Posts tagged ‘Korea’


How will Chevrolet go down in Korea?

25.01.2011

Last week, GM announced it would drop the Daewoo marque, as it has done through Europe, in its native Korea, in favour of Chevrolet.
   The company will also be renamed GM Korea, a name it once had nearly four decades ago.
   While most will think this makes sense, so GM can concentrate on unifying its Chevrolet brand globally, I have to play devil’s advocate.
   We know that GM opted to use Buick as its first brand in China in the Communist era because it had generated a lot of goodwill prewar. And it worked: Chinese people, somehow, knew that Buick was a quality brand, even though there were very few cars in China in the 1930s. In the 1990s, 60 years on, Buick sold pretty much everything it made through its joint ventures in China.
   This might be due to Chinese people valuing history and a sense of brand loyalty in an era where foreign brands were still fairly new in the People’s Republic.
   What about Korea? Of course, South Korea is no stranger to brands and consumerism, but where does Chevrolet fit? Is it as well placed as Daewoo, which has seen years of financial disgrace as a car company?
   If we took the Chinese experience, then we might look at the last car GM sold as a Chevy in the Korean market:

Image:Chevrolet_1700_Wagon.jpgChevrolet 1700. 1972–8 (prod. 8,105). 4-door sedan, 5-door wagon. F/R, 1698 cm³ (4 cyl. CIH). Holden Torana (LJ), made by Saehan of Korea. Essentially a facsimile of the Australian original, but for an unusual station wagon model that looked more like an Opel at the back. Robust, but a failure on the Korean market, thanks to a perception that it was thirsty (the oil crisis did not help; Korean engines were generally smaller at this point). In theory replaced by facelifted Camina in 1976, though it ran alongside it.

   Not exactly a success. The supposed successor, the Camina, sold even fewer, despite having a smaller engine.
   If Koreans had the same conditions as the Chinese, then this one model sold as a Chevrolet in Korea will instil negative brand associations in the Korean market.
   Daewoo hasn’t exactly had the history of Buick. It emerged as a car marque only in the 1980s, taking over from Saehan, so it may well be disposable. It’s also not like Datsun of Japan, which had plenty of years established worldwide. Nor is it like other storied GM brands such as Vauxhall and Holden, which are restricted to one country or one region.
   Koreans have also seen major brands such as Goldstar, or Lucky–Goldstar, become the much simpler LG. Walk around Seoul and you see plenty of KFCs and Pizza Huts.
   But there’s still a part of me that says a nation that has very few expatriates might just prefer their locally made cars to have local brands.
   Koreans have a perception that foreign brands invite the tax authorities to investigate you, which is why so few people buy non-Korean cars there. So how will Korean-made and Korean-developed, but foreign-badged, cars go down there?
   It hasn’t been done with rival brands Hyundai, Kia, Ssangyong or Samsung, the latter two having foreign owners.
   GM will have to be careful how Chevrolet is marketed, to ensure that it’s perceived, at least in Korea, as a Korean brand that just happens to have an American home and a French pronunciation. Because if there’s one thing branding can do, it’s to make people overlook the actual country of origin in favour of the perceived one. This is why Japanese giants such as Suntory sell fruit juices in New Zealand as Just Juice, Fresh-Up or Bay Harvest—brands with histories in New Zealand—and we do not see Bill Murray on our airwaves getting lost in translation in a commercial.
   Sure, Daewoo has been owned by GM for years, so every car buff in Korea knows that the name change means nothing. Some of the range—the Alpheon and the Veritas, for instance—hail from China and Australia. But the everyday person in the street might be a bit more comfortable buying a Daewoo Alpheon than a Chevrolet Alpheon—because no one really wants the revenuers sending a letter saying they’re going to be audited.

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Posted in branding, business, cars, China, culture, marketing, New Zealand, USA | 3 Comments »


Opel is not a snob brand

19.01.2011
George Cole as Arthur Daley
Arthur Daley, Opel’s last New Zealand spokesman: ‘Never mind the Capri, Tel: I sell Opels now.’

In the Fairfax Press, General Motors has apparently confirmed it will bring in Opel-branded cars to sell alongside Holden-branded ones.
   It’s an obvious move. For years, a good part of Holden’s range was Opel-designed. Like Vauxhall, the model name was the same as the Opels on the Continent, but with Holden in front, with the exception of the Opel Corsa (called Holden Barina).
   In fact, New Zealand fielded the Holden Vectra before Australia introduced this model with the B series. The two markets have often differed—those old enough might remember the Holden-badged version of the Isuzu Aska, assembled locally as the Camira in favour of the Australian model.
   Australia, which I believe still has tariffs on motor cars, found the Opel-made product increasingly expensive, especially against Hyundai, which has carved huge inroads into the market.
   In the mid-2000s, the Opels began disappearing in favour of Daewoos. The Opel Corsa C gave way to the inferior Daewoo Kalos. The Opel Vectra C, never facelifted, gave way to the Daewoo Tosca. The Daewoo Lacetti was inserted below the Opel Astra G and H, though the latest Lacetti Première, badged Holden Cruze, has supplanted both the former Lacetti and the Astra.
   In other words, Holden’s product was outclassed at every level by its principal rival Ford—certainly on this side of the Tasman, where CD-segment vehicles sell particularly well. Maybe Holden had Ford licked on price, but in terms of brand equity, it was falling fast. Perceived quality? Forget it. Brand loyalty? Don’t think it’s going to happen. There is very little that’s desirable about a Daewoo, though I admit to appreciating the Winstorm SUV’s styling. The car as a commodity? That’ll be the Daewoo.
   The Astra still has a lot of fans in Australia, so the plan is to bring in that model at least—and as affordable, European cars, positioning roughly where Volkswagen is. Corsa, Insignia and others will come in as well, with both a new dealer network and some Holden dealers.
   The analysts have found that in Europe, Chevrolet (Eurospeak for Daewoo) has not cannibalized Opel sales. No surprises there. Take me: an Opel customer. I wrote to Holden some years ago, when they threatened to bring in the Daewoo Tosca, that there was no way in heck I would get one of their cars. I’m willing to bet that I wasn’t alone in feeling that way, and the fact the Tosca looks like a Seoul taxicab helps my argument.
   Why not, I said, bring in Opels and pursue a unique model strategy, as GMNZ did in the 1980s and 1990s?
   The question now is price. Opels were sold here in the 1980s at a premium and found few customers. It was only with the 1989 introduction of the Vectra A, at a reasonable price, that GM began clawing back market share in that segment. New Zealanders didn’t seem to mind whether the car was branded Opel or Holden, but when it did become a Holden in 1994, it made marketing a great deal easier.
   Fairfax hints that Opels will carry a premium in Australia. But it rightly points out that Ford has European-sourced models that are competitive. However, I can make one thing very clear for New Zealand: if GM decides to reintroduce Opel into this market, where there are no tariffs on cars, it’ll have to be positioned against a lot of the competition from Ford. I have a feeling most Kiwis know they are buying German engineering when they head to the blue oval, with the exception of the Falcon, and Ford’s marketing has said as much.
   We’ve had a different history from the Australians, and the brand has different connotations. It’s certainly not premium, and there’s very little reason for it to be. Ford might have had Dennis Waterman as Terry McCann singing the Minder “feem toon” do a dealer ad here in New Zealand, but, remember, GM had George Cole, as Arthur Daley, sell the Opel.
   George Cole is not premium.
   Mainstream European brands have failed time and again with premium pricing here. Peugeot lost sales when it began having ideas above its station. Renault has consistently got its pricing wrong and missed plenty of opportunities.
   I have a feeling some of this is due to New Zealanders being world travellers. In a small country, we have to look outward. And that brings us exposure to international brands very readily.
   We’ve also had plenty of used Japanese imports—including ex-Japan Opel Astra Gs.
   It may account for why we don’t fall for the fake snobbery that automakers have tried to slap us with for many years. We seem to adopt best practice on so many things because I believe we’re an accepting people.
   Transparency will be the order of the day. GM can’t afford to have Kiwis reject a brand for having ideas above its station should it go ahead with a similar effort over here. It has to balance (our relatively small) volume carefully with cannibalization. It has to consider whether it would like to have Holden’s brand equity continue to dip.
   Mind you, we could have avoided all this if in 1992 GM did what I suggested then: badge the whole lot as Opel.* It would have ruined the blokeyness of the Holden brand, but it would have had products that appealed to buyers of B-, C- and CD-segment cars. In 1992, a big Opel Commodore, VP series, wouldn’t have been too bad, would it? And we’d have hopefully avoided this Daewoo experiment that has made ‘Australia’s own’ synonymous with ‘Made in Korea’.

* I know, with hindsight, this would have been a rotten idea, especially with New Zealanders embracing the VT Commodore in 1997. It’s hard to imagine that model having greater success here with a non-Holden badge.—JY

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Posted in branding, business, cars, marketing, New Zealand, TV, UK | No Comments »


Retrograde steps for our cellphones

07.11.2010

Nokia 2730 ClassicLast week, our company’s Nokia 2730 Classics arrived as part of a contract with Telstra Clear, of whom we’ve been a customer since the 1980s. They are a reminder of how technology is regressing.
   Remember that scene in Life on Mars, where Sam Tyler, or Samuel Santos in La chica de ayer, tells Annie Cartwright, Annie Norris or Ana Valverde (depending on which version you saw) how LPs had been replaced by MP3s and digital music, and that the sound is ‘much, much worse’? That’s sort of how I feel with these new gadgets.

Left Not quite the same as ours—the display is different—but this is a publicity shot of the Nokia 2730 Classic. Below Life on Mars’s record shop scene in its various incarnations (from left to right, top to bottom): the UK original in Manchester; the unaired US pilot, set in Los Angeles; the US remake, set in New York; and the Spanish remake, set in Madrid.
Life on Mars music store scenes

   On the surface, the new phones aren’t much to look at. Compared with the 6275i phones that the 2730s are replacing, it’s clear that they are built to a price, cost-cutting for easy manufacture in China rather than Korea. There’s not much of an excuse here for design simplification: this is manufacturing simplification.
   I have reason to be cynical. I’m sure it’s part of a conspiracy to force us to get a nicer model. I remember buying a Microtek scanner for around $600 in the 1990s—probably around 1996—and it lasted me for years, till around 2002 when I ordered an upgrade. I looked at the specs for the latest scanners and thought, ‘Wow, here’s one with a higher resolution going for half the price.’ I brought it back and the scanning quality was total crap.
   I wrote to the distributor in Auckland and they informed me: the equivalent model to my old one is this other machine costing $600. The difference is that the half-price one has a plastic lens and my old one had a glass lens. So if I wanted one with comparable quality, I would need to pay twice as much for one with a glass lens. In other words, it would still cost me $600.
   I bought the glass one and they were as good as their word, although I had to put up with a smaller scanning area (but I got a faster speed). The resolution figure, it turned out, was meaningless, because the actual quality of the product was so poor.
   Technology didn’t really advance in six years. I still had to pay the same price for a machine with actually less capability on the primary function, which was scanning an area of x cm².
   This seems like a repeat. I have yet to try what it’s like as a phone, because the switchover’s not till the 8th, but for many features, it’s poorer. It has a better media player. The speaker for playing music and movies is better. The graphics move more nicely. Nokia supplies some free maps (which, incidentally, get deleted when you eject the memory card, though you can re-download them for free from its website).
   But (and there must be a but given the headline): the camera is worse (judge for yourself below) and the battery life is shorter. I might not be an initié when it comes to cellphones, but I know that people have been using them for telephony and photography for a lot longer than as MP3 and 3GP players. On at least two of the three major criteria on which a cellphone can be judged, the 2730 is worse than the mid-decade 6275i.
   Judge for yourself below. These are photographs (reduced) taken at Massey University’s Blow festival exhibition, currently on at its Wellington campus.

Nokia 6275i
Massey University Blow Festival 2010

Nokia 2730 Classic
Massey University Blow Festival 2010

Nokia 6275i
Massey University Blow Festival 2010

Nokia 2730 Classic
Massey University Blow Festival 2010

   And what is the point of that? Unless Nokia now tells me: if you want the quality of the old one, it’s this other model, which will cost you an extra $300.
   I know there are many exceptions to what I’ve just written. The Asus laptop I type this on is way fancier than one that cost twice as much with a fraction of the power in the mid-2000s. But just because one area of technology marches so rapidly doesn’t mean every area follows suit.

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Posted in business, design, general, New Zealand, technology | 2 Comments »


Autocade grows to 1,100 models: slowly but surely

22.06.2010

Some weeks ago, as we neared this milestone, I planned to write a small blog post on reaching 1,100 cars at the Autocade site. And to show that these milestones are not rigged, we wound up with a fairly ghastly motor at that 1,100 mark.

Image:Nissan_Cherry_GL.jpg

Nissan Cherry (E10/KPE10). 1970–4 (prod. unknown). 2- and 4-door sedan, 3-door coupé, 3-door wagon. F/F, 988, 1171 cm³ (4 cyl. OHV). Small, front-wheel-drive range from Nissan, slotting beneath Sunny. First Nissan-designed car with front drive. Short front doors on all variants. Sporting model X-1 featured twin carburettors and 80 bhp. Unusually styled coupé (KPE10) from 1971, wagon from 1972. Mid-cycle update 1973. Exported usually as Datsun 100A and 120A. Usual Japanese virtues of quality, hitting Europe and American markets when they faced crises, and establishing Datsun as a leading player.

Yes, the old Cherry. Remember the horrible coupé model that looked like a mix of a regular Nissan Cherry, a SHADO Mobile from UFO, and a potato? It even looked bigger than the sedan—not what you’d usually expect when you consider the etymology of the word coupé.
   Although Autocade hasn’t become a car reference site that slips off the tongue of most enthusiasts, 1,100-plus entries are nothing to be sneezed at. I have even noticed that Wikipedia sometimes references it—supporting my theory that if it exists online, Wikipedia will believe it. Never mind that something might be totally legitimate and be covered in the international print press: if it can’t be found by the editors on Google, it doesn’t exist. So much for meritocratic coverage—because even Google will refuse to list certain things. (On this note, the current Yahoo! Search is more comprehensive.)
   But even then Wikipedia will get the occasional thing wrong. I noticed that its reference to the Camina, produced by Saehan of Korea, comes from Autocade. Yet it’s cited in Wikipedia as the Saehan Camina. Sorry, chaps: the vehicle was the Camina, with no reference to the company, although its successor was the Saehan Gemini.
   I’m not saying Autocade is perfect—I found a few errors myself today—but I spot so many errors on Wikipedia that could be avoided if all netizens—and I include myself—were more responsible. Like email, blogs and YouTube comments, many things on the ’net go into a form of decline once the original purpose is lost. Of course Wikipedia editors need to rely on search engines, because there are probably too many people abusing the site, creating a culture of suspicion. The initial wave of contributors who came on board, hoping to beat the encyclopædias, has gone. Senior editors need to find a final arbiter that is impartial, and a search engine’s robot is freer from bias than a human being.
   Perhaps I am being protective and even slightly hypocritical when I say I prefer the slow growth of Autocade, and its limited number of sysops, to the rapid development of Wikipedia. Of course information should be free, but the limited scope of Autocade helps ensure just a little more accuracy. The main problems I have with Wikipedia reflect less how many of its editors work (though I have cited at least one exception), and more how many of us choose to interact online, especially with the cloak of anonymity.
   You can’t change that without changing the way people work online and take pride in what they do—and that’s just not going to happen when certain governments are quite content to divide us into the information-rich and the information-poor. But that is a point for another discussion.

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Posted in cars, culture, internet, publishing, technology | 1 Comment »


The advertising career of Audrey Hepburn

17.01.2010

I can’t explain why I like the Steve McQueen Ford Puma ad and dislike this one with Audrey Hepburn, even though I think the world of both actors. In terms of tacky, I reckon this one takes the cake as a celebrity endorsement:

Come to think of it, this is worse. I believe the original was Japanese (I saw stills of this campaign many years ago), but this is in Mandarin:

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Posted in marketing, TV | 3 Comments »