L and 4L engines with manual and automatic transmissions in six- and nine-tonne GVM versions. Further details on these will be released in time.

As for the new electric models, buyers have a choice of the N60EV, N75EV and the N90EV, with the ‘60’, ‘75’ and ‘90’ alluding to the three GVM options. According to James McAllister, truck sales at Southern Autos JAC, the nine-tonne unit offers the heaviest GVM among current light electric trucks. With tare weight ratings of 3150kg to 3370kg, buyers can expect fair payload ability. Wheelbase options range from 3365mm to 4475mm. Buyers can also select from various turnkey models fitted with locally supplied decks and bodies.

There is only one battery option but two motors are available.

Two permanent-magnet synchronous motors are offered, with 65kW/415Nm rated and 130kW/1200Nm peak outputs, or 90kW/550Nm rated and 171kW/1050Nm peak outputs. These drive through a two-speed FAST transmission. Only one battery option is available – a liquid-cooled CATL lithium-iron phosphate battery pack of 106.95kWh capacity. JAC Motors has tested the trucks in Auckland and claims a loaded range of 200km. Operators can expect a fast charge time of 48 minutes from 20% to 80%.

“We’re focusing on last-mile businesses – 200km should be enough for a day with overnight charging. We’re taking a consultative approach to charging; we’ll learn how the customer intends to use the truck, if they need charging solutions installed, what the best solution is. Understanding their business also applies to advising them on the right vehicle. If diesel is better for them, we’ll tell them.

“The JAC Motors website even has a calculator that will indicate which is the better cost option,” says Andrew.

These may be light-duty trucks, but they are not light on tech, especially regarding safety. Offered standard is advanced driver assistance system (ADAS), advanced emergency braking (AEB), lane-departure warning system (LDWS), hill-start assist (HAS), electronic stability control (ESC), dual airbags, a reverse camera, and automatic lighting with LED daytime running lights.

ustomer ready, JAC’s new EVs have landed.

An automatic circuit breaker cuts battery power in the event of a collision, and a high-voltage interlock detects potential loose high-voltage connections and alerts the driver or technician when working on the vehicle.

An 8in touch-screen infotainment system is fitted, and an electric drive selector and electric park brake differentiate the cabs of the electric models. Initial impressions of cab comfort and quality are good, and we at New Zealand Trucking will be interested to see how the whole package comes together when we test-drive the trucks in the coming months.

JAC Motors New Zealand is backing its new EV range with a five-year/200,000km warranty.

Ashleigh Waugh, chairman of Colonial Motor Company, concludes: “We’re excited about this brand and this opportunity. It adds a significant portfolio to our business in the short term, and in the medium term, it has the potential to become a significant part of our business.”