CIO Grottke says Qoros can build cars cost-effectively because it has no legacy costs (Photo: Claus Dick)

HANOVER ”“ Chinese newcomer Qoros has one advantage over all other automakers: the company started five years ago from a clean sheet of paper and didn't have to deal with antiquated plants, outdated machinery, old software or a difficult product history.

"We took a greenfield approach to everything," said Qoros CIO Wolfgang Grottke. "We have no legacy issues either for the product or the company."

The five-year-old startup launched its first model, the Qoros 3 sedan, in China early this year. A second model, a hatchback that was first shown at the Geneva auto show earlier this month, will head to Chinese showrooms by mid-year.

Qoros is targeting the Chinese market first, but says it is a truly international automaker based in China. "We will definitely come to Europe, but it will take a bit of time," Grottke said in an address to the automotiveIT Congress here. "We first want to make some money in China to recoup some of our startup investment."

The major task that lays ahead for Qoros, which is run by a team of seasoned automotive executives - many of them German - is to establish the brand. "That is the main challenge," Grottke said, adding that brand-building "is more difficult than building a good car."

Qoros is targeting Chinese customers in the 25-34-year-old age group who earn good salaries. The brand is competing with a large number of better-known volume marques in the crowded Chinese market.

Qoros-3-2013-infotainment-225x300 The Qoros 3 features an infotainment package as standard (Photo: Qoros)

But the Qoros sedan has some highly competitive features. It is built using German engineering and manufacturing expertise and has already earned a 5-star rating in Europe's EuroNCAP test. The car also has as standard a big monitor and a better-than-average package of infotainment and navigation features. Grottke said this is particularly important in China's almost-always-online society.

Qoros' greenfield approach also applied to the IT domain. Grottke said he started from a clean sheet of paper when he set out to design the new company's IT landscape in mid-2010. He said his guiding principle was to keep things simple, use off-the-shelf software as much as possible, limit individual development and opt for best-in-class products.

The German IT chief opted for Dassault Systemes' Enovia V6 software for PLM, ABAT's MES Plus for manufacturing and SAP for product planning. The Qoros IT landscape at Qoros is highly integrated and fully networked with the brand's growing dealer base, Grottke said. Qoros plans to have about 100 dealers in 80 Chinese cities by the end of 2014.

Qoros is also making sure it connects to its customers using all forms of digital media. "We provide a customer journey and the first contact for customers is Facebook or the Chinese equivalent, Baidu," said Grottke. The front-end application, which can be used to book test drives, allows dealers to get all relevant data. A digital photo of a customer's driving licence is taken and the test drive can be made almost immediately.

-By Arjen Bongard