Words: Keith Adams Photography: Andrew Elphick
I’m not sure how I felt when I saw just how impressive the new Qoros 3 Sedan looked at Geneva. It would seem that we’ve all been looking in the wrong direction when talking about a European invasion by China. Many of us assumed that the leading light in that charge was going to be MG. We were wrong.
It’s clearly a matter of when – not if – China becomes a force to be reckoned with outside of the safety of its own heavily-legislated car market. An Internet talking head once said of emerging industries: ‘it took Japan 20 years to catch up with Europe; Korea did it in 10; and China will do it in five.’ Okay, so it’s been more than five years since Chinese cars started trickling into Europe (remember Landwind anyone?), so we should really look at 2011 as the starting point – the date MG resumed operations under the Red Flag in Longbridge after a number of false starts.
And so far it’s been a dismal failure here in the UK. Maybe 1000 cars built in total – many unloved ex-rentals floating around in the trade; and no sales or marketing. And probably no budget either. We know that the product (MG6) is pretty good, but clearly no one in the real world has enough confidence to go out there and buy some. Or maybe they just don’t know.
Now, take Qoros – and you’ll see the parallels. And the contrasts. It’s partnered with a number of blue-chip global partners; the cars are designed by a top-flight Design Team in Europe headed up by ex-Volkswagen, SEAT, Mitsubishi and MINI man, Gert Hildebrand. The Engineering Team is like a Who’s Who of Jaguar Land Rover men, too. Like the MG6, the car is Pacific-generic (but that’s no bad thing for your first product) and it will no doubt be a good drive considering the amount of development that’s going into it. Chery isn’t trying to run before it can walk – it’s building a sensible, stylish and buyable saloon that will set the company on a good footing.
Heck, it even has some distant heritage – as it’s powered by a relative of the old Tritec 1.6-litre engine found under the bonnet of the original R50 MINI. Shades of MG6 indeed…
However, the Qoros 3 is making some headway in the industry – it’s being noticed and the PR is selling the message effectively. More importantly, it was at Geneva today, looking serious – looking like a player about to enter a long game. Not bad for a start-up company that no one outside of China had heard of this time last year… Will the company be the next Kia, Hyundai, Infiniti or Lexus? I’m fascinated to see how this one’s going to play, but saddened that it appears MG’s golden opportunity is now well and truly passed…