When you know what your Achilles’s heel is, it is advisable to address it as soon as possible. But few brands must have done so in such a competent way as JAC Motors has in Brazil. In this market, as well as in many were Chinese cars are sold, they have a fame for being unreliable and unsafe. The fear after buying one at a very reasonable price, or even a bargain, is the devaluation that cars deemed as disposable can bring. JAC Motors has addressed this bad fame by creating a fleet of cars that are almost reaching 100,000 km. And we have driven one of them, a 90,000 km J3 Turin.
Eduardo Pincigher, the PR guy behind this strategy, comes from a long experience assisting Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and also from being a car journalist himself. He is the one that delivers me the keys to the car, warning me of what I would find behind the wheel. “This car was from a client in Santo André (city close to São Paulo). He has traded it in for another JAC, a brand-new one. Our only concern was that it had been serviced according to what JAC has established and that it had never suffered a serious accident”, he told MotorChase. “You will notice that it is like any other car with near 100,000 km on the odometer. The dampers are still good, but may need a replacement in 10,000 km or less. And the clutch is in the end, as well.”
The signs of use where evident. The key did not have the drawings indicating with button opens and which one closes the doors, so we had to figure them out. The carpets were worn out, as well as the steering wheel, and the leather seats presented very tiny, but visible, cracks. It was clear that the car was well taken care of: its hard finishing plastics presented few scratches. But they were also there to indicate this car has a long duty history.
The J3 Turin was one of the first models imported by JAC to Brazil. It is 4.16 m long, 1.65 m wide, 1.47 m tall and has a wheelbase of 2.40 m and a luggage compartment of 490 l. It weighs 1,100 kg and is powered by a 1.3 4 cylinder engine that delivers 79 kW at 6,000 rpm and 138 Nm at 4,500 rpm.
Since the beginning, the Chinese brand highlighted that it had global suppliers, such as Bosch, Delphi, Continental and so forth. That was an attempt of free pass from the other Chinese brands that were also trying to establish in the Brazilian market. JAC cars were built with familiar suppliers, the same ones that help build Fiat, Volkswagen, Ford and Chevrolet cars. But would they behave in JAC’s vehicles the same way they behaved in cars from well established automakers?
After a week going up and down with this JAC J3 Turin, we are able to say “yes”. The J3 Turin did not dismantle over its 90,000 km in the Alka-Seltzer tarmac Brazilian roads and streets are made of. In fact, it seemed more composed than many Brazilian built models, with no excessive noise coming from plastic parts and no tweaks from its tired body. Apart from the worn out parts, the clutch, which has failed us on a steep climb, and the driver’s rear view side mirror, which we found on the floor (we are not sure if it has detached or if someone has hit it), it felt no different from any 90,000 km car. From any brand.
Anyway, the used car market still feels otherwise. JAC’s vehicles are among the ones that depreciated more over a year, as the Brazilian magazine Exame has demonstrated in an article released in October 2015 (in Portuguese). Reliability fame is not the only thing JAC must be concerned about. The fact that its cars are imported also present a fear for customers, especially when the Brazilian government tries to make import sales increasingly difficult. Spare parts suffer from this, as well as from the depreciation of the Brazilian currency. Many Achilles’ heels to address. But at least JAC Motors demonstrates it is aware of them. Way to go, gentlemen: you have our compliments. Sorry for the rear-view mirror!