Keeping it simple is the new premium, says Qoros

Keeping it simple is the new premium, says Qoros

The success of Qoros depends on it utilising the advantages of being a small, niche manufacturer

I nipped over to Shanghai last week (spending less than 48 hours on the ground) to attend a big technical and branding exposition for Qoros, the new Chinese-Israeli start-up brand.

It’s a fascinating company and I reckon Qoros could become a case study in future on how to make money from selling cars mass-market cars. The company has developed an all-new platform and a new range of engines, has a shiny new factory and is on the verge of launching a smart new (Volkswagen Jetta-sized) ’3′ saloon, with a hatchback, crossover and SUV on the way. In China, the cars will be priced at “15 per cent less than a Jetta, with 15 per cent more equipment by value”.

Chairman Guo Qian assured me that Qoros’s owners – Chinese car maker Chery and investment fund Israeli Corporation – have so far spent just over £500 million. For established car makers, that sort of money might buy you a heavy makeover of an existing model. Sounds impossible, doesn’t it?

Well, the Qoros venture has a number of advantages. The company was born in 2007 with just a handful of employees. Qoros then hired experienced operatives from the European car industry to guide engineering work that was farmed out to consultancies. They include Klaus Schmidt, an ex-BMW M division boss who is in charge of powertrains and suspension; Roger Malksusson, formerly of Saab, who led on safety design, and design boss Gert Hildebrand, who joined Qoros straight from a decade reinventing Mini at BMW.

The platform was engineered to Qoros demands by Magna in Austria and many of the components have been bought off the the shelf from Tier 1 suppliers – a technique the post-GM Saab was using to develop the ill-fated Phoenix platform. True, Qoros had the advantage of using Chevrolet engines as the base for a major re-engineering by AVL of Austria – rather cheaper than buying in units from an existing engine maker.

Qoros’s approach with its new models is also to keep things simple, making a good-quality car without going overboard on expensive materials and trim. The styling of the 3 family is subtle and carefully honed and shouldn’t date. The interior is also VW-simple and is dominated by a large touchscreen that is 3G-connected at Qoros’s expense and is designed to be used with owners’ smartphones.

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