GM relaunches Chevrolet Epica with live show on Hunan Sat TV

And other news in Greater China

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SHANGHAI--General Motors Corp. launched an updated version of its mid-range sedan Chevrolet Epica in the mainland last Friday by appealing to the hopes of young adults in a live TV program, “Fight for Dreams."

The program aired during prime-time on Hunan Satellite TV, one of China’s most daring provincial networks. After receiving hundreds of entries in the weeks leading up to the broadcast, GM narrowed the selection to ten dreams, although during the program, it only had enough time to wade through six before two winners were selected by viewers, who submitted their choice by SMS, short messages transmitted by mobile phone. During the two-hour broadcast, the station received over two million votes.

The winners judged to have the best dreams--a poor, rural village that wanted money to buy books and other education materials for its children and an up-and-coming fashion designer who needs capital to expand his business--each received nearly $13,000 in prize money, as well as use of an Epica for a limited period.

GM aired five TV spots during normal commercial airtime throughout the show, but the show itself provided the main branding exposure for the new Epica, said Steve Betz, Chevrolet Brand Director at Shanghai GM, the joint venture which produces the car in China.

"It was a bit of a risk to do something live on TV in China, but we have to cut through the clutter, and this did," he said. The idea for the show was conceived by GM's marketing team in Shanghai and execs in charge of Hunan Satellite TV, "who are very innovative. This was also a new concept for them."

According to Shanghai GM President Ding Lei, the new Epica is leading the company’s continued push in 2007 to elevate and promote the Chevrolet brand among modern young professionals. As the replacement for the original Epica, it stands tall as Chevrolet’s new flagship model.

Shanghai GM, the U.S. auto giant’s joint venture with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp., also manufactures Buick and Cadillac sedans in China. The company plans to launch up to ten new or upgraded models in the mainland this year. Including imports and cars produced by other joint ventures in China, such as SAIC-GM-Wuling, GM expects to sell about one million cars in China this year, up from 876,747 vehicles last year.

Shanghai GM gained market share quickly in the late 1990s with Buick, a popular model among executives and government officials, and its mass-market Chevrolet model has become popular with budget-conscious consumers. Although Cadillac had a rocky start in the mainland, larger models emphasizing status and power launched over the past year have made the brand more appealing to rich Chinese. Shanghai GM hopes to sell 12,000 Cadillac cars in China this year, up from 3,000 last year.

Wal-Mart starts selling Huiyuan juice
BEIJING--More than 3,000 Wal-Mart Stores in the U.S. will soon carry fruit juice produced in China by Beijing Huiyuan Beverage and Food Group Co., one of the mainland’s leading companies. Huiyuan has sold its products, mainly apple juice, in the U.S. since 2004, but the deal with America’s largest retailer will greatly expand retail distribution there. The Beijing-based company, in which France's Danone Group holds a 22.2% stake, raised $308 million from an initial public offering in Hong Kong last month. It controls over 40% of China’s pure fruit juice market.

Kirin buys stake in Hangzhou Qiandaohu Brewery
HANGZHOU--Japan’s second-largest brewer, Kirin Brewery Co., acquired a 25% stake in Hangzhou Qiandaohu Brewery in Zhejiang province for nearly $40 million in stock and cash.

The rest of the Chinese brewery’s ownership remains with the Hangzhou Qiandaohu Beer Co. It will start to produce Kirin brands like Ichiban and Kirin Lager as well as its own Cheerday brand, which is distributed in cities in the Yangtze delta area, including Hangzhou and Shanghai.

The Japanese beer giant already has investments in Dalian and Guangdong in China, where it is racing against two major Japanese rivals, Asahi and Suntory, that are also investing in the mainland. China’s beer market, the world's largest by sales volume, is growing by nearly double-digit figures annually. At home, meanwhile, Japan’s declining population is drinking less beer, which has sent local companies overseas in search of profit.

Euro RSCG wins Olympic Equestrian account in Hong Kong
HONG KONG--The Olympic Equestrian Co. appointed Havas-owned Euro RSCG to help generate enthusiasm for equestrian events at the upcoming 2008 Olympic Games. Most sporting events for the next Olympics will be held in Beijing, but Hong Kong, where horse racing is a popular tradition among locals, will host all equestrian events. Euro RSCG will promote the Olympic sport as well as Hong Kong’s participation in the games, according to the Olympic Equestrian Co.’s Nancy Pang, director of promotion and marketing. The first campaign breaks this month.

China Media Buying Service to debut in New York
NEW YORK--Hong Kong-based online and print media buying service China New Media Advertising (CNMA), which works with 150 web sites and 75 print publications in mainland China, has opened a customer service office in New York. The office is owned by Miami-based IMS Cos. and will be managed by Maurice Johnson.

Hurray acquires major interest in Chinese record label
BEIJING--Hurray Holding Co., a wireless music distribution provider, has acquired a 65% interest in Beijing Secular Bird Culture and Art Development Center, a music production and offline music distribution record label in China, for $1.48 million in cash. The remaining 35% will be owned by Secular Bird.

Many of the music label’s tracks have become popular ringtones, ringback tones and full track downloads on mobile and internet platforms in China. Songs such as “Autumn Never Comes Back” by Qiu Tian Bu Hui Lai, for example, ranked No. 1 on the music search platform of Baidu, China's leading search engine, and China Mobile's mobile music board. That song also won the “most popular album in 2006” award at the China Mobile M.Music Awards last January.
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