Haval recategorise the H9 from MA to MC… will Jeep and Ford follow its lead?
Haval lead the way by recategorising the H9 4X4 from MA to MC… Will Ford and Jeep follow its lead with Everest and Grand Cherokee?
EVERY VEHICLE IN AUSTRALIA is categorised by the federal government according to its function, and the two most common for private light vehicles are MA for road-based passenger cars, and MC for offroad passenger vehicles. Utes are in the N category, with light utes in NA, so this story doesn’t apply to them.
The problem for offroaders is that several 4X4s have been categorised as MA, when they really should be MC, for example:
- Ford Everest (4X4 versions);
- Jeep Grand Cherokee (2015 onwards);
- Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk (the offroad-oriented version of the Cherokee); and
- HAVAL H9.
We have fully explained the differences between MA and MC in this post which includes a list of MC vehicles, but in brief; each state and territory has a unique set of vehicle modification rules, and most differentiate between MA and MC, allowing more latitude for modifying MC.
For example, Victoria permits a 75mm lift (50mm tyre diameter so 25mm lift plus 50mm suspension) for MC, but not MA. NSW has just introduced the same law, but doesn’t restrict it to MC. Queensland restricts tyre choices for MC, and so it goes on. Yes, laws are different from state to state because Australia can’t agree on the same laws for the same problem.
In short, however, those that are saying there is no difference in modification permissions between MA and MC are wrong.
Some may say the modifications allowed for MA are sufficient, and for some owners that will be the case, but certainly not for all. There is also the future to consider, as who knows how the regulations may change. And there is also an opinion, notably from Ford, that vehicles do not need to be modified to go offroad – not a view that has been particularly well received by the offroad touring community. Nor is it true that owners are looking to turn their vehicles into mini monster trucks – they just want decent tyres and offroad-suitable suspension, the two modifications all experts agree stock 4X4s need if you’re to do serious offroading.
There’s other implications too. An MA vehicle is specifically described in the ADRs as:
4.3.1 PASSENGER CAR (MA) A passenger vehicle, not being an off-road passenger vehicle or a forward-control passenger vehicle, having up to 9 seating positions, including that of the driver.
(our bold) which starts to raise interesting questions about warranty when used offroad. To their credit, Ford have repeatedly stated they will honour Everest warranty when used offroad – whereas Jeep have been silent on the matter.
Then there’s insurance. Most insurers do not differentiate between MA and MC so both are covered provided that you have declared all the modifications and your use of the vehicle. However, the other aspect is legal modifications; all insurers require your vehicle to be road-legal, and as above, the range of modifications is greater for MC than MA.
So, the summary is that all 4X4s designed as offroad vehicles should be MC categorised, just like the ADR description says, because that’s just easier for owners who drive offroad and therefore are likely to modify their cars, specifically with larger offroad tyres and lifted suspension.
Of course, if you just want to slap on mods with no thought about legality this doesn’t apply, but owners of new 4X4s generally like their cars to be road-legal.
So, why did Ford, HAVAL and Jeep go for MA? Looks like it was purely a cost-saving measure. They all intended to, or have at some point released 2WD versions of their vehicles and it’s easier and cheaper to do one of set of paperwork for MA than split out 4X2 and 4X4 versions. At least Isuzu did it right for its 4X2 and 4X4 versions of the MU-X. So in other words, Ford and Jeep decided to save a bit of cash and never mind about the grief for the owners who wanted to use the vehicles as a touring 4X4.
Of course, everybody makes mistakes – it’s what you do next that’s important. HAVAL looked at the situation, and decided to change the H9 from MA to MC. Andrew Ellis, HAVAL communications manager, told us today that: “The H9 is a proper 4X4, it’s what we made it for and market it as, it’s got everything needed such as low range, and it’s fit for purpose so we wanted the categorisation to reflect that”.
Given the fact that neither Jeep nor Ford have recategorised their vehicles, we wondered if it was a major exercise and huge cost. It’s actually not. “[It] Wasn’t that difficult”, Ellis said. “We just had to re-submit the paperwork. It’s possible they may ask for another SUTI [ Single Uniform Type Inspection, an engineering check of the vehicle], but that’s not an issue”. And was it costly? “No, our engineering consultancy is on retainer to us anyway so cost wasn’t really a factor.”
It doesn’t seem like there was much internal debate about it either, with Ellis saying “[the Australian operation] received enthusiastic support from head office when we told them what we were doing”.
So once that’s done, and it should be complete in the next few weeks as the process is under way, all new H9s will be MC-categorised. But what about existing owners? Ellis answered: “We can’t re-plate cars that have already been sold, but we can provide a letter to concerned owners which states they are equivalent to MC, and that will be recognised by the authorities”. Note that’s recognised by, not just functionally equivalent to. Ford has pushed the line that the Everest meets the MC technical definition, but that’s not the point – it’s got to be formally recognised as such.
So there you have it. If HAVAL can react this quickly and for such little cost, why can’t Ford and Jeep? Seems to us that they’d rather spend time and money arguing their case than sending in some paperwork…doesn’t make a lot of sense, but we’re not vehicle marketers. If this issue cost huge amounts of money to fix we’d understand, but why not just follow HAVAL’s lead and clear it up once and for all?
Jeep’s position is particularly surprising. They sell a lot more vehicles than HAVAL, have a proud offroad heritage they never miss a chance to brag about, and have not one but two models in the mix… and they have stated they’re trying to repair their reputation. We asked a while back if the forthcoming Grand Cherokee Trailhawk would be MA or MC, but are still awaiting a response. Their latest statement on the matter is the only one we’ve had, which is:
“Firstly, the benefit which used to exist for off-road (MC) category vehicles was a lower duty rate for parts on an MC category vehicle – this no longer exists.
“Secondly, the requirement to have 4WD would automatically eliminate the Laredo 4×2, meaning we would need to certify the Grand Cherokee as two approvals (one MA and one MC category). Given there is no longer any advantage to certify as an MC category vehicle and the applicable ADRs for a vehicle of this type are largely identical, it does not make any sense to certify the one model under two vehicle categories.
“The same applies to Cherokee Trailhawk and Renegade Trailhawk variants.”
We called Jeep today to ask if they had anything to add on the MA/MC story, and spokesman Glenn Butler confirmed there was “nothing more to add” beyond the statement above.
Now for Ford. If the comments on social media are to be believed they’ve lost sales because of this, and certainly the Everest’s nameplate is now sullied regardless of the nuances because the perception is there – rightly – that the Everest has some sort of compliance issue. It’s a real shame, because as Ford like to point out – and nobody disagrees – the Everest is a fine 4X4 and its abilities have never been questioned. Indeed, if it weren’t so good people wouldn’t be trying to set it up for offroading, and this question would not have arisen.
However, we do know that Ford has investigated this matter in depth over the last several weeks, and their current position is that they “have no plans to recategorise the Everest at this stage”. We can speculate that that means they aren’t ruling it out. Given there are a sizeable number of upset owners, and competitor salespeople are very happily exploiting the issue, then perhaps a change may be on the cards, but that’s our speculation. Ford at least are engaging with customers and explaining their position, whereas we’ve not seen that sort of customer contact from Jeep.
So good on HAVAL for doing the right thing, and it’s a public mark of their confidence in their product that they took this step. Certainly when we took the H9 offroad over some pretty difficult terrain the car was impressive, and with emissions standards ever-tightening it might look like they’ve made the right long-term bet with their cars being petrol only.
And if HAVAL continue to respond to customer perception and demand in ways that make the likes of the heavyweights look clumsy, slow and tone-deaf, then their future looks bright. We need more customer-focused manufacturers that understand the 4X4 market, not fewer.
- HAVAL H9 offroad test
- The MC Watch – offroad categorised vehicles in Australia
- Suspension law changes in NSW
- Legal suspension lifts might now be easier
- Where can I legally mount my lightbars?
- All you need to know about choosing a tyre
- Watchlist – live axled and manual 4X4s on sale in Australia