Automotive startup Qoros Auto Company has an interesting business model. Backed with the manufacturing know how of China’s Chery corporation, and the funds of the Israel Corp. holding company, controlled by the Israeli Ofer family, Qoros is designing cars in Europe to be sold in Europe, but built in China.
Of course it’s planning to sell cars in China as well but Qoros is hoping that success in Europe will allow it to be the first Chinese car company to compete well with the Europeans in its home market. Chinese consumers, like many consumers worldwide, do not have the highest regard for the perceived quality of Chinese products. To succeed on the continent, though, Qoros is going to have to overcome the image of Chinese cars in Europe, an image tainted with some of the worst crash test results ever achieved in European testing. A 2010 Landwind CV9 minivan made by Jiangling Motors Corp. got only two stars in Euro NCAP testing. That was actually an improvement over the Landwind X6 SUV whose 2005 crash testing was described by the German lab that performed the tests as “catastrophic.” The video of those catastrophic crash tests (seen below) was widely circulated. It appears that Qoros must have done their homework because earlier this week the compact Qoros Sedan 3 earned a five-star crash test score from Euro NCAP, the highest possible score.
“The small family car showed good overall protection with high scores in all four areas of assessment and is a significant step up from previous Chinese exports,” Euro NCAP said.
Roger Malkusson, who is in charge of vehicle development for Qoros, said the score would help the auto maker distinguish itself from Chinese rivals when the Sedan 3, Qoros’ first model, goes on sale in a few weeks.
“It is important for us to show we are different,” Mr. Malkusson said in a phone interview with the Wall Street Journal. “We want to show that we are a high-quality brand…that we are really unique.”
Joining Mr. Malkussan, who came from the currently defunct Saab Automobile AB, at Qoros is Gerd Volker Hildebrand, who helped launch the Mini brand for BMW AG. They’ve hired veterans of Jaguar Land Rover and Volkswagen to fill out their executive ranks, and they’ve chosen respected European suppliers like Magna Steyr and AVL, both based in Austria, to provide components.
The Qoros Sedan 3 is being assembled at a completely new factory near the Shanghai coast and it will initially go on sale in China and in Eastern Europe before expanding into the rest of the EU. The Sedan 3 is planned to be the first of seven all new vehicles to be made by Qoros, and it is expected to be priced at around €20,000 ($26,946) in Europe.