As brands mushroom in China’s slowing auto market, worries of a shake-out are mounting. Yet, despite the fear, more auto brands are being launched in China, and existing global brands are piling in to grab a piece of the world’s biggest auto market. The latest addition: a new brand called Qoros launched officially Monday by investment firm Israel Corp. and China’s Chery Automobile Co.
Qoros Automotive Co., a 50-50 joint venture between the two companies, is led by Chief Executive Officer Guo Qian, a Chery official, and former Volkswagen AG executive Volker Steinwascher, who serves Qoros as vice chairman. Mr. Steinwascher said in a telephone interview over the weekend that Qoros is aiming to generate annual sales of about 150,000 vehicles a year by 2015 or 2016. It plans to manufacture those cars at a plant in Changshu, a city northwest of Shanghai, and market roughly half of those vehicles in China and export the rest to Europe. The company, Mr. Steinwascher said, is currently developing three compact cars, one of which is a sedan and is expected to hit the market in China and Europe by the end of 2013. The brand’s competitive edge, according to Mr. Steinwascher: cars that have been designed by “seasoned” engineers with experience in working for companies like Volkswagen and BMW AG – and sell some “10% lower” in retail prices compared with comparable Volkswagen cars marketed in China. Qoros engines are being designed by Austrian engine-technology firm AVL List GmbH. and will be produced and supplied by Chery.
Qoros cars, Mr. Steinwascher said, “combine German design quality and craftsmanship with Japanese convenience and functionality” to appeal to “young, international-minded, urban consumers” in China. Those target consumers are “looking for quality and distinctive styling, and they’d like to be connected even when they are driving,” the Qoros executive said. As ambitious as Mr. Steinwascher and his new China auto brand may be, the field is already becoming crowded, even before Qoros’ first car hits showrooms in late 2013.