“Geely what?” I hear you say. Indeed, I’d be surprised if, like me, you’d heard of the name of one of China’s largest car makers before today.
Earlier today I was driving around Alice Springs and caught sight of a car wrapped in a set of covers designed to disguise the external details from prying eyes—. This is one tactic used by the increasing number of car manufacturers that bring their pre-release models to the Alice for testing, usually seeking some long-range hot-weather conditions to check drivelines, air-conditioning and suspension on what are frankly some of the worst roads in the country.
All manner of dire predictions were made about the end of the Northern Territory as a preferred location for hot-weather, high-speed following the announcement by the Northern Territory Labor Party during the 2016 general election that it would revoke the open speed limits on large sections of the NT highways. Those predictions appear to have evaporated as the large contingent of technicians and drivers accompanying the Geely cars indicates.
It is usually pretty easy to find these testing groups—they generally only stay at the limited number of 4 and 5 star hotels in town—and I tracked this mob down at the four-star Lasseters Hotel, which incorporates the local casino.
The GC9 is the top-of-the line vehicle for Geely, which has previously released a rather underwhelming 1.5-litre MK light passenger car in Western Australia a few years back through CAD (‘Chinese Automotive Distributors’) but was unable to grab much of a foothold in the east.
The GC9 is said to be based upon Volvo’s S60, unsurprising since it owns the company and has access to the excellent design skills of Volvo’s former head of design Peter Horbury.
All up there were six of the GC9 model in Alice Springs—most likely in variants. From the brief look I had inside one of the car it was a very comfortable cabin. I didn’t check if there were auto and manual variants. If I get the chance I’ll update that information.
In addition to the six GC9 models there were another two Geely models—sans camouflage—in the rear car park. Both looked like mid-range family cars and both had “Turbo” badges.