Great Wall Motors has become the first Chinese automaker to launch vehicles in the New Zealand and Australian markets - both are large markets for one-tonne pickup trucks.

Privately-held distributor Ateco Automotive is selling two petrol powered twin-cab pickup models (known locally as 'utilities' or 'utes'): the V240 with both two- and four-wheel drive and the 2WD-only SA220. Both are specified very highly with items such as alloy wheels, leather upholstery, air conditioning and power windows, mirrors and locks standard range-wide.

New Zealand prices range from NZ$21,990 to $26,990 (US$14,000-$17,300; EUR10,100-EUR12,400).

"Both vehicles offer unparalleled value for money," Ateco, which is also the Australasian distributor for European brands including Alfa Romeo, Citroen and Fiat, said in a statement.

The Great Wall launch gave ute buyers a "genuine opportunity to enter the new car market at the equivalent of a second-hand price", the company added.

Great Wall vehicles will be sold and supported initially in New Zealand by six dealers and match their Thai-built Japanese brand rivals with a three year/100,000km (60,000 mile) warranty. The Australian range will be identical with "over 45" dealers from launch.

Ateco said it had been negotiating to bring Great Wall to New Zealand for over three years.

Ateco Australia managing director Ric Hull said: "Great Wall is one of China?s leading car makers and it has been consistently at the top of its domestic car market with its ute and SUV models.

"This year China will make and sell more vehicles than any other country in the world. Every mainstream car and component manufacturer is represented there. Access to technology is virtually unlimited.

"China's car industry has come a long way in a very short time," he added. "From day one we have been thoroughly impressed with Great Wall."

"Every time we go to [their] head office in Baoding, we are impressed by the progress that has been made since our last visit. We targeted Great Wall for our Chinese plans because they are highly disciplined, organised and well led."