Smart Eyes China As Its Future Biggest Market

smart fortwo 1 photo
Photo: smart
China is currently the world’s biggest auto market as a standalone country. Sales here have been ramping up in the last couple of years only to slow down slightly in 2014 in various segments. Smart is now claiming that the Asian country will be its biggest buyer in the future.
That kind-of goes against the Chinese culture that demands to have enough space for the passengers as a sign of respect. Needless to say that such things will not apply on the new batch of smart cars as one of them has no rear seats and the other offers limited space.

Even so, smart’s CEO, Annette Winkler said in a statement that the company she runs has the capability to change the norm. Usually, Chinese customers do prefer luxurious, long, spacious cars but they can also make an exception.

Sales seem to agree with her as the compact segment has been growing at an alarming pace in recent months, keeping up the momentum unlike the premium segment.

"When we started, many people doubted that Smart could be a success here, because normally, luxury, premium cars in China is about big cars," Winkler told reporters in Shanghai on Saturday. “But during some months of this year, China has already been the top world market for Smart,” she added.

While in other countries, cars like the fortwo and forfour would be top sellers because of their low price and compact size, we’re actually reluctant to believe what Winkler is claiming at the moment.

The truth of the matter is going against cultural habits is not an easy task to do. Furthermore, in more cases than not it proved to be a losing bet, forcing manufacturers to admit defeat. In a country like China, chances are this scenario will repeat itself.

Case study: MINI

MINI has been present in China for quite some time now but not too long ago they were complaining that people consider their products as being ‘girly cars’. In this regard, they started a marketing campaign to convince possible customers that the winged badge doesn’t necessarily translate to an inferior product.

That’s yet another challenge they had to overcome as being a ‘girly car’ is seen as a bad thing in the communist country. On top of that, they also had to deal with the space factor and it wasn’t easy to overcome it. Actually, they never did.
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