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Geneva show: China's Qoros still on Australian radar

Plot hatched: China's Qoros formally launched its Qoros 3 hatch on the European market at the Geneva show.

Despite two year wait for right-hook cars, Ateco still eyes Chinese brand Qoros

Qoros logo6 Mar 2014

By RON HAMMERTON and TIM NICHOLSON in GENEVA

AUSTRALIAN independent importer Ateco Automotive is still interested in pursuing Chinese-built Qoros cars for Australasian distribution, despite the fact that right-hand drive production is still up to two years away.

Ateco chairman Neville Crichton said he had not ruled out putting up his hand for the Qoros range, which currently has only one production model, the mid-sized Qoros 3, in sedan and new hatchback forms, but has more on the way – including a crossover and an SUV based on the 3 platform.

Speaking at the Geneva motor show where Qoros – an international company jointly owned by Israeli and Chinese backers, including Chinese car brand Chery – formally launched the Qoros 3 hatch on the European market, Mr Crichton said no decision had been made on import rights for Australia.

However, he said that if and when right-hand production became available, he would be interested in talking to Qoros about distribution opportunities in Australia and New Zealand.

Mr Crichton already has two Chinese brands in his stable – Chery and Great Wall. The Chery relationship would seem to put Ateco in the box seat, but GoAuto understands another potential importer has also been sounding out Qoros.

Mr Crichton, who also imports Fiat Chrysler Group products into New Zealand in partnership with former Fiat Chrysler Group Australia CEO Clyde Campbell, said that unlike many Chinese vehicles, Qoros models were upmarket, and would need to be sold as such in Australia.

He said that would raise its own set of challenges – how to sell a semi-prestige car from China in Australia where Chinese brands were seen as budget brands.

For now, Qoros is concentrating on left-hand drive markets, starting in China where the cars – designed by an international team of engineers and stylists – are built, and then extending to Europe and other markets.

Qoros Auto executive director of sales, marketing and product strategy Stefano Villanti told GoAuto on the Qoros stand at Geneva that the initial focus for the brand will be on its home market and Europe before it looks to expand to other global markets.

“The first market of course is China which is our core market and we are going to Eastern Europe as a slow start and then of course extending into European markets,” her said. “The car has been developed for the Chinese market but at the same time for Europe because it is one and the same product.”

Beyond Europe and China, Mr Villanti said the Israeli-Chinese company will look at taking its single model line-up to some of the world’s developing markets.

“We are planning several other markets because we are planning the Middle East, Africa, South America, but of course in scale we are not huge so we have got to start somewhere with a certain discipline.”

Mr Villanti also confirmed that the company would “absolutely” look at setting up manufacturing operations in countries other than China if the demand for its products grows to a level that it is sustainable to do so.

“Again, its as we expand our export operation we are thinking the opportunity of producing not only in China.”

Being a start-up car-maker, Mr Villanti said Qoros was in a fortunate position in that it can take a different approach to a number of areas of the business, including the dealer network and servicing.

“We have the opportunity of deciding. I think its a rare opportunity. In China, we are going with a traditional (dealer) model. The first objective is to build a solid service network.

“It’s not traditional because we give exclusivity to dealers so basically we can give the flexibility of the model. For example, the service booking is becoming a feature we can implement very easily with this kind of model. In other markets it will depend,” he said.

Mr Villanti confirmed to GoAuto the next phase of its model roll-out but would not go into detail about the models other than to say they will all share a platform.

“Our next model will be announced at the end of this year will be a cross, and then there will be an SUV.

“They are all based to a certain degree on the same model line. When we designed the platform we talked about a full line-up of models on it. That gave us the possibility of starting in a flexible way,” he said

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