Exclusive to Left-Lane.com, I can now publish official European sales figures of Chinese-Israeli brand Qoros, which started sales in 2014 in its test market Slovakia with the compact Qoros 3 sedan. With just a single dealership in Bratislava, the brand has sold 51 units in its first year of sales. This may sound very modest, and indeed it is, but Qoros doesn’t consider sales volume a priority for at least a few more years, as the brand first wants to learn to understand the European market and gain experience in selling cars here. Considering the mixed fortunes of previous attempts by Chinese brands to crack the continent (remember the Euro-NCAP failure of Brilliance? Or have you ever heard of Landwind?), that sounds like a wise and well-thought-out strategy.
But while other Chinese brands may have been too ambitious, Qoros risks being too modest with their targets. 51 units still leave them a long way from cracking the European car market and also from their long-term target of achieving 10% of its worldwide sales in Europe. The brand should be careful not to be too slow to hit the market full-blast, as it needs to take full advantage of the modern technology and design that it spent hundreds of millions on. In a fast-paced environment in which technology advances at lightning speed, the 3 sedan (and upcoming hatchback and SUV) risk becoming old-fashioned and outdated within a few years time. As the brand has already taken on huge debt in their development, it will be difficult to continue investment into a new generation if the turnover isn’t high enough. Besides that, any brand that wants to become successful in any market needs to be fully committed to it. As long as Qoros remains in test-mode instead of continent-conquering mode, it’ll be hard-pressed to reach more than a few hundred sales.
The brand’s future depends mostly on achieving a foothold in the huge Chinese market, where successful manufacturers have the potential of huge volumes, which could support an expensive entry into Europe. But being an all-new brand, Qoros hasn’t yet achieved such a volume threshold. On the contrary, the brand so far has underperformed on its own expectations and Europe is important for Qoros to gain credibility in its home market.Its European design and engineering are supposed to give the Qoros brand more cachet and place it above other domestic brands and below true import brands in the customers’ minds. However, Chinese consumers can be qualified in two categories: 1) domestic brand buyers who want maximum value for money, or 2) import-brand buyers who want maximum brand status for their money. Trying to fill a gap in-between as an all-new, unknown brand is difficult, even when offering European design and technology. The idea of showing off their presence in Europe may give Qoros some credibility, but that only works if the brand becomes a challenger of established brands and not if it remains an invisible niche player in no more than a handful of countries.
So it’s a matter of what came first: the chicken or the egg? Success in Europe or success in China?
Qoros’ European operations are professional and well-organized, and you can’t say they don’t possess a certain level of ambition. I genuinely hope they can pull it off and become an playbook example for other Chinese brands on how to tackle Europe. It would shake up the market and make things much more interesting.