Can Qoros Make A Difference Outside The Walls Of China?



I know of no sober industry executive who fears a Chinese entry into the US.

Qoros is a venture between the Israeli Israel Corp. and state-owned Chinese company Chery. Chery, up to now, has been known mostly for "appropriating" western designs and having an ill-fated, ridiculous and half-baked venture with Malcolm Bricklin to bring Chery vehicles to the United States a few years ago. Bricklin was an original distributor of Subaru and Yugo in the US. The only people to find any success in that venture were the lawyers.

But what gets my attention now with Qoros is that the company seems to be addressing the cultural mistakes and barriers that have bedeviled every other Chinese automaker with aspirations to be successful beyond China. It is using non-Chinese executives – people with legitimate experience in the Western auto industry – in the areas of design, engineering and distribution.

Heretofore, I have been bored silly watching Chinese automakers like Chery, Great Wall and BYD either come to the Detroit Auto Show with a car, or strike some preposterous distribution deal with the hacks and ne'er-do-wells of the western auto retailing space. It's been all for naught. These cars and ventures have been so inept and awful that I know of no sober industry executive who fears a Chinese entry into the US.

Most of these people have no business being out front in a venture to bring Chinese cars to Western markets.

It's worth noting that Chinese automaker Geely is the current owner of Volvo Cars, but the company has not been so silly as to try to sell its own vehicles under its brand name in the US. It remains to be seen if Chery's stewardship of Volvo allows the company to grow in the West.

Typical of the attempts of the Chinese to enter the West is when BYD came to Detroit a few years ago after basking in the public-relations glow of an investment made in the company by Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway. When I asked to speak to someone who could answer some questions, I was handed the business card of a guy with a Chinese cell-phone number. It was handed to me by someone pretending to be in "media relations" whose qualifications were that she had worked in customer service for an airline (presumably handling calls from Chinese travelers), and most of all that she was Chinese.

I'm sure that these are nice people, but they have no business being out front in a venture to bring Chinese cars to Western markets. There are few things more difficult in business than opening up a new market for a brand of automobiles. Perhaps Qoros has heard and seen the refrain of these complaints and botched efforts to get our attention, and decided the tribal approach to executive talent recruiting and human resources is a recipe for failure.

Stefano Villanti, most visible executive at Qoros who is head of marketing, sales and product strategy, though, has something to prove on a world stage. His experience comes from consulting giant McKinsey, a helicopter company and Procter and Gamble. There are some people from BMW and Volkswagen in the ranks, but he's not one of them.

Who is going to pass up a VW Golf or Jetta similarly priced for a Qoros?

According to Ad Age, the company, whose headquarters are in Shanghai, has signed up BBH China to help it crack the Eastern European market, to be followed by Western Europe. BBH is part of ad agency giant Publicis, and has done outstanding work for Audi among other brands.

"Someone has to be a game-changer, and maybe Qoros has the opportunity once and for all to change the perception of quality for 'Made in China,'" Arto Hampartsoumian, CEO of BBH China told Ad Age. "Something so visible as a car, if it does live up to the expectation ... then they will be able to change perceptions on a bigger scale." The company's ad slogan is "A New Drive."

That is the slogan that will usher the Qoros 3 sedan (how did they ever think of calling it that?) when it cracks into Eastern Europe at the end of this year. The price tag will be between $21,000 and $29,000. A hatchback will head into Western Europe in 2014.

These ventures look good on paper, but are heavy lifts. The first wave of customers are likely to be those with awful credit ratings. Who else would pass up a VW Golf or Jetta similarly priced for a Qoros?

But at least I'm going to bet that the Qoros business executives responsible for the launch, public relations, distribution, etc. will he handing out business cards with reachable cell-phone numbers and e-mail addresses for those people in Poland and Russia who have questions. That's a start.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 55 Comments
      ZOZ
      • 1 Year Ago
      Here's what's gonna happen in the US: walmart will start bring some Chinese cars and sell them (may be not completely assembled) under the btand "Great Value", and in a few years it'll outsell Toyota, Honda & GMl this is the way American taste works.
      reattadudes
      • 1 Year Ago
      I wouldn't be too complacent. when I was a kid, seeing "made in Japan" on anything meant it was going to immediately fall apart. I have some old Consumer Reports from the early 70s, and they always trashed Japanese cars, too. fast forward to 1986. Hyundai started to sell cars in the US, and they sold like hotcakes for the first three years. we laughed off Korean cars...and where is Hyundai today? China is a whole different animal. the Chinese government will not allow foreign automobile companies to build cars there without a Chinese partner. one would have to be an idiot to think that the Chinese aren't taking note of everything.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @reattadudes
        [blocked]
        The_Zachalope
        • 1 Year Ago
        @reattadudes
        However, in the case of Hyundai, look how long it took them to reach where they are today in the US market. It wasn't until around '05 when they got their act together (building good looking, reliable, and quality cars) where they weren't looked as an econobox maker, but an actual contender on the playing field.
          Scr
          • 1 Year Ago
          @The_Zachalope
          I\'d go earlier than that for their transition, around 1999 to 2000 to be exact. That year, the new Sonata hit the US shores and started to sell pretty well. They were also very reliable, and by the time facelifted model arrived in 2005, their reputation was rebuit enough that the Sonata became a major alternative to Camry and Accord and were better in many respects to what the domestic manufatcurers were trying to peddle. In 2001, the third generation Elantra also came into the US and sold like hotcakes and really cemented Hyundai\'s new reputation for reliable and affordable cars which the Japanese automakers used to have a stranglehold on. You still see them all over the place. I had a 2001.5 GT and absolutely loved the car...I still miss it.
          reattadudes
          • 1 Year Ago
          @The_Zachalope
          first, it was the Accent in 2000. 2002 was the big year, with introduction of the newly redesigned Sonata and Elantra, and the brand new Santa Fe. the XG300 followed, as well as the redesigned Tiburon. a good friend of mine was the general manager of a large Hyundai dealer in the Phoenix area. in 2002, it was like they flipped a switch, and the cars started flying out the door. I've been in the car business my entire life, and to this day I've never seen a turnaround like this. what amazed me most was the number of new Hyundai owners who sent friends and family in to get one, too. and a question to all the Japanese auto manufacturers: why don't you offer satellite radio on anything but your most expensive models? Hyundai (and Kia) offer it as standard on ALL models.
      Rob
      • 1 Year Ago
      Well everyone laughed at Toyota, Honda and Hyundai at first. It won\'t happen overnight but in about 10 to 15 years they could possibly be tough competition in the global market
      ThomasP
      • 1 Year Ago
      FYI you guys spell it "Quoros" several times throughout the article (including the pull-quote)
        Al Terego
        • 1 Year Ago
        @ThomasP
        Look again at the main picture accompanying the article.
      Mr. BaderĀ®
      • 1 Year Ago
      Loool good luck selling it in the Middle East
      Avinash Machado
      • 1 Year Ago
      They need to have seriously low pricing to compete.
      anon
      • 1 Year Ago
      Qoros, strange name and I\'m sure lotsa folks will be resistant to buy a car from an authoritariian communist repressive country. I\'d be divided on that. seem like the kinda quote from Kruschev comes true \'we will bury the west\' and they\'ll do it with their cars.
      T-Mille
      • 1 Year Ago
      We cannot be too arrogant. It happened with the Japanese, and again with the Koreans. It WILL happen with the Chinese. How well we can learn from history will determine how well our industry survives.
      Andy Smith
      • 1 Year Ago
      I seem to remember in the '60's everyone laughing at Toyota, Datsun and Honda too. The laughter promptly stopped, - just in time to catch a few breath's before the mass hilarity at Korea's offering. Well take another breath, - the Chinese are coming.
      montiem2
      • 1 Year Ago
      $21k for a little hatchback? Why would anyone buy that when you could buy a Civic, Focus, Cruze, Dart, Elantra, Rio, Corolla, Jetta, or any other car for less? Or buy a couple year old car with more features.
        BC
        • 1 Year Ago
        @montiem2
        Have you priced cars in Europe lately?
        SatinSheetMetal
        • 1 Year Ago
        @montiem2
        Golf seems to do pretty well for itself, considering it's the best selling car in the world.
      jasondonogh
      • 1 Year Ago
      Hold on now. We doubted Hyundai in the 80's, Kia in the 90's and I will not mention Daewoo. I think this could hold bearing in about ten years or so. Yeah, Yogu was not so great but a newcomer could be fair.
        FuelToTheFire
        • 1 Year Ago
        @jasondonogh
        Hyundai and Kia are still junk. My brother's experience with a 2010 Kia Forte, which had to be lemoned, proves that. They have always been at the bottom of the heap in terms of build quality, reliability,durability. Their handling and steering is even number than Toyota's and the only reason they sell at all is because of people shopping for the cheapest car possible. Also, their sales have been increasing as of late, mostly because of their flashy designs, which are little more than Chinese ripoffs of BMWs and Mercs.
      • 1 Year Ago
      [blocked]
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