Proportion of Male MINI Owners Increasing Amid Massive Digital Push
This week, Sohu sat down with MINI China brand manager, Zhu Jiang (珠江) in Chengdu to discuss the brand’s digital strategies for the China market, its plans for the next few years, and the new models it will soon introduce to a slowing but still huge China auto market. Translation by Jing Daily team.
Sohu (S): MINI seems to be doing quite well this year. What do you expect to happen in the year ahead?
Zhu Jiang (ZJ): In the first three quarters of this year, MINI sold 11,853 units in China, an increase of 59.8 percent over last year. The customized small high-end car market has opened up rapidly in China, so along with other carmakers we are confident in this sector for next year. Chinese consumers will become more mature. The small car market is definitely the future of the industry here, due to increasing oil prices and limited parking spaces.
S: MINI has about 50 dealerships across the country, but small car rival Audi A1 has advantages in terms of the number of sales channels. Does MINI have any strategies set out to improve its sales channels in China?
ZJ:The number of sales channels and the number of sales are proportional. We now have 56 dealerships in China, including a 4S store in Shanghai.
We need to ensure the quality of service as well as the interests of our partners. We are very confident in our ability to expand our entire network, and we’re working now to build up our sales networks. At the end of this year or early next year, we’ll have established three independent MINI 4S stores in the country, and will stick to building new 4S stores in the future.
S: How do you choose what new media platforms you want to use when planning brand promotions?
ZJ: We’ve taken advantage of new media platforms like Sina Weibo, mostly. For example, one of our Weibo messages was reposted 25,000 times, with more than 3,000 comments. In China, we’ve targeted a group of active and social netizens, and are working on other efforts to develop new media platforms, including experimenting with digital sales models.
S: The MINI JCW version and new MINI Coupe are now being pretty heavily promoted in the media. When will these models be introduced to China?
ZJ: We have no specific timetable for the JCW, but we do communicate closely with the head office in Germany and plan to bring it to China one day. We will introduce the MINI Coupe and Roadster to China in the first quarter of 2012.
S: How about the MINI Goodwood model?
ZJ: In the first half of next year.
S: MINI started selling cars online in China this July. Can you tell us a little about how this has been received? How do you see your prospects in terms of online marketing?
ZJ:We officially debuted the MINI Tattoo edition online in China this July. Up through October, we sold all 100 of these cars online. Before launching this sales feature, we spent a lot of time preparing, so we’ve been really satisfied about it so far.
S: How are MINI owners in China different from those in other countries?
ZJ: Basically, they’re all the same. They all love the brand deeply, and are more individual and less superficial. In that regard, people in China and Western countries are the same. But we also hope we see more older buyers in China. In Italy and Germany, many older individuals drive MINIs. Also, more elites in Western countries drive MINIs than in China.
S: How do your buyers break down in China, in terms of the ratio of female to male drivers?
ZJ: The proportion for female owners is declining. There are a large number of male owners driving MINIs, especially the Cooper S.
S: You just mentioned that you think the small luxury car market will be the future in China. What leads you to this conclusion?
ZJ: From an objective standpoint, the urban environment, limited parking spaces and oil prices will drive the development of the small luxury car market. From a subjective standpoint, people in China aren’t as comfortable with individual self-expression as people in most Western countries yet, but this is going to change in the years ahead.