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China's Chery eyes Berlin for first European design studio

Chery says the M31T concept’s wide track and large wheels give the vehicle a “muscular and purposeful stance.”

Automotive News Europe
September 11, 2017 06:01 CET

Chery Automobile plans to open its first European design studio as the Chinese automaker targets Europe with a new range of electrified cars.

The company has Berlin on the shortlist of potential locations, said Chery’s executive designer James Hope, who will lead the automaker’s design operations in the region.

This is the second time Chery has asked Hope to expand its design capabilities. The former General Motors and Ford executive was hired away from GM in 2012 to set up Chery’s design center in Shanghai.

“I’m very excited to be tasked with setting up Chery design center in Europe,” Hope told Automotive News Europe. “After setting up Shanghai it’s a new challenge.”

Chery will debut the M31T at Frankfurt auto show this week. The near-production concept previews a compact SUV that will lead the automaker’s entry into the European market in the coming years, Chery said. It’s the first in a family of models that Chery intends to sell in European markets across multiple segments, the company said. The new range will include hybrid electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and battery electric vehicles.

Hope will play a key role in the automaker’s European plans because his main objective is to build up the state-owned company’s global presence. “We are the No. 1 international Chinese OEM exporter, and part of the strategic business plan to establish an international level studio to bring Chery design to the next level,” he said.

Since joining Chery five years ago, Hope has held several key positions, including serving as executive director of the 90-person Shanghai design center from 2015 until moving to Germany last month to start his current job.

Hope has moved to Germany to lead Chery’s European design operations.

Former GM and Ford executive Steve Eum has taken over over Hope’s previous position in Shanghai. Both will report to Chery’s head of product development, Raymond Bierzynski.

Since 2012, Chery’s design team has added a number of experienced executives, including former GM Europe and Mercedes-Benz designer Sergio Loureiro da Silva, who joined from Opel in 2012 and has been Chery’s head of interior design since 2014, and former Porsche and Ford designer Hakan Saracoglu, who leads advanced design.

Besides developing its own vehicles, Chery also operates joint ventures with Jaguar Land Rover and Israel Corp. in China.

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