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Chinese home appliance manufacturer Haier Group Co says it is aiming to become one of the top three electronics companies in South Korea within five years.

"By providing high-quality products that meet the needs of South Korean consumers, Haier aims to become one of the top three consumer electronics companies [there] by 2010," said Yu Zida, vice chairman of Haier. The company unveiled the ambitious plan in an event that introduced 30 new products, including laptop computers, liquid crystal display TVs, refrigerators and air conditioners.

The South Korea consumer electronics market has been mainly dominated by two home-grown giants - Samsung Electronics Co and LG Electronics.

Haier, the world's fourth-ranked appliance maker, chalked up sales of US$12.2 billion last year. It has 11,976 service centers and a 45,800-member sales network around the world, and exports products to 160 countries. It opened its South Korean branch last year and introduced low-priced air conditioners and other home appliances on the local market. Haier expects to record about 10 billion won in sales this year.

The Chinese company said it will open 600 dealerships by the end of next year and increase the number of repair shops to 200 nationwide by 2007. Haier's appliances have been sold via diverse domestic retail channels. Sales were limited to only a few products such as wine refrigerators and air conditioners. "If a product becomes a hit in South Korea, it will win the hearts of consumers in other markets as well," company vice chairman Yu Zida said. "We will step up our efforts to provide products which meet the needs of quality-conscious Korean consumers."

Haier said it will deploy more personnel in South Korea for research and development, marketing and design to determine the needs and demands of South Korean consumers. The cheap prices of Haier's products appeal to local consumers, but the quality of those products remains lower than those of the two South Korean rivals, according to experts.

"In terms of technologies, there is no difference between Haier and other consumer electronics makers," said Tan Rixa, a director of its overseas marketing. "What makes a difference is how fast we provide products that consumers like by using the technologies." said Lee Keuk-ro, CEO of Haier Korea. "Haier will grow to become a major player in South Korea by 2010 through brand upgrading, providing products with affordable price and quality to consumers." Regarding a possible acquisition of Daewoo Electronics Corporation, Yu declined to elaborate, hinting that a business partnership could be considered if it serves interests of both companies.

From Asia Times Online

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