Cars? Check. Booth? Check. Hotties? Check! PR and Marketing? Uh-oh…

In the Hutong
Teaching my son about books
1949 hrs.

Reporting from the Detroit International Auto Show, the L.A. Times’ Ken Bensinger gives us a glimpse at the impact Chinese automakers are making at Motown’s home-town trade show.

He quotes a batch of American and Japanese executives who are admittedly concerned about China’s ability to crank out a modestly-priced automobile, and even grants that quality and safety might be at or approaching U.S. standards. Unfortunately, Chinese automakers are still struggling with marketing:

Changfeng Chairman Li Jianxin, who doesn’t speak English, insisted on reading a speech in phonetically rendered English — a painful experience for reporters covering the event. An accompanying news release bore last-minute redactions made with black marker — apparently in an effort to conceal the fact that one Changfeng model relies heavily on Mitsubishi Motors technology. But journalists could easily read the text beneath the black ink. Oops.

He continues:

But perhaps the most entertaining offerings were three electric vehicles made by the Li Shi Guang Ming Automobile Design Co. They looked like oversize bath toys, painted bright yellow and bearing nameplates such as “The Book of Songs,” “A Piece of Cloud” and the amphibious “Detroit Fish.” Two of the models could go on sale in China this year, the company says. Depending on the type of battery, the cost is $5,200 to $9,200.

The money quote came from the man who has just contracted to import 600,000 Chinese vehicles and sell them in the U.S.

“Chinese manufacturers are good at production,” Chamco’s [William] Pollack said. “But their expertise is clearly not in marketing.”

When, oh when, will large Chinese enterprises learn to value marketing?