This is the first part of a series dedicated to the Geneva Motor Show that I was lucky enough to attend a couple of days ago. As you have come to get used to, BSCB always offers a slightly different cover of the Motor Shows we go to, in line with the site’s core subject of sales statistics and analysis. And this year I had the honour of meeting with Eric Geers, the Swedish Director of Communication for Europe of the newly launched Chinese brand Qoros. Interestingly Qoros was located in-between prestigious neighbours Rolls Royce and Maserati at the Show! The carmaker, created by Chery, unveiled the 3 Hatch and its communication was focused on the 3 Sedan’s 5 stars and Highest Overall Score at the 2013 NCAP crash tests. A very fine performance indeed that can go a long way in smashing European consumers’ perception of Chinese cars.
Qoros has been a bit of an enigma since the unveiling of the 3 Sedan in Geneva exactly one year ago. So being able to speak with Eric at the Show has brought a few answers to my many questions. Originally announced as the Chinese brand that would conquer Europe, I made “Will Chery crack Europe with the Qoros brand?” my number 1 question for 2013 and one of my Top 10 questions for 2014. Then I studied Qoros’ true potential in my Series “How the Chinese are setting themselves up for success?” which showed that only 10% of the brands sales will come from Europe. It in fact makes Qoros a Chinese brand selling European-designed models made in China to Chinese consumers thinking they are buying a European car. A tricky challenge.
So far the only sales data that has popped up is 12 units sold in Slovakia over the Full Year 2013, with China figures still to come. Which is in fact logical given Qoros sales are scheduled to start in Q2 2014 both in China and Slovakia, officially the first (and for now only) European market where Qoros models will be sold, starting with the top-spec 3 Sedan at 21,000€. Eric told me the production of Qoros 3 Sedans in the Changsu factory in China is currently 70/day, equivalent to an annual rhythm of a little more than 20,000. Not bad for a start. The annual capacity is 150,000/year for now, and that can be upped to 300,000 if need be.
Back to Europe. Qoros opened one single ‘pilot dealership’ in Bratislava, Slovakia in September 2013. Slovak sales will stem from this single dealership for now. If all goes well, the expansion plan into Europe will go to neighbouring Eastern European countries in 2015, Scandinavia in 2016 and larger markets in Western Europe not before late 2016.
Why this choice of countries? Firstly, Slovakia is a big enough market to get some sales traction (70,000 annual units) but small enough to exit without too much noise if all does not go to plan. Eastern European markets are also less ‘sophisticated’ in terms of dealer networks and make it easier for a new brand to establish itself. They are also smaller, and keen on sedans which is not the case of Western Europe anymore, and the first Qoros model to go on sale is the 3 Sedan, but Qoros introduced the 3 Hatch in Geneva this year, much more suited to Western European tastes.
Why then Scandinavia? Here again, these 3 markets revolve around a small number of big cities and therefore are more easily and rapidly covered by a small network of dealers. Plus there is the added marketing gold of ‘surviving the harsh conditions of the North’ that could help the brand further. So Qoros will need to succeed in 6 European countries before we have any chance of seeing them sold in markets like Germany, France, Italy or the UK. And these 6 countries are in order: Slovakia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Finland, Norway and Sweden.
A very prudent strategy for Qoros and Eric kept reiterating that this European launch has to be delivered careful step by careful step. Which makes it all the more exciting to follow Qoros sales in China this year but also Slovakia… What do you think? Will Qoros be a success? Would you buy a Chinese car for 21,000€? Are you surprised by the 5 stars the Qoros 3 Sedan obtained with NCAP? Let us know by commenting on here.