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. 

Further reading




Diesel is dead… very nearly


2017 Toyota Mirai review – first drive


  1. As a Ford owner I find their response to this issue incredibly short sighted. They have a capable 4×4 that is almost impossible to modify appropriately in most states because they will not classify it properly. What a waste, the Everest could be a main player for touring and off road vehicles in Australia and they shoot themselves in the foot instead, leaving the real enthusiasts to buy Toyotas, Nissans, Mitsubishis, Jeep Wranglers, and now Havals. Ford tells me that the Everest doesn’t need modification. I guess they would be happy to join me up in the High Country with a stock Everest on stock highway terrain tyres. I hope they bring a tow vehicle to get it back out of the high country.
    Stick with any of the other MC certified vehicle if you really want to use your vehicle off road.

  2. C’mon Ford.. do the right thing by all the owners. Think of the positive publicity you could generate as well as giving all Everest owners an early chrissie present

    1. Ford don;t give a shit, not now, not ever

      Just buy a Japanese 4×4 and be done with it

      Oh and Rob, you opened a can of worms with this story, well done!

  3. Great article. Totally highlights the point that #Ford have blatantly disregarded their current and future customers by saying it’s capable, so legally that doesn’t matter. I don’t intend to do major 4×4’ing, but when I moved from a ranger to the Everest, I never expected that I could not put the same off-road tyres on it.
    And really, if it’s that easy, & not a major cost, why isn’t Ford Australia listening to their customers, their future customers, & the off-road community.
    Easy fix, as NIKE always said,
    Ford, Just Do It!

    1. They are listening Mischa, and they are investigating, I’ll say that for them, but yes they are looking more than a little slow by comparison to Haval. It is noteworthy that if these issues require so much effort from the likes of Ford with its huge resources, what hope do owners have of understanding them? Really the onus needs to go back onto the authorities to sort out a clear, national-wide modification standard, and then manufacturers need to use it properly. Ford made a big false economy here, but it was borne out of the messy standards we have across Australia.

      Now, Ford should fix it, I agree! Touring offroaders want legally modified vehicles, and as much latitude as possible with the mods.

  4. Hello,

    I am again writing to Ford Australia to raise the issue of the ADR classification of my Ford Everest as MA Passenger car instead of MC off road vehicle. I was not made aware by the Ford dealership or salesperson prior to my >$60k purchase that my vehicle was not classed an off road vehicle as per ADR, yes I understand that it meets the requirements of an MC classification but isn’t classed accordingly.

    Amazingly the advertising promotes, displays and quotes the capability of the Everest as a 4×4 off-road vehicle but fails to mention it’s classification as a passenger vehicle.

    The MA classification restricts greatly my ability to setup and install modifications to enhance and utilise my Everest as an off road touring vehicle.

    My only request is that you make good on this issue and classify all Ford Everest 4×4’s as MC vehicles in ADR classification

    Adam Duffield

  5. I fall into the potential owner who is going to be turned off the Everest category.

    For me it’s time to move on from my current rig, and like all my previous 4x4s I want to add mods. Nothing war lord like, just suspension lift, size up from OEM tyres, bar etc. I have narrowed it down to the Everest and the Prado. Just as Ford says I should lol. But this whole MA MC issue just sees Ford give ground in the 4×4 tourer market to other manufacturers, as they will do in my case. I’m now off to Toyota on this reason alone. Even though to me the Everest is a better rig, more modern, comfortable etc but if I can’t add the moderate mods I want then sorry Ford.

    I also find it strange that a Chinese make who has been in the Aust market 5 mins compared to Ford, who have been here since car day dot, understands their market better then Ford.

    1. Understand totally, Hounds. Manufacturers don’t realise we buy a car, then drop a lot more coin on mods, and invest a lot of our own time, then trust it with happiness of our family when we go camping or touring. It’s not just a car, it’s a gateway to a lifestyle.

  6. OK Ford, it’s your turn to the right thing by us, the people who bought the Everest expecting it to be a real 4wd, and classified as such!

    1. Just to be clear, it is a real 4WD, it’s the categorisation that’s the issue. I think that’s what you meant, but there’s a lot of nunace in this issue. I know Ford like to conflate the issue of the car’s capabilty with its certification, but the two points are distinct.

  7. Went to Toyota dealership yesterday to look at the Prado VX after seeing this MA/MC issue with the Everest. It was top of the list now its off the list. The funny thing is that the sales person was too happy to point out how the Everest is not MC class and not a proper offroad 4×4 like the Prado. I would only assume every other 4×4 manufacturer is doing the same to potential buyers. Its not a bad vehicle, just in the wrong classification. Sorry Ford but I’m one of those who decided against buying an Everest and opted for a Prado all because of a simple vehicle classification. Imagine how many buyers Ford has lost since this classification has came to light.

    1. Yes Fox, heard quite a few stories like that. I don’t know if it’s enterprising individuals or a coordinated programme of talking points. Either way, it’s not great to give the competition a talking point, especially one like this.

  8. Robert, you say that the Haval rep suggests “we can provide a letter to concerned owners which states they are equivalent to MC, and that will be recognised by the authorities”.
    Which authorities? Have you confirmed this?

    1. That was confirmed with Haval, yes. They submitted their paperwork and it’s going through the process now. When there’s more details I’ll report back – how soon that is I don’t know as it depends on whether Haval have to do a SUTI (see article) or not. The authorities would be the state authorities who need to know what categorisation a vehicle is in.

      1. Thanks Robert.
        Obviously Haval will need to submit paperwork for the MC classification, and in doing so a SUTI may be required.
        What I’m asking is different.
        I’m asking is whether Haval has confirmed with all 8 States and Territories that, by providing a letter to a Haval H9 owner, that vehicle will be “recognised by the authorities” as an MC vehicle?

        1. The categorisation is federal, so if the feds say it’s MC, it’s MC. It’s not up to the states. Exactly how that works or what the letter says I don’t know yet, Haval are still in the paperwork processing stage.

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