Not necessarily, according to Shanghai-based Christopher Brown, VP, China of Ford Motor Co.'s Premium Automotive Group (PAG) and general manager in China for Land Rover.
"Chinese consumers are just starting to form their opinions about luxury car brands, and we're a new player," said Mr. Brown. He just rolled out the largest marketing campaign for Jaguar since the brand was launched in China in 2004.
"But we could double in volume in the next couple of years. We're very interested in China and we're placing a lot of importance on positioning the brand correctly."
While China is home to about 300,000 millionaires, according to the China Economic Review, and even a few billionaires, wealthy Chinese are conservative, safety-conscious and favor large sedans that can accommodate chauffeurs.
They did not grow up in a car culture and view cars as transportation devices and status symbols, not expensive toys for a fast-paced thrill through the countryside. The few that do enjoy racing in sexy cars, meanwhile, struggle with dreadful congestion and road conditions.
As a result, rich Chinese shopping around for a new car usually drive straight to the dealer showrooms of Mercedes-Benz and BMW. Now a handful of rivals, including Mr. Brown, are diligently chipping away at the stranglehold these two brands have in China by marketing their high-end brands more as luxury accessories than cars.
While "conditions in China don't always allow for driving enjoyment," said Mr. Brown, "Jaguar has a global brand strategy with the ëGorgeous' campaign, which we believe fits China very well, given what it stands for. We are positioning ourselves as a luxury brand, not just an auto brand, and that resonates well with Chinese consumers."
Although PAG's best-selling Jaguar models in China are the XJC8L and XJ6L sedans, advertising by Euro RSCG in Shanghai, adapted from the Havas-owned agency's global campaign, is focusing on the sporty new XK line.
The campaign resembles ads for luxury brands like Gucci or Tiffany more than traditional car marketing. In the TV spot, for example, stylish shots of Jaguar cars are interspersed with yachts, restaurants and designer fashions. It will run in Hong Kong and Singapore later this year.
"People who buy a Jaguar in China already have a BMW or a Mercedes, this is a second or even third car," said Richard Tan, Euro's CEO, China in Shanghai. The "Gorgeous" ads "cater to the widest group of Chinese by focusing on luxury and quality, not the brand's British heritage."
The approach is well suited to Shanghai. China's most international, fashionable and style-conscious city is where the "Gorgeous" campaign and the XK both debuted on April 28 with a series of VIP events at the first Millionaire Fair, where Jaguar was one of the title sponsors.
Organized in major cities by Amsterdam-based Gijrath Media, the fair is "a celebration of an affluent lifestyle, and was a good place to introduce a new car," said Mr. Brown. The night before the fair opened, Jaguar organized a co-branded dinner and fashion show with Bulgari at Shanghai's trendy Sens&Bund restaurant for about 100 VIP guests.
The second event will take place in Beijing on June 9 at the opening of a flagship Jaguar dealer showroom there that will be the largest in Asia. In addition to VIP events and direct marketing initiatives, Mr. Brown is updating other showrooms around the country.
"The first ones were fairly simple and were not thought out in terms of customer convenience, they are not designed enough from customer point of view," he said. The Beijing showroom "is the first one that really represents the brand in terms of style. It has ëGorgeous' campaign imagery, a customer waiting area that is convenient for service, an open and flowing layout, and a location in a high-growth area."
After Beijing, the road show will travel to four more cities through August: Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Dalian and Chengdu.
Jaguar's sales indicate the brand has gained traction with Chinese consumers since Mr. Brown relocated to Shanghai ten months ago from the U.S., where he was mid-west regional manager for Jaguar and Land Rover. Before that, the American native spent a decade with Nissan Motor Co., where his last position in 2001 was a global role responsible for brand development & corporate identity.
By the end of the first quarter of 2005, China was the 10th largest market in the world for Jaguar, up from No. 18 one year earlier. Sales grew 95% in the first three months of this year compared to the first quarter of 2005, and full-year sales in 2005 were up 220% compared to 2004.
"Increase in volume is coming quickly, through growth in the economy and increasing interest in luxury automobiles," said Mr. Brown, although he acknowledged growth is coming from a small base. Ford sold just 640 Jaguars in China last year.
That will depend on fine-tuning Jaguar's relationship with individual consumers in an enormous and diverse market: "Media is becoming fragmented all over the world. Our consumers are very affluent, but very difficult to reach in China. We have to use a different approach, one-on-one, through robust, superior CRM."
Other appointment news in Greater China
[shanghai] General Motors Corp. has promoted Karen Rafferty to brand director for Cadillac in China, based in Shanghai, from marketing manager for GM's Corvette brand, based in Detroit, where she led the marketing efforts for both the Corvette and Cadillac racing divisions. An 18- year veteran at GM, she succeeds Stuart Pierce, who has relocated to Detroit as director of advertising & sales promotion for GM's Chevrolet brand in the U.S.
[shanghai] Omnicom Group's OMD media division has appointed Anna Chitty, 38, as head of business development in China, a new position based in Shanghai. Previously she was national media director at Foote, Cone & Belding, Auckland.
[shanghai] The independent French branding and design firm Desgrippes Gobe Group has appointed Edwin Ma as general manager of the company's expanding China operation. Most recently, Mr. Ma was managing director of Shanghai-based MegaChoice Advertising. He succeeds Helen Lai, who has moved to a creative consulting role with the group.
[hong kong] Omnicom Group's DDB Worldwide has appointed Donald Ma, 40, as managing director of its Hong Kong operation, a new position overseeing DDB as well as its interactive agency Tribal DDB and CRM specialist Rapp Collins, reporting to Tim Evill, president-CEO, DDB, Hong Kong. Previously, he was a consultant at the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC), responsible for developing its new media initiatives across Asia.