New Chinese manufacturer Qoros is looking to bypass entering the European market as a budget brand and compete against mainstream rivals from launch.
The brand will launch in Eastern Europe first but a UK introduction could happen within the next four years and when it does arrive, Qoros believes it will be doing battle with Volkswagen and Ford.
Qoros (pronounced chorus) is a joint venture between China's Chery Automobile and Israel Corporation. An international team made up of 25 people based in Shanghai are running the business, with executives from Fiat, Tesla, VW and former JLR and BMW engineers, as well as ex-Mini head of design Gert Volker Hildebrand. The head of the plant in Shanghai formerly worked with BMW's factories in China.
Daniel Backman, Qoros product strategy director, spoke to AM at the Geneva Motor Show, where it launched its G3Q C-segment saloon, as well as G3Q Cross and estate concepts.
He said: “We are creating a new car company from scratch where our ambition is to make high quality cars, with European design and safety, but still tailored for the global market.
“People are waiting for this to happen, waiting for China to show that they do actually know what they’re doing.”
Backman’s current plan does not include right hand drive but an introduction to the UK is being studied. He thinks Qoros can compete with mainstream rivals with a product strategy which will focus on loading models with high-specification features as standard, rather than entering as a budget player.
Large alloys, LED front and rear lights, eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system which is linked to the internet, social networks, music and satellite navigation and rear view reversing camera are all expected to be standard features. Customers will also be able to contact their dealer to arrange a service through the touchscreen.
Initial prices for the base car in Europe will be below €20,000 (£17,255). This puts the Qoros up against a mid-range VW Golf or just below an Edge trim Ford Focus.
Backman said: “The main thing is that people recognise the quality we are offering. Chinese brands haven’t shown that to European customers yet and we will prove that the country can produce vehicles that hold up against European or other Asian competitors.
“Most smartphones are built in China and consumers are accepting of that.”
Jay Nagley, RedSpy Automotive managing director
The two big questions:
1. What is this brand for? In China, it seems Qoros will be an upmarket joint venture brand, which makes sense. In the UK's ultra-competitive, overcrowded market, we need a very good reason to look at a new brand. Infiniti shows how hard it is to get noticed, and no-one has gone straight into the mainstream market for a very long time.
2. Can you make a car in China, ship it to Europe, give a margin to an independent distributor and to dealers, and still sell it at a profit? China is not that cheap any more - for example it seems unlikely that a Qoros can arrive in the UK for less money than a Nissan can roll out of Sunderland.
This is article is an excerpt from AM's upcoming Qoros feature in the March 22 issue. More information on Qoros' strategy and a product review assesment of the G3Q can be found in the print edition.