Thursday, January 27, 2011

RVs in China? Doesn't Make Sense

During my time “deep undercover” in Shenzhen, I saw that smaller Chinese companies really put an emphasis on foreign imported products, especially from Europe and the US. Higher class consumers have a lot of discretionary income and wanted the best products. This meant that imported goods were seen as the best.

This sentiment led a lot of small businesses to register their company, trademark their product and acquire businesses in Europe and the US. Now, businesses can claim that “this is a US product” even though Americans have never seen it. It doesn’t hurt that the RMB appreciation and depression of US/European asset prices are making things a lot cheaper.

China is a potentially huge market for many foreign products. Luxuries goods, cars, airplanes, vitamins, cosmetics, ect.  have all succeeded. This recent exuberance for the foreign products has quasi-blinded some business people in China.

One recent article I read in the LA Times titled "China has burgeoning market for RVs, entrepreneur says" made me laugh. 

China is hungry for the kind of recreational vehicles built in Southern California — at least according to the Chinese entrepreneur who struck a deal with a Riverside firm to build and export $5 billion worth of them.

The Chinese government has placed a focus on developing the RV industry as a cornerstone of the Chinese ideal of the happy home life, said Winston Chung.

"A family with an RV is a family more in harmony with each other," he said, speaking through a translator. "During vacations, people can get into the RV and enjoy quality family time."

Under Chung's agreement with MVP RV of Riverside, the company plans to manufacture the vehicles here and export them to China. However, Chung would not rule out moving operations to China in the future.

Chung spoke about the burgeoning market in China for the motor homes after a news conference with UC Riverside Chancellor Timothy P. White, where they announced Chung's $10-million donation to UCR's Bourns College of Engineering.

In an interview with The Times, a smiling Chung cheerfully detailed his plans to build and export 30,000 diesel-powered motor homes to China, and eventually to develop electric-powered RVs. Chung, 52, is the founder of battery maker Winston Global Energy.

The nascent Chinese RV industry has the potential for high profit margins, despite high taxes on gas-guzzling vehicles, Chung said. He added that the increasing value of the yuan, the Chinese currency, will make buying an RV more affordable for families. 
Yes. These RVs would be more affordable, but who would buy them?? Let's analyze.

  • China has 1.3 billion people in a limited amount of space. People all live in high-rise apartment buildings to save space. Even those people who bought traditional American houses are squeezed together to an uncomfortable small area. There is just no room to park these things that would actually make sense unless its in a parking garage - but thats expensive.
  • People in the US enjoy RVs for camping and exploring the country - esp in the midwest and western US. It takes advantage of the cheap(er) fuel prices and the interstate highway system with the comfort of your own hotel-room RV. In China, tolls for the freeways are very expensive and the gas isnt cheap either. It doesnt make sense to travel via RVs since trains, long distance buses and plane travel is so convenient and public transportation and cheap taxis are available everywhere. Also, hotels are cheap as well. 
  • Mostly older people in the US have RVs. Chinese old people dont know how to drive.
  • The people with the most RVs/Trailer homes in the US are for the poor. However, I dont foresee poor Chinese people choosing to live in RVs rather than their houses. 

To me, RVs just does not make sense in China. However, if Mr. Chung and his company, Global Winston Energy bought the company to cut costs and sell to US/Canadian consumers (just like Chinese car maker Geely bought Volvo), that would make some sense.

Otherwise, what are you thinking??


Yangshuo Omeida said...

Great post

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