Qoros recruits top safety experts to create five-star car
Andy Piper (right) was one of a handful of experienced car people recruited by Qoros in early 2010. The company was hiring engineers and execs from established manufacturers, putting together a team that could develop a Golf-class car that could sell and compete internationally. As chief engineer for safety and homologation, Piper was responsible for making sure that the Qoros 3 could compete in Europe and worldwide.
“We never really considered it a Chinese project,” says Piper. “From the outset it was an international car.”
As a brand new company, the team had a completely blank sheet of paper. Daunting for some, perhaps, but it also unburdened them of many of the normal constraints. No out-of-date legacy platforms, no carryover systems. “It’s what set us up for success,” says Piper. “We had all been through the process of developing a vehicle many times. We knew what it takes to achieve great performance in all our areas. At Qoros we were free to implement our ideas from the start.”
“Building a structure that produces a great crash pulse is what allows the seatbelts and airbags to work together better”Andy Piper, chief engineer for safety and homologation
The result is a vehicle platform Qoros calls CF1x. All-new and developed to achieve the optimum in performance, mass and robustness. The platform will be the basis for a complete range of vehicles over the next years. The Qoros 3 is the first.
Getting the safety right is critical to the brand’s international reception. New brands don’t get second chances. A lot of effort went into the vehicle’s basic architecture.
“We were really obsessed with the crash pulse in the early phases,” said Piper. “Building a structure that produces a great crash pulse is what allows the seatbelts and airbags to work together better. We made sure the platform could house the structural members needed to withstand the crash tests’ high loads. We also ensured there’s enough space for the controlled deformation needed to reduce the crash pulse.”
To engineer the seatbelts and airbags systems, Qoros recruited Chinese talent. It hired engineers with a minimum of eight years experience. The company also brought in four more engineers from Europe.
Mark Bates, senior manager for vehicle safety at Qoros was one of them. He had developed the side impact protection systems that made Saab the first manufacturer to achieve maximum points for side impact in the Euro NCAP assessment.
“When I heard how Qoros was doing things, I wanted to be involved straight away,” says Bates. “I joined in mid-2011 and the right ingredients were already there. Initial testing showed we had the makings of a five-star car with performance that could match other international car makers.”
“We were determined to show that you can have class-leading pedestrian protection without compromising on styling or adding complex pop-up hoods or pedestrian airbags.”Mark Bates, senior manager for vehicle safety
The attention to detail is most obvious when you look at the Qoros 3′s pedestrian protection. Scoring 77% in Euro NCAP’s assessment, only the Volvo V40, using a pedestrian airbag, has scored higher. It’s a sign that Qoros didn’t just want a five-star safety rating: they had a point to prove.
“We were determined to show that you can have class-leading pedestrian protection without compromising on styling or adding complex pop-up hoods or pedestrian airbags.”
A lot of care went into making sure that everything can deform in harmony should an adult’s head make contact with the lower windscreen area. Protecting the upper legs in an impact was a challenge involving a lot of close work with the styling and the aerodynamics teams. The designers want something bold, the aero guys want something smooth with big vents for cooling safety wants a low leading edge with lots of crush space.
“It took many, many iterations, but in the end the result is fantastic,” says Bates. “Good marks for pedestrian protection, a low drag factor of Cd0.28 and a great looking front end.”
People can judge the styling for themselves, but on safety Euro NCAP’s tests are the final word. For Qoros, in just four years, to build a company which designs, develops and produces vehicles that measure up to Volvo, Volkswagen and Mercedes in terms of crash protection is a huge achievement.
The team says in time that Qoros will launch an entire range of vehicles that deliver safety performance to match the best international brands. They are also already preparing for the forthcoming EuroNCAP changes, which will require crash avoidance technologies on board.
Qoros sounds competitive. At less than 20,000 Euros, the Qoros 3 should find buyers. Now might be a good time for the established brands to take another look at their safety and pricing strategies.
Read our review of the Qoros 3′s performance in Euro NCAP’s assessment