I recently laid eyes on a Foton Tunland. This, to be clear, is not a mistake. I don’t mean “Toyota Tundra” or “Proton Sunland” or something else that might make a little more sense. I mean, I was walking through a parking lot, and there, right in front of me, was a vehicle whose emblems said “FOTON TUNLAND.” This is one of the most bizarre automotive names in history.
Obviously, I photographed the Tunland, and you can see the photo above. And obviously, I’m not telling the whole story: The Tunland sighting took place in New Zealand, which is an amazingly deregulated market where virtually any vehicle can be imported, regardless of whether or not it meets any form of safety standards. Not that I’m implying the Foton Tunland is unsafe. But “Foton Tunland” doesn’t exactly sound like the kind of automobile that’s going to get a strong rating on the IIHS Small Front Overlap Test.
Anyway, by now you’re obviously wondering what the Foton Tunland is, and the answer is: a Chinese pickup truck. I saw many Chinese cars in New Zealand, including several from “Great Wall,” but the Tunland is the most interesting; it looked and acted like a normal pickup truck, even though it was named the Foton Tunland. I went home and looked it up, and I was shocked to discover that Cummins provides the powertrain, Getrag makes the transmission, Borg Warner makes the transfer case and Dana makes the axles and differentials. You get all that stuff in a cheap, small pickup? This sounds like everything Americans have ever wanted!
Unfortunately, when I tweeted out a photo of the Foton Tunland — which, by the way, is called the Foton Thunder in the Philippines — several Aussies and New Zealanders responded that it has a reputation for poor quality and ultra-budget pricing. That’s a shame, because I thought the Tunland sounded like it has potential. Or, at least, it sounded like the name of some dangerous scientific process.
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.
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