Chinese giants look to grow in America

11 January 2013

BEIJING: Major Chinese electronics manufacturers like Haier, Lenovo and Hisense are seeking to expand their presence in the US, which is regarded as a key market for any genuinely global brand.

Haier has assumed the status of the world's biggest appliances group for four years in a row, with an 8.6% retail volume share in 2012 according to Euromonitor, the insights provider.

The firm has rolled out "smart appliances" like TVs, fridges and wine coolers, and is entering the smartphone market. Its sales in the US were estimated to have grown by 22.2% in 2012.

"Haier's continuous focus on users' demands plays a significant role in maintaining stable development in overseas markets," said Li Pan, director, overseas markets at Haier.

Lenovo, the tech specialist, has seen its global sales rise from $1.3bn to $30bn in the last four years, and has increased its reach in North American stores ten times over in just 15 months, to 4,000 outlets.

"We'll ... keep investing in innovation and brand awareness," said Gerry Smith, president of Lenovo North America, told the China Daily. "The biggest challenge we face now are the financial uncertainties in the US. Big companies are waiting to see what happens before they decide to buy."

Hisense, a manufacturer of goods from 3DTV sets to smartphones and air conditioning units, stated its ambition by filling the booth traditionally occupied by Microsoft at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which the US firm did not attend this year.

Sales in the US, where products are mostly offered online via Costco and Amazon, and in some Walmart stores, stand at around $600m at present. Hisense is currently hoping to build its own brand, having previously made TV sets for other operators.

"We've said this: If we are successful only in China and other countries without success here, we are not a big brand," Lin Lan, a vice president at Hisense, told Wired. "The US is the most important market in our portfolio."

Huawei, the telecoms group, is also focusing its efforts on the US, despite having come under suspicion in the country for its close links to the Chinese government.

While its industrial arm has made major progress, its growth has been slower with consumers. "Your network was probably built by Huawei," said Richard Yu, CEO of its consumer devices arm. "You're using our technology already and you don't even know it."

Data sourced from China Daily, Wired; additional content by Warc staff