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Client Centers Help Auto Makers Stand Out
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After long deliberation, Zhou Keming, a self-employed businessman in Guangzhou, decided to buy a "Sagitar" car.


His decision came after a two-hour visit to the FAW-Volkswagen Guangzhou Brand Experience Center this month.


"I've been treated like a somebody since I stepped into this facility," he told China Daily, sipping coffee beside a "Sagitar" on the first floor.


Sagitar is one of the models recently promoted by FAW-Volkswagen, a leading automotive joint venture based in Changchun, capital of Northeast China's Jilin Province.


"A staff member has been so patient and so professional, explaining everything about the FAW-Volkswagen cars and after-sales services," he said. "Never before have I received such VIP service in any car showroom."


"Next time, I'll take my family here," he added. "The free yoga facility, audio and video facility, amusement facility, and the free tea and coffee here will be enjoyable for them."


The small perks Zhou speaks of are in FAW-Volkswagen's new "brand experience center" in China. Such customer-focused centers may be the trump card for many automobile sellers in China as competition touting similar prices and quality flood the market, according to Chen Youzhi, an associate professor in marketing at South China Normal University.


"Many top brand auto suppliers have facilities similar to a brand experience center, but very few if any middle-ranking ones (have them)," Chen said. "FAW-Volkswagen is a step ahead of other auto makers in China, and it will become a plus for the firm to win customers' hearts."


The newly opened center is FAW-Volkswagen's first and is the only one of its kind in China.


"The center is consistent with our operational reform this year, which is developing strategic business units (SBUs)," said Su Weiming, deputy general-manager of the firm. "Six SBUs have been set up for different regions nationwide."


An SBU is an organizational entity large enough and homogeneous enough to exercise and control most strategic factors affecting its performance. It is managed as a self-contained planning unit for which discrete business strategies can be developed.


The Guangzhou center, at the suggestion of the firm's South China SBU, aims to further popularize the FAW-Volkswagen brand and increase its market share in Guangzhou, Su said.


"People in Guangzhou are very critical about service and our market share here is far from satisfactory," he said. "That is why we've set up our first brand experience center here."


He said FAW-Volkswagen aims to enhance its market share to 7 percent in 2007 from the present 4 percent, and 12 percent by the year 2010.


Its domestic market share is 7 percent this year, with a total of 319,000 cars being sold in the first 11 months of this year.


He said FAW-Volkswagen will attach even greater importance to service and will consider setting up similar facilities in other cities.


(China Daily December 21, 2006)


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