Updated: 2012-01-13 08:38
By Wang Chao (China Daily)
Developing a successful localization strategy has been a major challenge for many foreign companies after China dislodged the US as the largest auto market in the world. With a huge captive market, companies have been trying to outsmart others in trying to fathom the market demand and be the first with vehicles.
Such thinking was unimaginable a few years back as China figured on the agenda only after key markets like the US, Europe and Japan. Evidence of this was visible in Japanese automaker Toyota's global strategy for many years, which hinged on fewer models and slower reactions to government policies in China. Hampered by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Toyota was able to deliver about 900,000 cars in China last year.
But top managers from Toyota seem to have charted "major moves" in China this year.
Shinji Kitada, president of Toyota Motor (China) Investment Co, said at the 2011 Guangzhou Auto Show in November that Toyota intends to relocate its planning department to China, and last year the automaker opened an innovation center that will develop products specifically for China. The Japanese company remains confident that it will surpass the average growth rate of the market, or about 10 percent, in China this year and has set a sales target of 1 million.
GM, for its part, will continue to drive on its broad portfolio of brands to satisfy customer needs. According to Wale, GM plans to introduce more than 60 models in China between 2011 and 2015. "The Buick GL8 van, the Chevrolet Sail and the Baojun 630 are all good examples of models that were developed in China specifically for Chinese buyers. This year, we will also open our GM advanced design studio to focus on Chinese design," Wale says.
Luxury auto brand BMW is also expediting its localization. The company's BMW 5 Series Long wheelbase has been specially designed for the Chinese market, even as the range-topping BMW 535 Li and other siblings made their public debut during the 2010 Beijing Auto Show. The series features a stretched wheelbase by 14 cm, with most of the additional room in the rear passenger compartment, because typically Chinese who ride BMWs prefer to use a chauffeur. "There will be more challenges in 2012, but we will continue to enhance our localization strategy," the company says.