China may be the world’s largest automotive market but when it comes to building vehicles for export it’s more on the par with, say, Turkey. Despite repeated announcements, only a handful of Chinese makers have so far been able to go global, and usually just in select markets, such as Brazil.
But that could soon change. The all-new Chinese brand Qoros plans to make its debut at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show where it will launch not only a new sedan, the Qoros 3, but also two concept studies that it promises will be part of a “rapid expansion of the model range.”
To make sure it isn’t dismissed lightly, an advance release highlights the fact that the new Chinese maker is tapping a global brain trust of “internationally renowned suppliers such as Magna Steyr, TRW, Continental, Bosch, Getrag, Benteler, Lear, Microsoft, Harman, Neusoft-Alpine and Iconmobile.”
Qoros has released a number of images showing the new 3 sedan, its two concepts, and some of the technology it hopes will get it taken seriously – including an 8-inch capacitive touchscreen infotainment system that it says will be standard on its new model.
After more than two years of development, Qoros claims it is entering the “pre-production development phase,” with a product launch in China scheduled “for the second half of 2013, with first European sales following later in the year,” according to the company’s statement.
The new maker is by no means the first Chinese brand to promise a global roll-out – though so far, they’ve had trouble cracking into critical markets like Europe and, in particular, the United States. And it’s a question mark how quickly, or how successfully, Qoros will be able to achieve its goals.
“I’d have to say I’m from Missouri. It’s not just the cosmetics. It depends on the execution,” cautions veteran automotive analyst Dave Cole, chairman-emeritus of the Center for Automotive Research. The Chinese, he cautions, “have lots of smart people but have been short of know-how. But they’re gaining expertise fast…and anybody who doesn’t take them seriously is making a mistake.”
The Qoros 3 sedan has a distinctive style. The maker appears intent on avoiding the common mistake of other automotive wannabes who lift the design cues of more established manufacturers, a particularly common approach in China where Ford recently was able to block the production of a virtual clone of its ever-popular F-Series pickups.
The new Qoros 3 will fall into the compact category, at 181 inches in length and 72.4 inches in width measuring roughly the same size as a Chevrolet Cruze or Toyota Corolla. The design itself is meant to give the compact 4-door a somewhere up-market look, something further enhanced by the clean interior layout with its central 8-inch display.
There will be two engines, including a base 1.6-liter inline-four making 126 horsepower and 11 pound-feet of torque. The Qoros 3 also will launch with a turbocharged version of that engine boosting output to 156 hp and 154 lb-ft. The maker says it has two other turbocharged direct-injection engines in the works. One surprise was the lack of any mention of a diesel, something that could limit demand in a market where that high-mileage technology currently accounts for nearly half of all motor vehicle sales.
Looking ahead, the maker promises that, “The launch of further Qoros models is then planned at intervals of approximately six months.”
Among the products it hints could follow are the Qoros 3 Cross Hybrid Concept. It would use a mild gas-electric system that appears to be similar to Honda’s original Integrated Motor Assist system.
Also planned for a Geneva debut will be the Qoros 3 Estate Concept – a wagon in U.S. terms – though this model would almost certainly not make it over to our side of the Pacific.
“Using the same platform and distinctive clean, elegant styling of the Qoros 3 Sedan, it features a sympathetically elongated roofline and a large tailgate. The signature horizontal styling themes emphasize the long body profile and the large side windows give the five-door estate body an athletically-pleasing, stretched look,” suggests the release.
Qoros also hints that it has adopted a flexible modular design approach that could allow it to use the basic platform underpinning the 3 sedan for a variety of additional products larger and possibly smaller.