“Chery Is Not Just QQ, We’re Going To Change That”
In its latest bid to burnish an image more associated with its low-end QQ subcompact than luxury, state-owned Chinese automaker Chery has hired designer Hakan Saracoglu from Porsche AG to lead its Shanghai design center. The designer spent 15 years at Porsche, having a hand in designing the exteriors for the 918 Spyder, Boxster and Cayman, and becomes the latest high-profile hire by a Chinese automaker hoping to improve brand image amid tougher competition from international companies like Volkswagen AG and General Motors — both of which now see China as a critical market. This talent hunt by Chinese auto brands is attracting several experienced designers, with Bloomberg Businessweek noting this week that salaries for foreign auto engineers in China can be up to three times higher than in the US or Europe.
With its new hire, Chery follows domestic competitors like Beijing Automotive Group, which hired Ferrari Daytona designer Leonardo Fioravanti as chief design officer in 2012, Great Wall Motor Co., which pulled on former Mercedes-Benz designer Andreas Deufel as design director in 2011, and Geely, which nabbed former Volvo Car chief designer Peter Horbury that same year.
Via Bloomberg Businessweek:
In Shanghai, Saracoglu will lead a team of 30 to come up with new concepts for models from sedans to SUVs.
“Chery is not just QQ, we’re going to change that,” he said in a phone interview on Feb. 22. “The company is redefining itself. Chery’s standing for value, for design and gaining customer confidence. That’s where we want to go.”
Chery has a 50-50 joint venture to produce Tata Motors Ltd. (TTMT)’s Jaguar Land Rover in China. It also co-owns startup carmaker Qoros Auto Co. with Israel Corp.
Asked how much of a salary increase he was offered to leave Porsche, Saracoglu said, “I cannot comment on that. Let’s say I’m not unhappy.”
While likely a positive step for Chery, it’s unlikely that Saracoglu’s hire will suddenly boost the company into the upmarket segment. To address this, however, Chery is putting a greater focus on its Qoros joint venture, which will get its time in the international spotlight at the upcoming 2013 Geneva International Motor Show.