China's Chery Launches New Brand
Chinese automaker Chery Automobile Co. and partner Israel Corp. are launching a new brand, seeking fresh appeal both overseas and in the slowing local market.
The 50-50 joint venture Qoros Automotive Co., introduced Monday at Shanghai's former Expo zone, intends to be one of the first Chinese car makers to meet stringent 2013 Euro auto safety standards, the companies said.
Chery and Israel Corp., an industrial holding company, originally launched their joint venture as Chery Quantum Auto Co., in 2007. Since then, the company has kept a relatively low profile.
Qoros plans to introduce its first model, a compact sedan, in China and Western Europe in 2013, executives said.
The name Qoros was a "new word meant to represent a company that stands for quality and works together like a chorus," the companies said in a statement.
"People like brands and products they can be passionate about," Volker Steinwascher, Qoros vice chairman, said in introducing the venture.
"Quality, design, connectivity and simplicity, these are the key drivers of our brand," he said.
Israel Corp. is Israel's largest holding company, with interests mainly in chemicals, shipping and energy.
Chery, one of China's biggest independent automakers, and other domestic car makers have struggled to break through with brands of their own. Joint venture brands and foreign imports still account for about 70 percent of sales, with domestic car makers holding only 30 percent.
Chery has not yet followed through with earlier projects of its own aimed at launching sales in the U.S.
Success in markets in North America and Western Europe has also eluded the Chinese manufacturers, whose efforts have been daunted both by the lack of powerful brand names and stringent safety standards in those regions.
Qoros is aiming to meet 2013 European 5-star quality levels of the NCAP, an agency that assesses car safety.
To do so, it is working with Austria's Magna Steyr, a major independent automotive design firm, and has hired designer Gert Hildebrand, formerly of BMW Mini.
Qoros is building a factory in Changshu, an industrial city west of Shanghai, that will have an annual capacity of 150,000 vehicles, which could expand in the future to 300,000.
Steinwascher said the first "drivable" Qoros would be ready this week, with most of the testing to be carried out in China.