The £31,995 Ora Cat is the first car to land on UK shores
Ora’s UK sales director Toby Marshall confident of success with competitive quality and strong dealership network
The European new car market is set to enter a period of dramatic upheaval as a wave of competitive new Chinese manufacturers look to establish a foothold in the region. Among them will be Nio, Xpeng, Zeekr, Aiways and – first of the non-legacy marques to land a car in UK dealerships – Great Wall Motors, with its fashionable new Ora brand.
Toby Marshall, from UK importer International Motors (IM), is Ora’s UK sales and marketing director. At the launch of the £31,995 Funky Cat hatchback, he told Autocar how Ora will establish itself in the UK with competitive quality standards, a physical-digital retail model and an established parts and servicing network.
Why not go down the more affordable route?
“Once we saw the car and realised how high quality the interior was, and really understood the personality of it, we realised we’ve got something really quite special and therefore we can be quite targeted in the market where it’s going to be. We don’t have to play the volume game. We haven’t got to hit X volume and X market share in the UK. We can grow the share and the volume organically.”
What are your ambitions for the dealer network?
“We are hoping to take on around one retailer per month. So by the end of next year, we could have around 16 retailers.
“We are never going to have a network of 150, because I don’t think you need to in this day and age. I think people will travel to come and look and buy a car as long as they can have it serviced relatively locally, so having a hub and spoke approach is key – where our retailers have a sales and service outlet, but also service outlets elsewhere within their territories.”
Would it have been easier to just sell digitally?
“We’ve got Ora Online, which will be going live at the very beginning, so customers can choose how they want to buy a car, whether it’s through our online system or by going to one of our retailers. But we do value retailers. We know they have a part to play in this and we know that they can give expert care – both advice when people are buying a car and also aftersales care.
“That’s really key, particularly for a new brand: that they can go and touch, feel, sit in a car and speak to an expert about it – to understand how they’re going to look after them going forward.”
What do you think persuaded retailers to take on a new brand now?
“I think they can see the potential. They know that we’re not just launching one car into the UK. There will be a number of different models. Over time, they can see the potential. They can see where the brand is going. They like the look, feel, personality and quality of the cars. So they can see the long-term future in this.”
How does Ora sit with the other International Motors brands, such as Subaru and Isuzu?
“The way things work here is really healthy, because the sales and marketing teams are independent. So each brand has its own identity, its own stakeholders, its own look and feel. And that’s really important, but what we obviously can benefit from is being able to plug into the IM infrastructure. The parts warehouse is 250,000sq ft, which is enormous, and it’s in the middle of the country, with logistics already set up to deliver parts out to dealers. So that’s where it works really well: we slot into a well-oiled machine.”