With Europe in its sights, Chinese carmaker Qoros creates buzz in Geneva

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 March, 2014, 2:29pm
UPDATED : Friday, 07 March, 2014, 12:41am

Chinese carmaker Qoros Automotive brought its campaign to gain global credibility to the Geneva International Motor Show this week, showing off its second production car at a stand in prime real estate - between Maserati and Rolls-Royce.

Qoros, which is leveraging its European management and design expertise and its competitive Chinese manufacturing capability, had a boost in recognition last autumn when it scored a five-star rating in a key European crash test.

Its focus now is gaining consumers' attention.

Led by former Volkswagen executive Volker Steinwascher, Qoros aims to compete against Europe's premium brands not only in China but also on their home turf.

At the moment, it is focusing on marketing and dealership openings as it brings a new car to market.

Sales chief Stefano Valenti said the market response has been positive in China, where the car went on sale late last year, but that it was too early to give numbers.

Qoros also tested the Czech market last year, selling fewer than 100 vehicles, as the first step in a plan to expand through Europe.

"Our real priority this year is quality," said Valenti. "We are deliberately going slowly."

The high rating Qoros' vehicle received in the crash test by the German car club Adac gives it credibility, said IHS Automotive analyst Tim Urquhart.

By comparison, the results of other Chinese carmakers in the same tests have been "lamentable", he said.

Still, Qoros "faces enormous challenges in terms of gaining meaningful traction and share in the European market", Urquhart said. IHS forecasts sales of 30,000 in Europe and 100,000 in China by 2017.

The brand, founded seven years ago by Chinese carmaker Chery and Israeli investment firm Israel Corp, built its own factory in Shanghai. It has big ambitions: the factory's annual capacity is 150,000 vehicles a year and can be ramped up to 300,000.