Qoros, the Chinese-European-Israeli mashup car, preps for Geneva
Former employees from established European brands have joined this new Chinese automaker, which is backed by an Israeli investment group.
We'd like to write off Qoros as another Chinese automaker trying and failing to make it big. But with its chief designers, engineers and quality directors hailing from BMW, Volkswagen, Opel and Jaguar Land Rover, that means the entire industry will be paying proper attention at the world's pre-eminent auto show for upcoming, sidelined and altogether strange brands.
As such, Qoros is promising quality and safety, two items that aren't even on the short list of most Chinese automakers. No specs have been announced, but Audi has already forced Qoros to change its model name from GQ3 to 3. Somehow, GQ magazine and BMW were not irked.
Two 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engines will be available in China: a naturally aspirated unit with 126 horsepower and a turbocharged option with 156 horsepower. A 6-speed manual transmission will be standard while a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic is optional, as is automatic start-stop. An 8-inch touch-screen display will be fitted to all models.
As for looks, the 3 has a bit of Opel in its blood (no surprise) and a bit of the 2014 Kia Forte in its overall shape. But it's decently attractive.
An all-wheel-drive hybrid crossover, pictured above, will come next and combine a 1.2-liter 3-cylinder engine with a rear-mounted electric motor. A station wagon will follow, as seen below.
Unlike most Chinese brands that only export to developing markets, Qoros wants to sell these cars in Europe and the U.S. and is building a manufacturing plant capable of turning out 150,000 cars per year.
The company's management is even more diverse. Half of Qoros is owned by Israel Corp., an Israeli investment group, and the other half by Chery, a Chinese automaker fully owned by the Chinese government. Former Yugo importer Malcolm Bricklin attempted to import Chery cars into the U.S. around 2008, but no one would touch the brand, especially after General Motors complained that "Chery" sounded an awful lot like "Chevy." Last year, Chery entered a joint venture agreement to build Jaguar Land Rover models in China.
I can't speak for what a Chinese-Israeli mashup like Qoros will become, but I can say that Chery builds some of the worst cars on the planet, ranging from barely adequate to utter garbage. I drove two of them while on assignment in South Africa.
Still, as last year's Beijing Motor Show proved, Chinese automakers are catching on fast. They have zero clout in established markets, but to doubt them is to be doomed.
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