SHANGHAI (Bloomberg) -- Chery Automobile is counting on ex-Porsche designer Hakan Saracoglu to improve the Chinese carmaker's styling.
Saracoglu, 47, who has also worked at Ford of Europe, is leading a team of 30 at Chery's Shanghai-based design center to come up with new concepts for models from sedans to SUVs.
Chery is best know for building the low-cost QQ minicar, but Saracoglu said: "Chery is not just QQ, we're going to change that. The company is redefining itself. Chery is 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 models for Tata Motors' Jaguar Land Rover in China. It also co-owns startup carmaker Qoros Auto Co. with Israel Corp.
Saracoglu started his career at Ford Motor Co.'s Cologne offices as part of the team that worked on models such as the Focus and Mondeo. The Turkish-born German national worked for 15 years at Porsche, where he helped design the exteriors for models including the 918 Spyder, Boxster and Cayman. He joined Chery as design director in October.
Chery is the latest among Chinese automakers hiring foreign designers to help boost their brand image and reverse a loss in market share to overseas automakers such as General Motors and Volkswagen.
Beijing Automotive Group hired Ferrari Daytona designer Leonardo Fioravanti as chief design officer last year. Former Volvo Car chief designer Peter Horbury joined Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. in 2011 as senior vice president in charge of design. Great Wall Motor Co., China's biggest maker of SUVs, appointed former Mercedes-Benz designer Andreas Deufel as design director in 2011.
Bill Russo, Beijing-based president of auto consultancy Synergistic, said: "Having somebody with a known profile gives you more credibility. But it's going to take a long time to really embed those capabilities."
Salaries for foreign auto engineers in China reach three times that in the United States and Europe, according to Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. 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."
Saracoglu, who has a degree in transportation design from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, said he had never visited China before being approached by Chery.