Daihatsu is one of those car manufacturers that made massive early gains in the Chinese market only to proverbially piss it all into the wind just as the market began to really open. The Japanese company played upon early warm relations between Japan and China when Japan was all about investing its new found wealth into its former colony, Daihatsu hit gold with the launch of minivans that would eventually be copied, cloned and produced by companies such as Chang’an, Wuling, Hafei etc, the low level of technology and the large number of sales made them large targets for local Chinese car companies. Daihatsu had a further tie up with Tianjin based Xiali to make the Daihatsu Charade and other models, but this JV was slowly forgotten about as Daihatsu’s parent company, Toyota, took center stage with Xiali’s parent company, FAW.
Under the FAW-Toyota arrangement Daihatsu made some attempts at making the Terios in the Chinese market but the auto start up Zotye started producing a very similar model and stole away all the sales (we never understood if the Zotye 2008 was built under license, or under a ‘creative license’), then Daihatsu was gone from the PRC and at the same time it said goodbye to Europe, relying solely on its home Japanese market and some smaller South Asian markets.
So is Daihatsu coming back to China? The Chinese automotive media that are publishing the above spy pictures would like to say yes they are, but we unsure. Daihatsu’s market presence in China is currently zero and with Japanese brands being as popular as an Ebola outbreak right now it seems like an odd brand to launch in China. With the new Terios being a body on frame SUV rather than a light weight city SUV it seems like it would be an odd model for Chinese car companies to even try to clone. So what’s the story here? We have no idea.