Friday, April 10, 2009

China Auto Market Getting US Attention

When news about China makes it onto one of the American network news programs, I am always interested. Though I don't watch these programs, I know a lot of Americans still do, and, right or wrong, these stories about China do a lot to shape American attitudes toward China. Judging by some of the comments on the CBS news story accompanying the video below, it only makes some Americans angry.

American automakers, however, must be loving China right now.

GM's March sales in China were 25 percent greater than a year ago. Not only has the rising tide in China's auto market lifted all boats, but Chinese car buyers look to foreign brands for quality.

The quality hierarchy in China looks something like this:
  1. Imported foreign brands
  2. Domestically assembled foreign brands
  3. Chinese brands
However, I am curious as to how the foreign brands rank in the minds of Chinese consumers. I know that my Chinese friends in the US prefer Japanese brands to American brands, hands down. Despite my insistence that American quality is just as good as Japanese, and that JD Power's rankings prove it, my Chinese friends love their Japanese cars. And despite their personal antipathy for Japan itself, their perceptions of Japanese quality remain rock-solid.

International politics aside, according to this piece from CBS News, US brands are perceived as high quality. American automakers have adapted to the Chinese market by, among other things, focusing on making the backseat passenger comfortable -- not something that gets much attention at home.

VP for Chrysler in East Asia and founder of Synergistics, Ltd., Bill Russo, and GM China President Kevin Wale comment in this video. (h/t to Synergistics for the video link)

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