Digital Disruption in China’s Automotive Industry – AmCham China

October 28, 2015, 12-2pm

Bill Russo to present on the topic:

Digital Disruption in China’s Automotive Industry

AmCham China Conference Center
The Office Park, Tower AB, 6th Floor
No. 10 Jintongxi Road
北京市金桐西路10号 远洋光华国际 AB座6层
Beijing, Chaoyang District, China

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Digital Disruption in China’s Automotive Industry - AmCham China on EventBank Safari, Today at 4.55.07 PM

Nation No Longer A ‘Wasteland’ For Entrepreneurs

China Daily, July 7, 2015

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China’s Xiaomi Redmi 2 smartphones are displayed to the media during their launch in
Sao Paulo, Brazil, June 30, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]

Rising generation of business leaders creates value-added solutions

People unfamiliar with recent developments within China generally believe that the nation lacks innovation capabilities as well as the infrastructure to support entrepreneurship. The stereotypical view, often fueled by Western media, portrays China as an “innovation desert” full of copycat companies that make shanzhai (fake) products.

They describe a China that lacks innovativeness due to an inadequate system of intellectual property protection, a rote-learning educational system that stifles creativity and a business landscape dominated by State-owned enterprises.

This perception is based on China’s history, but it does not reflect current realities. Worse, it fails to recognize the emerging wave of innovation from China.

Understanding innovation in the context of contemporary China requires a broader definition of innovation, beyond the classic product or technology-centric view espoused by Western management theory. We suggest a broader interpretation of innovation that includes solutions that offer added value to customers or businesses, which may be manifested in a variety of forms, but are not limited to low-cost disruptions or technological breakthroughs.

To better understand this broader view of innovation, we should look deeper into examples coming from China.

Three layers of innovation

In our view, there are three essential layers of innovation: people, organization and market.

At the core are people. Large corporations often find it difficult to maintain the same level of creativity and freedom, both of which are conducive to the innovation process, as exists within startups. In China, a growing culture of mass entrepreneurship and relevant favorable policies are emerging. As a result, we are witnessing rapid growth in startups, which serve as the breeding ground for creative entrepreneurial minds.

Inspired by successful examples of private entrepreneurs, a “why-not-me” mentality motivates aspiring young entrepreneurs to create solutions that deliver value. This new breed of young entrepreneurs are adept at identifying new and creative ways to add value to consumers’ lives within a volatile and sometimes sub-optimal environment.

Among the entrepreneurs who were born in the 1980s and 90s, there is a strong sense of entrepreneurial zeal and optimism ignited by recent successful examples of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s Jack Ma, Xiaomi Inc’s Lei Jun, Tencent Holdings Ltd’s Pony Ma and many others.

There are other factors in play that are creating a more favorable environment for innovation. These include China’s grassroots’ openness to the world, experienced returnee entrepreneurs with expertise and access to a global pool of resources gained from their experience abroad, and simply China’s scale that allows good business ideas to scale up rapidly.

China’s large population base also helps increase the probability of success from “trial and error” experimentation with new solutions. Many grassroots entrepreneurs are able to spot market imperfections and leverage that contextual understanding to create relevant solutions.

Lei Jun is a case in point. Xiaomi’s approach to innovation relies on a deep understanding of customer needs and continual feedback to tailor products for specific usage requirements.

Second, organization. Organizations typically resist change when they become successful. As markets mature, market leaders often lose their competitive edge as they fail to anticipate change, typical across numerous global industries.

As we know, China’s market changes fast. Many Chinese companies are very young and have a higher risk appetite for opportunities and radical innovations. A well-known case is how Haier Electronics Group Co Ltd achieved significant growth when it introduced a washing machine capable of cleaning not only clothes but also potatoes.

This demonstrates Haier’s awareness of indigenous demand from China’s lower-tier cities and the company’s customer-centric management philosophy.

Entrepreneurial Chinese organizations can be described as hungry, agile and nimble. They continually push for growth because there is no legacy of success to protect. This innovative character results in higher levels of patent activity and investment into research and development.

Third and last is the market. Critics often point to the flaws in China’s lack of market-centricity when expressing concerns about the future. These criticisms often dwell on the dominance of SOEs in certain sectors, a lack of transparency, the abundance of government incentives pushing for technological change without oversight mechanisms and the heavy presence of government investment to drive the economy.

SOEs will continue to play a major role in China, but private companies have emerged across multiple sectors (including foreign entities in China) and will become the dominant forces of innovation and economic expansion. In open sectors, competition has become intense as foreign corporations, SOEs and local private companies vie for a piece of the pie. Deregulation has been a major driver for China’s growth over the past couple of decades and that will remain the case.

Over the past couple of decades, China’s market has experienced unprecedented economic expansion, aided largely by government policies that provided top-down support at national and provincial levels. Tangible benefits include science and R&D parks as well as industry clusters throughout China. The supporting foundation for continued growth and innovation is also falling into place, including fast consumer adoption of the Internet, creation of startup incubators, and increased sources of funding for new businesses from venture capital, private equity and angel investment.

Innovation breeding ground

China is a complex, diverse and dynamic market, characterized by intense competition. Chinese companies are emerging with unique capabilities to win the bases of competition through lower cost, better quality and faster execution.

Innovative Chinese companies such as Baidu Inc, Alibaba, Tencent, Xiaomi, Haier and others have demonstrated unique capabilities and an innovation mindset well-suited to China’s unique context. Such businesses have proven capable of building cross-industry ecosystems for collaborative innovation and a willingness to “boundary jump” across traditional industry lines. These ecosystems exhibit “biodiversity”, which makes the entire value chain more robust and sustainable; of course, up to certain limits.

The China context can be described as a highly complex, diverse, dynamic and discontinuous environment accentuated by time-space compression. Within this breeding ground, innovative Chinese companies are leveraging this market context to deliver exponential growth.

Edward Tse is founder and chief executive officer and Bill Russo is managing director of Gao Feng Advisory Co, a global strategy and management consulting firm based in China.

Internet Car Sales Click With Chinese Consumers

Ward’s Auto, January 5, 2015

Chinese automaker Geely will sell about 3,000 units online in China in 2014, five years after launching Internet sales on the country’s leading e-commerce site.

“The impact of Internet firms has been a major success for the company,” Geely spokesman Ashley Sutcliffe says.

Consumers have embraced e-commerce in China, the world’s most networked country. They are willing to buy just about anything online, including cars, and thus a new distribution model is being created.

But don’t count traditional dealerships out. They still play a crucial role.

“E-commerce in the automotive market is taking off,” says Paul Hu, chief marketing officer for Greater China and ASEAN at Volkswagen Group China. “In my personal opinion, online sales in the total car market in China will account for 10% in the near future.”

Shanghai Volkswagen, one of VW’s joint ventures in China, sells cars online in China though a handful of sites. Customers place orders online, but pick up the vehicle at a dealership.

“We do believe that there is some disruption to come to the distribution model, but it is not imminent,” says Kyle Dickie, CEO of Sewells Group, a dealership best-practices consultancy. “In China, there is an unusually high level of trust still placed in the sales consultant. In other words, consumers still want to interact face to face.”

Smartphones are the disruptive agent. By the end of 2014 China was to have more than 500 million smartphone users, says Wang Xiangrong, an official with China’s State Internet Information Office.

Those phones are kept busy buying stuff. Beijing-based iResearch predicts 2014 online retail sales in China will surge 45.8% to RMB2.76 trillion ($444 billion).

The explosion of online commerce in China is aided by e-commerce giants such as Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu. All are playing a role in changing the vehicle-distribution model in China.

Alibaba owns Tmall, the country’s leading e-commerce site. Formerly called Taobao, it is the site where Geely launched Internet sales. Last year, Alibaba partnered with another Chinese automaker, SAIC, to create an Internet-enabled car.

Though consumers can buy a Geely car online, dealers still close the deal. “Consumers can pay a deposit or pay for cars outright online, (but) the official sale will be handled by the nearest dealer,” says Sutcliffe.

That allows the dealer to sell additional products to the buyer and also gives the customer a point of contact for aftersales service, he says. Geely has some 800 dealerships in China.

Demise of Dealerships From Ride Sharing?

Online sales aren’t what will cut dealers out of the sales loop, argues Bill Russo, managing director at consultancy Gao Feng in Shanghai. Business-to-consumer connected-transportation applications might, however. These basically are ride-sharing applications but in China taxi drivers are used.

“Empowered with technology, consumers of mobility services are likely to make choices other than what the automakers and their dealers are offering today,” says Russo.

China’s Internet giants are deeply involved in mobility services.

Alibaba is an investor in Kuaidi Dache, a taxi application that sometimes tops 6 million daily orders. Tencent offers the taxi app Didi Dache, which claims more than 100 million registered users and says it processes more than 5.2 million orders daily.

The Baidu search engine has 500 million monthly mobile users and offers Baidu Maps and Total View, which uses satellites to show actual locations. It is a Chinese version of Google Maps’ Street View; Google is blocked in China.

The U.S. ride-sharing service Uber has just entered the China market and will use Baidu’s maps and Street View.

Internet-savvy young Chinese increasingly are becoming accustomed to using such services, says Russo. They “are increasingly likely to opt out of traditional car-ownership hassles,” he says.

Geely is one automaker that is playing both sides. It owns London Taxi, a famous brand in the U.K. A few months ago it introduced a fleet of the vehicles in Shanghai.

The iconic taxis – which in Shanghai are gold, rather than black – are larger than regular taxis and equipped to accommodate wheelchair users or others with special needs, says Sutcliffe. Right now they can only be summoned using a phone.

“There are plans for an app,” Sutcliffe adds.

HOW CONNECTED MOBILITY TECHNOLOGY IS DRIVING THE FUTURE OF THE AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY – PART 2

This is the second article in this 2-part series

Four key trends of the connected car paradigm

The connected car is changing the way we perceive our driving experience. We have identified four key areas of connected car technology that are shaping the industry future, driving new business models and creating a new technology paradigm.

  1. Navigation and parking

While navigation technology has become a standard feature in premium vehicles, the interactivity with other drivers and users is becoming more common and it is expected to be a standard feature in new vehicle models. Start-ups such as Waze were a key driver for the mass adoption of social platforms by drivers and it could be suggested that they were the pioneers of the connected car revolution for the wider industry. Waze was recently sold to Google for over $1B and is being integrated into Google maps providing intelligent crowdsourced information to millions around the world. Connectivity is also changing the world of parking, with a number of start-ups using smart algorithms to predict parking behaviour in real time as well as providing availability maps for drivers and municipalities. One of the key challenges in both navigation and parking analytics is the monetization of these services and we can expect to see some business model innovation in this area.

  1. Vehicle analytics

In-vehicle analytics is also creating significant opportunities for technology players. Initially this technology was mostly being used for large fleets in commercial vehicles making it possible to manage driver performance and vehicle diagnostics in real time and helping improve fleet safety and reduce maintenance costs significantly.  The positioning of such an offering for the mass consumer market has not been established, but we can expect to see this technology impact the way we maintain and insure our cars as well as features for monitoring our own family driving patterns and behaviors.

  1. Wearables

Another important factor in the connected car paradigm is the use of wearable devices and the information extracted from them. These items can be expected to assist in creating additional connectivity and in the short term will allow for connectivity for drivers in non-connected cars. For example the use of smart glasses can provide access to augmented reality navigation prior to the installation of a HUD or virtualization projector. Using data from wearable and mobile devices will provide a wealth of personalized data and will allow the vehicle to become contextually aware and therefore respond to specific driver needs better.

  1. Driver safety and autonomous driving

In the world of sensors and driver safety we have seen companies using various technologies including laser, cameras, night vision and radars to create smart driver assistance and collision avoidance systems. While initially these systems have been used for parking assistance and collision warnings for premium models, we can expect mass adoption of these systems while gradually moving toward full autonomous driving. This area is likely to be heavily guided by regulation and government policy and we can expect the adoption of full autonomous driving to be gradual and limited to specific areas.

These four key trends are an indication of the wealth of opportunities in the connected mobility space, however, while connectivity provides multiple benefits, it is also a vulnerability to core vehicle systems through its multiple wireless entry points (RDS, GPS, cellular, IR, WiFi, etc.). As vehicles become ‘smarter’, all systems become interconnected via the vehicle CANbus providing direct access to critical vehicle systems. Most recently, there has been a significant amount of work conducted around understanding the future threats in this area from simple auto-theft to more advanced cyber terrorism. A number of automotive specific cyber firms have been setup in order to build up expertise for tackling such challenges and ultimately to provide us with vehicle firewalls and other cyber security mechanism.

Connectivity driving new players into the Auto industry

While vehicle connectivity has been relatively slow to enter the global auto sector, the Chinese auto industry has shown strong commitment and vision in this area. In fact, China has already made fundamental moves to ensure that it will be a global leader in the auto mobility paradigm.

The unique context of China’s urban transportation challenge, the high rate of adoption of mobile device connectivity, combined with the rapid and aggressive introduction of alternative mobility and ownership concepts will compress the time needed to commercialize smart, connected car technology and related services.

However, while China holds a tremendous ability to scale the manufacturing of its auto industry, its corporate structures lack the flexibility required for the development of new ‘out of the box’ technology and therefore it requires an external source of innovation to support this area of growth.

Prof Steven Spiegel of UCLA presented a model of ‘Importing Innovation’ from small innovative nations to large industrial superpowers. He presents the notion of economic complementarity between the US and small countries such as Israel, Singapore or Finland as drivers of ideas and innovation.

By way of example, Israel, dubbed the start-up nation, is known for its disproportional number of successful start-ups, doctors, scientists, engineers, registered patents and NASDAQ listed companies and could offer a unique development platform for major industrial countries such as the US or China. Israel’s experience in developing world class military technology combined with its leadership in mobile technology makes it a unique potential partner for the Chinese Auto industry in its quest for seamlessly integrating connectivity into cars.

Such collaborations could act as a powerful springboard for the Chinese industry in its path to establish global leadership in the auto industry.

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End of Part 2 (of 2)

Click here to read Part 1

For further discussion, please contact the authors:
Bill Russo
Managing Director,
Gao Feng Advisory Company
bill.russo@gaofengadv.com

Chee-Kiang Lim
Principal,
Gao Feng Advisory Company
ck.lim@gaofengadv.com

Guy Pross
Managing Partner,
31ºNorth Innovation Exchange
guy.pross@31degreesnorth.com 

Uri Kushnir
Managing Partner,
31ºNorth Innovation Exchange
uri.kushnir@31degreesnorth.com 

Hunting for deals on wheels in China’s developing used car market

Nikkei Asian Review. September 11, 2014

SHANGHAI — Zhu Xiaohong closely examines a 4-year-old Volkswagen Touran, using the flashlight on his mobile phone. The gray VW sits in what looks like a multistory parking lot but is in fact the Shanghai Used Car Trade Market, the largest of a cluster of secondhand dealers on the city’s Zhongshan North Road.

Zhu’s conclusion: “I want to buy this car.”

Zhu, who has bought used cars twice before, said he cannot afford to buy new. But while used cars are significantly cheaper than new ones in China, prices are higher than in developed overseas markets, and there is often greater uncertainty about quality.

Yasuhiro Konta, a senior manager responsible for secondhand sales at Dongfeng Nissan Passenger Vehicle, explained that it is rare to see a standard going rate for a used car in China. “Each price is decided by negotiation,” he said.

This informal system reduces the pressure on sellers to keep prices down, according to Cameron Macqueen, general manager of Southern Cross Warranty, the Chinese arm of Australian financial company Presidian.

“Pricing in China is a lot higher than in the U.S. or Australia — maybe up to 30% or more for some makes and models,” Macqueen said. He estimated average secondhand sale prices at 60,000 yuan ($9,770) nationally, but added that the figure rises to 200,000 yuan in big cities such as Shanghai, where top-end luxury cars are popular.

Trust issues

China’s used car market has expanded alongside a dramatic rise in demand for new cars. Sales of new passenger vehicles hit 17.92 million in 2013, according to Deloitte’s 2014 China Auto Finance Report, confirming China’s status as the world’s largest car market.

Bill Russo, managing director of consultancy Gao Feng Advisory, said the supply of used cars is increasing as owners sell into the market rather than handing on vehicles to other family members. Demand, Russo said, is picking up as younger drivers become more comfortable buying preowned.

On the other hand, Russo pointed out that the ratio of secondhand sales to new car sales is much lower in China than overseas, suggesting that there is a lot of room for growth. In the U.S., three used cars are sold for every new car purchased, whereas in China only one used vehicle is sold for every four new ones.

While those numbers could change, the used car market faces considerable challenges. For a start, growth in new car sales appears to be slowing, although it is still high by Western standards. Deloitte, which tracks the industry closely, says it expects annual growth in China’s new passenger car sales to fall from 15% in 2013 to 7% over the next few years, with the expansion of the used car market slowing from around 20% a year to 15%.

Used car sales are also hampered by a lack of transparent vehicle records, which often makes buying a matter of chance. Sometimes, sellers cross the line into outright fraud.

“I would say the majority of cars have their odometer wound back, and therefore credibility issues are rife,” Macqueen said. “Chinese are not yet up to speed with how to look after their cars, so it is normal for a customer not to trust the history, the quality, of the car they’re looking at, or the dealer.”

Turning pro

The hit-and-miss nature of the used car market reflects the dominance of independent dealers and brokers.

Wang Meimei’s corner of the Shanghai Used Car Trade Market is taken up by a BMW, a Mercedes-Benz and a Volkswagen Passat. “Sometimes I sell a car a day, sometimes a car a week. It varies,” said Wang, who is preparing to retire after 10 years on Zhongshan North Road.

The market is changing, however. Alibaba Group, China’s largest e-commerce company, recently announced plans to launch a platform for selling used cars online. Conventional dealers are also beginning to offer warranties on preowned vehicles, prodded by companies such as Southern Cross.

New car dealers, known in China as 4S shops, are increasingly moving into the secondhand business, bringing more professional marketing and sales techniques.

Martin Kuehl, a spokesman for Audi China, said the company expects the preowned market to continue to grow and has set up 290 licensed used car dealerships — including 60 that sell only Audis. Dongfeng Nissan began selling used cars at some of its 4S shops five years ago; last year it sold around 20,000 through more than 60 dealers.

New government regulations that take effect in October are likely to accelerate the trend toward greater professionalism. Authorized dealerships will be free to sell a range of brands, rather than being tied to a single marque. Industry experts say this will give a further boost to the better-run 4S shops, whose more transparent pricing and marketing practices are likely to put pressure on independents to raise their standards.

 

Potential buyers check out vehicles at the Shanghai Used Car Trade Market. Preowned cars tend to be pricier in China than in other major countries. © Photo by Mark Andrews

“I see a trend toward businesses who want to build a brand name — meaning the quality dealers are getting more and more business,” Macqueen said.

Some problems will remain, though. Many cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, have implemented measures to try to limit car numbers, usually by restricting the supply of license plates. Many of the cars on sale at Zhongshan North Road carry suburban “Hu C” plates, which do not allow the vehicles to be driven into the city center.

Emission standards also vary between cities and provinces, hampering the creation of a national market, or even of large regional markets.

When a new Ford Fiesta was introduced to China in 2009, models sold in Beijing and Shanghai were compliant with the fourth-generation national emission standard, equivalent to the European Union’s Euro IV standard. Models destined for other parts of the country met only the older China III standard.

Today, registering a China III car is difficult nationwide. As a result, those Fiestas are hard to sell.

Click here to read the article at Nikkei Asian Review