China car times
New data suggests that despite the overall weakening of the China’s economy, automobile sales remain robust.
Passenger vehicle sales rose some 18% in the month of February, beating most analysts expectations. An astonishing 1.6 million total vehicles (including buses and trucks) were delivered, with growth led by Toyota and Ford. Toyota, as with other Japanese automakers, has been desperately trying to recover since anti-Japanese fervor swept across China in 2012.
The strong automotive growth remains a bright spot in an economy that is bending under the weight of massive debt and weakening exports. Strong automobile sales are a good sign for China’s economy as the government tries to re-engineer the economy to be less dependent on investment and exports and more geared toward domestic demand. However, huge challenges lay ahead. China still has over 100 automakers, many of which do not move enough units to be economically competitive. This is further complicated by the fact that most Chinese automakers are state-owned and this prevents effective consolidation in an industry that is hopelessly fragmented. Furthermore, as more Chinese cities attempt to address choking congestion and pollution, automobile purchase restrictions could threaten the industry’s medium-term growth.
The Volvo XC60 will become the next Volvo to be produced in China via the Volvo-Geely partnership. The XC60 will become one of the northernly produced cars when it goes into production at Volvo’s new Daqing facility later this year.
Chinese media reports are also stating that the model will gain a stretched wheelbase taking it from 4644mm on the imported model to 4800mm in length on the Chinese made model.
The Chengdu made Volvo S60L has already been given the streched treatment for the Chinese market, which has brought down the cost of the vehicle and will likely improve sales over the coming months.
A year ago, Qoros Auto set out their vision to the world on an impressive Silk Road-themed stand at Geneva’s Salon de l’Auto – presenting a pre-production Qoros 3 sedan, two concept cars, and a wealth of talent and experience recruited from the European motor industry’s major players.
This year, the story is one of solid achievement, set out on an impressive two-storey stand situated in a prime patch of Palexpo real estate, between Rolls Royce and Maserati.
Vice chairman Volker Steinwascher set out the milestones proudly:
- China’s first 5 Star Euro NCAP car, the rating won cum laude, as the highest rated car tested in 2013, and the second safest of all tested in the last sixteen years.
- First customer car delivered on 31st January 2013.
- First European dealership opened in Bratislava, Slovakia.
Herr Steinwascher stressed the need to demonstrate acceptability in the European market. The plan to set up in a small Eastern European market using an independent distributor was revealed to me last year, but without specific details. We now know that the distributor is AutoBinck, headquartered in the Netherlands, but with substantial operations in Hungary, Slovenia and the Czech and SlovakRepublics. This should give a hint of how Qoros’s plan to add further Eastern European nations to the network will evolve, before an incursion into Western Europe.
The ever-genial Gert Volker Hildebrand, Qoros Head of Global Design wished his chief a happy birthday – applauded by the press conference attendees – and greeted Lorenzo Ramaciotti and Aston Martin designer Marek Reichman before introducing the Geneva debutante, the five-door 3 hatch. The new variant retains the sedan’s stocky ‘wheel at each corner stance’, oddly reminiscent to me of the original Saab 99. Herr Hildebrand spoke of the car’s “muscular bite”. It is an accomplished, if rather conservative design. The generous dimensions are clamed to provide the best interior and luggage space in its class.
It is abundantly clear that Qoros realise that it is not good enough simply to match class standards – they have to be bettered in all areas. When I spoke to Herr Hildebrand earlier, the core matter was how the interior quality was perceived. The intention is to provide a high-end experience at mainstream prices. He showed as an example the 3’s instrument display, which goes into “full blackout” when switched off. In the current BMW range, this feature only appears in the 7 Series.
Sales and Marketing director, Stefano Villanti gave his insight into Qoros’s progress in a home market which buys 16 million passenger cars per year and has a strong dominance by biggest international brands.
He described brand recognition as “tremendous”. There are four million visitors to the Qoros website each month. Dealers are “excited and confident”
Customers are typically young, 70% are first time car buyers. They are “integrated with digital life”, and the Qoros Qloud ‘digital ecosystem’ is a major attraction, offering an information, communication and entertainment interface as standard across the range which would be a 2000 Euro option on competing products.
It was a confident and enlightening presentation, with a feeling that there was a real buzz about achieving something unique, in Qoros’s own definition “an international car company headquartered in China”.
If there was a disappointment there was no teaser of things to come. The SUV shown in 2013 was not mentioned, but as it appears in Qoros’s current publicity material, we can assume it is still in the plan. I’d hoped for a hint of the rumoured Passat-sized sedan, but it was not to be, nor was there a hint as to the arrival timetable for the arrival of the new three and four cylinder direct-injection engines designed by Austrian specialists AVL.
A final quote from Stefano Villanti:
“People ask me, ‘does the world need another car company?’ My answer is ‘no, but they need a better one’”.
Quite how Qoros achieve that “betterness” will determine their success in the years ahead.
Photos supplied by Andrew Elphick
Ok, so it’s a bike, or rather an eBIQE, in Qoros-speaq.
There is a certain amount of artifice in the concept, as it’s a Qoros-reworked version of young Croatian company Greyp’s G-12 electric bicycle, and the hand-laminated carbon fibre “body”, appears to be built over a steel frame.
The Greyp connection goes deeper than a supplier relationship. G-12 design team member Adriano Mudri, heads the Qoros eBIQE project, is also an exterior designer for the company and remains Greyp’s Head of Design.
Apart from the styling, which picks up features of the cars’ design vocabulary, the Qoros contribution is a cycling-optimised adaptation of the QorosQloud “digital ecosystem”, which provides navigation and network connectivity, and monitors tyre pressures, battery charge and range.
For those of the old-fashioned “what’ll it do” mindset, I can report that in “power mode” the eBIQE is good for 65km/h, and 0-65 km/h acceleration 8.5 seconds. The 49kg machine’s 12kW output is high enough to put it over the UK threshold for a 125cc “learner legal” motorbike. Like electric cars, electric bikes – and China has 130 million of the things – are starting to get interesting.
If the eBIQE moves beyond concept stage, expect it to be very much at the top of the electric bike scale, as the Greyp G-12 costs upwards of 6000 Euros.