Geoffroy de la Bourdonnaye of ChloĂ© believes the mainland Chinese market is moving toward more understated luxury.
I believe there’ll always be a mixture. The understated buyer is emerging probably because of saturation by more extrovert brandsâand often, buyers want to get something different, rather than conform.
And the top-end luxury brands have probably been devalued in any case.
With the afﬂuent Chinese already buying, say, cars with a grille, it wasn’t a surprise to ﬁnd some brands ape that ĂŠsthetic. Who hasn’t been copied? There are downmarket cars from Chinese manufacturers with Mercedes-style grilles from a variety of manufacturers, for example.
Don’t laugh too loudly in the west: it wasn’t that long ago that the 1975 US-market Ford Granada looked like a Mercedes pastiche. Even Ford’s own advertising sold it as a Mercedes rival. Hindsight tells us it was not.
I say it’s sometimes differentiation, or the consumer desire for it, that drives trendsâso what de la Bourdonnaye observes is one such trend in motion in China.
The consumer knows that just because something has a luxury ĂŠsthetic doesnât make it well builtâwhich is why we’re seeing improvements in quality in Chinese products. It also explains the relatively restrained looks of Chery’s Riich car range: it’s meant to be premium, but it hasn’t gone too far overboard. (The G5 may be derivative, but it’s also not outlandish.)
While the theory of market homogeneity has had plenty of critiques over the years, there is some truth in saying that the Chinese market is reﬂecting others as the practice of branding matures. It’s not as though the Chinese consumer is behindâeven while the Bamboo Curtain was a few layers thicker, people within the mainland’s borders were able to discern one brand from anotherâbut the world market is globalizing even further with China’s input.
Chinese tastes will drive more of the global consumer market. We’re already seeing it with the USâthe Buick LaCrosse is a joint USâChinese designâand itâs bound to inﬂuence other sectors.
A number of forces are at work, and ChloĂ© seems to be a beneﬁciary. But it needs to be aware that it’s not just this shift to understatementâand, like all brands, it will have to continue moving with the times.
Archive for February 2011
Geoffroy de la Bourdonnaye of ChloĂ© believes the mainland Chinese market is moving toward more understated luxury.
Earlier this month, I gave a workshop talk to the Leadership and Development Conference for the New Zealand Chinese Association in Auckland.
I’ve just uploaded the speech notes, and as I did so, I wanted to append a few more thoughts.
The topic was identityânot just branding, but personal identity.
My self-critique ex post facto was that I spent insufﬁcient time discussing my mayoral campaign, which, I am told, was the one area the audience wanted to hear more of. In the hour’s space, I spent more of it on the theories behind personal branding.
It’s not hard to see why the young Chinese New Zealanders who attended this conference wanted to hear more about politics. First up, the title of the conference was a big clue. If you weren’t interested in leadership, you wouldn’t be there.
Secondly, they’ll have grown up in a far more equal and fair society than I did. Which means they have more opportunities to seek the jobs they want. They won’t be limited by societal expectations and the false stereotypes will be waning.
While there have been mayors of Chinese ethnicity in New Zealand for the last 40 years, it has only been in recent times that men like Meng Foon and Peter Chin have surfaced and brought a modern face to these positions.
With the departure of Pansy Wong from Parliament, ‘Asians’ are underrepresented more than ever.
God knows how many times I have heard the BS line of ‘But Chinese people aren’t interested in politics.’
Funny, considering China has had politicians for most of the last ﬁve millennia and I come from a long line of them.
And that’s the experience I should have shared more of with the Auckland audience. If we’re to be better represented, then we should be giving young people the courage to do what they want to do.
If they’re interested in politics, then by all means, they should seize the day, and who gives a damn what their ethnicity is?
The good news is that I didn’t experience much racism on the campaign trail. Our media were above board on this front, which shows some level of maturity has come into New Zealand society. Bias came in due to politicking in at least one case, but, generally, the fourth estate did well.
I noticed a couple of instances where my lack of council experience became a talking-point. This is despite three of the last ﬁve mayors lacking council experience.
Considering the structure of Wellington City Council needs fresh eyes to examine it, not being part of the furniture and having a healthy scepticism toward Humphrey Applebys might be a good thing.
But they were valid concerns for some people, though to be dismissed by a few members of our media because of it means that fresh ideas won’t surface in our society, at least not till the idealism has gone out of them through groupthink and establishmentarianism.
What would have been worth discussing with the audience was the idea that there will always be forces that try to include and exclude. I’m not pointing ﬁngers because we all do it. The whole debating season I had with my ﬁve opponents was about oneupmanship.
However, it would have been a great exercise to have looked at how they could overcome exclusion in their careers. And without changing their names.
It would have tied neatly back into my criticism of the Uncle Tom behaviour.
I apologize for furthering another stereotype: I realize Tom was a far more noble character in Uncle Tom’s Cabin than what people would believe today. I use the term only as a shortcut.
The behaviour, I am sorry to say, has existed among our own race, too.
I feel it’s still a concern when I see certain people who buy in to comfortable stereotypes, and use them to shoot down someone. Worse still, when they use them to shoot down someone of their own colour.
It serves neither the majority nor the minority.
And given that the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders gave me a fair go, you’d hope that we’d have seen an end to the Uncle Tom mentality.
That would have been a great debate.
Fortunately, there were equally members of the Kiwi Chinese community who were extremely encouraging toward my candidacy, because they had grown up with racism not unlike my own experience. They tried to redress the balance wherever possible, and I was extremely grateful for that.
So many used their contacts to make life easier for my campaignâand it was through those and many other efforts that we punched well above our weight. Netting a third of the numbers of the victor on a tenth of the money is no mean feat.
The good still outweighs the bad when it comes to race, and it can only get better for our young people. If all Kiwis get to do the things they are most passionate about, without prejudices about what they âshouldâ be doing, they will ultimately beneﬁt New Zealand.
Volvo has announced that it will build a plant in China, and seeks approval for a second, in what it calls its second home market.
It was inevitable, though for the long-term survival of the brand, it’s not a bad idea.
Through Geely’s acquisition, it can potentially leapfrog other foreign car brands inside China by having more than a domestic partner: a domestic owner.
There won’t be much toing and froing as Geely can call the shots with Communist Party authorities.
The company already has a technology centre in Shanghai to deal with design, purchasing and manufacturing decisions.
The new Chengdu plant, says Volvo, will only build Volvo carsâthere will be no Geelys going through there.
Volvo also says it will not affect jobs in Europe, which can be believed at this stage: the plant should be sufﬁcient to deal with growth in China and the eastern hemisphere, where Volvo could be a lot stronger.
While Volvophiles won’t be upset about most of the developments above, there will be one that will concern them.
The company says that Volvo Car China’s new-product development will be done in Shanghai, not GĂ¶teborg. GĂ¶teborg will take the lead on hybrid and electric cars globally.
Given the volumes involvedâVolvo is targeting 200,000 cars per annum by 2015 in ChinaâI’m not sure if it means that China will get its own range of cars. The likely scenario is that there will be a single, global range at these numbers.
So how will the balance of global Volvo NPD be shared between GĂ¶teborg and Shanghai?
Volvo suggests that HQ remains in Sweden on one hand, but, according to Freeman Shen, senior vice-president and chairman of Volvo Cars China Operations, says, ‘The Volvo Car China Technology Centre in Shanghai will develop into a complete product development organization on an international level. It will have the competence and capacity to work together with the HQ in Sweden, participating in Volvo Car Corporation’s work process for developing entirely new models,’ says Freeman Shen.
I’m not criticizing Geely’s competences because if you look at its latest models, the company has certainly come a long way. Chinese designers, if nothing else, are fast learners, and knock-offs are becoming things of the past if 2010âs new models are anything to go by.
And as a Swede is heading over to China to help set up the plant, one envisages that similar training in the Volvo design and creative process will be in the ofﬁng.
Otherwise, there won’t be much separating Volvos from other car lines with the exception of a grille with a diagonal bar.
But the press conference still leaves questions unanswered about how the NPD process will work.
Nevertheless, allowing Volvo to pursue innovation is good news. Ford permitted it to happen but so much platform development was done elsewhere. Volvo remained in charge of global safety for Ford models, and gave the old S80 platform to a variety of cars, including the current and previous Taurus.
The difference is, the parent company’s platforms weren’t half bad to begin with. I’m not so sure about Geely’s.
I do, however, like the idea of an innovative, world-ﬁrst Volvo that can get its new developments in safety and alternative energies out to the market before the competition. No more will the ﬁrsts be moderated by Dearborn.
Innovation has not deserted the companyâit has announced a V60 diesel plug-in hybridâbut we will not know what the new Volvo will look like till a model, with no Ford heritage, surfaces in a few years. That will be an interesting development.
Geely chairman Li Shufu says, ‘We continue to uphold our principle that Geely is Geely and Volvo is Volvo. A more globalized, more focused luxury brand will turn our vision of a growing and proﬁtable Volvo Car Corporation into reality. The company will continue to contribute to the development of the global automotive industry by introducing world-ﬁrst innovations that make an outstanding brand win in the market-place.’
That doesn’t really settle it though.
I have some concerns with Mr Li’s market positioning, because there are Swedes, indeed many Europeans, who don’t see Volvo as a luxury brand.
Thanks to Ford, Volvo was edged upmarket to avoid competition with its own modelsâbut it means its market share at home has been severely reduced.
Earlier this century, most Swedish taxicabs were Volvosâtoday Mercedes-Benz and Toyota serve a proportion of the local market as Volvo could not offer the smaller models it once did.
And if its home market share continues to decline, never mind how China goes: Volvo will be increasingly inaccessible to ﬁrst-time car buyers in Sweden. Its need, then, to retain brand values might be weakened.
Speaking hypothetically, if these world-ﬁrst innovations are created merely for luxury models, then how long will they take to get to the everyday market?
I remember an era when Volvo didn’t skimp on safety and innovations for even its lowliest models. And Volvo-as-luxury seems to ﬂy in the face of that.
The reality is, if Volvo is going to ﬁnd more volume in the orient, then the luxury positioning will be more dominant.
It’s going to be easy to foresee Volvos going all over the east from the Chinese plant, to allow for greater proﬁts. Renault and Peugeot are sourcing from plants in Korea and Malaysia to serve the eastern hemisphere, and as far aﬁeld as eastern Europe, at more reasonable prices. It would not be a bad idea for Volvo to follow suit: it’s not in the hallowed realms of BMW, and its pricing needs to reﬂect that.
I’m not enough of a bastard to only dis Google, because they have made a pretty good move today.
Google’s new algorithm, it is claimed, will weed out content farms, one type of site that has annoyed us here regularly.
These are sites that just pinch others’ content automatically. Because search engines pick them up, people visit their pages. Those pages are ﬁlled with adsâquite often supplied by Google. The content-pinchers make money, but the people who took the time to create the piece don’t.
I wrote, not a long time ago, that Google Blog Search had become entirely useless. That’s no exaggeration: head in there, and a lot of the blogs are scraped: they are duplicates of other sites.
In fact, when Vincent Wright’s blog was deleted, and I helped him to get it back, the Googlebot was trying to delete those scraped blogs. It’s just a shame that the Google machine was so damned useless at helping legitimate people get their blogs back, and intentionally stonewalled us to get some weird kick. If it were not for the Blogger product manager’s intervention, Vincent’s blog would still be in cyber-oblivion.
So the move, in principle, is a good one.
Google claims, ‘If you take the top several dozen or so most-blocked domains from the Chrome [Personal Blocklist] extension, then this algorithmic change addresses 84 percent of them, which is strong independent conﬁrmation of the user beneﬁts.’
Let’s just hope that Google won’t mistakenly take out legit sites again (I have to ask what the other 16 per cent consists of!), though the fact that there has been some correlation with human editing (sites chosen by users for the Blocklist) helps.
Christchurch, as it once was. These are some of the images that appeared on my old Vox blog (or, what is left of that).
Christchurch was home to a lot of lovely classic cars. Right now, it really doesn’t matter if they survivedâmore important are the people and the families. These were nice mementos of earlier visits:
Christchurch, you will be great again. You will outshine the beauty I saw on my last journey, because Cantabrians are among the strongest people in the nation.
As jobs are vital to any economy, there is, at least, a glimmer of good news from Christchurch’s manufacturing sector.
Tait, Sanitarium, and Steel & Tube appear to have escaped major damage, says The New Zealand Herald.
It’s not much solace to those who have lost everything from homes to limbs to family members, though I console myself by saying that it’s better some things have been left standing than the destruction having been, literally, total.
Hopefully these engines of commerce will begin turning, at least bringing back a little life into the local economy. Those who work there, I’m hoping, might recover some semblance of normalityâI know my solution has tended to be to keep busy, even in situations when life feels emptier than usual.
Earlier on Thursday, I delivered bags of Farmbake Cookies and eight litres of water as part of my ﬁrst contribution to Arise Church’s charity drive.
The Church is sending down containers of supplies from Wellington to Christchurch on a truck, and tell me that it is repeating the feat on Friday.
So for those of you who missed today’s two containers, head to 44 Wigan Street (off Taranaki, one down from Abel Smith) between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Friday.
Firefox 4 Beta 13 works, and I have not found any bugs with it.
I may be wrong, but I believe this is the last beta before release.
What’s amazing is that the bugs I have been complaining about for a long time have each been ﬁxed. In other words, the reporting system works.
While for many versions, most of the Beta 4 text was unreadable, eventually bug reports to both Mozilla Support and Bugzilla got things on the radar.
That took a bit too long for my liking, and you do have to persist. But once I was “in the system”, things got resolved fairly quickly.
One of the Mozilla bofﬁns created a patch that I could use to tell him what fonts I was using, to trouble-shoot the unreadable UI.
When those font issues were ﬁxed, I noticed that there were still some errant numeralsâa bug that Chrome also has. The difference: at Mozilla, it got ﬁxed. Someone (Jonathan Kew) believed me, had at the back of his mind what it was, and wrote code to sort it out.
We all worked it out together, with a layman like me providing screen shots and some public domain fonts on request, and the real experts then doing the hard yards.
The main thing was that I was believed and it was conﬁrmed, on each occasion, that I had a valid complaint.
Unlike a certain other browser from a company which, I must say, did a good job with the Google Person Finder in the wake of the Christchurch earthquake.
I don’t deny they do good sometimesâit’s just that they slip up far too often other times.
The Chrome bug reporting and forums are about as useless as those for Blogger.
Features I’m discovering in Beta 13 are really nice, now that I am no longer being distracted by the wrong fonts displaying.
The box in which I am entering this text can be resizedânot something I could do on Chrome or Firefox 3.
More fonts’ kerning pairs are being read (see above left): someone at Mozilla likes typography. Some text-sized pairs look a little tight, but that’s a small complaint.
Some alternative characters in OpenType fonts are showing upâwhether that was intended or not, I don’t know. But it seems Firefox 4 is, at least, accessing them.
It’s not a memory hog: I estimate the memory usage is on a par with Firefox 3.
The promise of Firefox being reliable seems to have been realized: it took me days to crash Beta 12, and Beta 13 is so far, so good.
The user interface is cleanerânot Chrome-clean, but pretty good.
The speed seems improved, though I still feel Chrome is quicker. But I’d rather wait the extra hundredth of a second and have the page displayed properly.
Hopefully, once installed on my system, Firefox 4 is going to work a treat. Well done, guys.
If you’re going to have speedy R&D, it sure pays to have a system which embraces user experiences, working as much in parallel with your own team as possible.
Donna Manning’s home was burgled yesterday. You have no idea how angry I feel.
Even if I didn’t know her, I would, right now, want to go “Gene Hunt” on the thieves.
To the person or persons who did over the Mannings’ place: you are the worst kind of human being.
You have taken advantage of a family that has lost a daughter, sister and a mother and added to their suffering.
You have acted without any thought or compassion that any normal human being would have at a time of loss.
You are scum.
Even worse, if you knew who they were.
If you saw the photo of their suffering and spotted an opportunity.
While we all sympathized with the Manning children, you decided to do over their home.
I will tell you this: you sick freaks had better run.
Because there’ll be fences who have more compassion than you do when you confront them with these goods.
And don’t think the law’s too busy to deal with you.
Donna Manning was well respected in Christchurch.
After the judge has thrown the book at you, your fellow inmates will know exactly what to do on your arrival.