A new generation of Chinese automotive manufacturers is moving onto the global automotive market grid. Some – like Qoros Auto – are being established as greenfields operations. Unencumbered by legacy plant and equipment, they are installing the latest and best in manufacturing technology.
One of the suppliers is Geico, which three years ago turned its focus towards penetrating the Chinese automotive market. A leader in the field of paintshop design, the firm analyzes both the painting process and the paint shop as an integrated system. Geico’s focus on China paid off, and within a short space of time, the company had formed a partnership with Qoros Auto Company – a new automotive manufacturer formed through a 50:50 joint venture between Chery Automobile and Israel Corporation. Headquartered in Shanghai, Qoros currently has an annual capacity of 200,000 cars.
This will increase to 350,000 units over the next two years according to a former Volkswagen executive Volker Steinwascher, who serves Qoros as vice chairman, the company is currently developing three compact vehicles. The brand is expected to hit the market in 2013 in China and Western Europe. Qoros engines are being designed by Chery, optimized by AVL in Austria, built and delivered by Chery. According to Qoros Auto, the new fully automated paintshop in Changshu, designed by Geico, is one of the most modern in the world, with 33% saving of energy consumption and CO2 emissions. Many of Geico’s eco-friendly solutions were developed together with its customers, amongst which, J-Flex (rotating dipping system) and Dryspin (dry scrubber) are used at Qoros plant.
Automotive Industries (AI) spoke to Friedrich Major, Executive Director of Manufacturing & Logistics at Qoros, and asked him what makes the newly installed paintshop one of the most modern in China.
Major: As a new auto company it was mandatory for us to launch state of the art equipment which is highly energy efficient and environmentally friendly. These requirements were made clear to all suppliers during the planning stages of the new plant. Out of the existing paint shop suppliers we chose Geico due to their willingness to cooperate closely with us and to aggressively work towards our cost target. Technology wise, Geico proved their innovative capability and showcased new technologies in their Pardis Innovation Center.
Within our new paint shop, we feature several new technologies in a combination which – to the best of our knowledge – is unknown in China so far. As state of the art requires, we run waterborne instead of solvent borne. We operate the J-FLEX technology from Geico, which rotates the vehicle body in the PT/ED bath. The avoidance of primer allows for a compact process using less space and energy. Geico’s dry scrubber solution Dryspin, a powder-based eliminator, cleans the waste air instead of using water, which gives us another advantage.
AI: What influenced you most in the choice of Geico as Qoros’s partner?
Major: Although Qoros was a new company with no sourcing history, under Volker Steinwascher’s leadership we assembled a highly experienced team of international executives mainly from the European and North American car industry. This team knew what criteria to use in order to get the best package for our needs. We went into the market with an open request for proposal (RFP) and a clear statement of our target cost. Our requirement for the three paint shop applicants was to deliver a concept that would be innovative, efficient and environmentally friendly as well as fall within the cost target we set.
Geico met our expectations best, especially the balance of innovation, efficiency and cost. After working together during the proposal phase, both parties developed a significant trust base to contract the project, although the final price was only adjusted after a detailed engineering phase. Beside these specifics, the total cost of ownership was a clear deciding factor including potential cost of expansion, maintenance, running cost, as well as training and education of the workforce.
AI: What makes a Qoros car a green car?
Major: From the production side, we emphasize energy efficiency through the smart use of natural resources such as water and gas. An important contributor to the green character is the paint shop with all the measures already mentioned. On the waste management side, we collect centrally and recycle on site. We have also created a comfortable, environmentally friendly environment with trees and flowers outside the plant, and a central canteen to satisfy the workforce needs. When it comes to heating and cooling the workshops, we went for compromise in favor of energy efficiency – we use the steam from a nearby power plant for heating up our water.
AI: What are the parts of the Qoros plant that impact most on energy saving?
Major: Clearly the paint shop, as already mentioned, but also the utility center which provides the plant with all necessary media.