People know next to nothing about Chinese cars in Finland. China is however world’s largest automobile manufacturer with more than 18 million passenger cars produced annually, although only a quarter of these are completely Chinese design.
But can the Chinese cars find buyers in Finland?
Chinese cars will automatically be compared to their Far East counterparts, Japanese and Koreans, when it comes to image. Chinese consumer goods still have reputation of being poor quality junk in peoples’ minds. People usually don’t perceive or understand how large part of everything on sale and found at home is actually made in China.
It was the same with the notions about Japanese products just over fifty years ago, when the Japanese first invaded Europe with their cars. Autokeskus, importer of Datsun, for example drove their cars down a ski jump hill and let technology students try to break them to prove the longevity of the cars. It didn’t take long until “Made in Japan” became a guarantee for quality in cars and other consumer products. Today Japanese car manufacturers have such strong brands that their sales are not anymore based upon price or origin.
Korean cars weren’t big sellers in depression-hit Finland in 1990’s much due to relatively poor quality and unappealing, dated looks of the cars. Koreans took the feedback from different markets seriously and started developing their cars with resolution and a decade later the quality already surpassed that of many European manufacturers. Today Korean cars are not anymore considered as “those poor copies of Japanese cars”.
What will the Chinese have to do to sell their cars here? They have had time to refine the cars to match the European taste and according to car show reports, also the quality seems to be adequate including the looks. But everyone who is interested in cars remembers those ill-fated crash tests of the earlier models and the reputation received from those tests hinder sales even in the domestic market. Even the Chinese don’t want them and buy European and Japanese instead.
If the Chinese really can fix the safety issue in all of their cars —like they have with the Qoros car already for sale in Slovakia— completing with a vigorous safety and quality themed marketing strategy, they could get a foothold in the Finnish market, where there’s always demand for basic everyday-use cars. Finnish consumers in general buy more boring cars than consumers in many other countries in Europe. Same with the Chinese; like Finns they also prefer traditional models and for example prefer “obsolete” saloon models with a separate boot instead of multipurpose hatchbacks. This could prove to be a marketing advantage in Finland.
One way or the other, it is not going to be easy to penetrate the Finnish market without something with which to stand out. It will be interesting to see how the Finnish car people adopt the newcomers, if they finally make it here.