Wed, Dec 24, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Hotai ready to take on DaimlerChrysler

By Lisa Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Hotai Motor Co (和泰汽車), the sales agent for Japan's Toyota Motor Corp, is ready to compete head-to-head with DaimlerChrysler AG in the nation's luxury-car market next year, aiming to sell around 6,500-7,000 Lexus cars, a company official said yesterday.

Hotai, which introduced Lexus to Taiwan in 1997, said it sold 5,400 Lexus cars this year. The Japanese luxury brand has overtaken BMW to become the second most popular luxury car in Taiwan with 23.7 percent of the market.

"We [Lexus] are only one step away from first position," said Steven Yang (楊湘泉), a general manager of Hotai's public relations department, adding that they are close behind long-term No. 1 Mercedes-Benz, which has 27 percent of the market.

Taiwan is the No. 4 market for Lexus worldwide, after the US, Canada and the UK, Hideaki Matsuki, vice president of Toyota Motro Asia Pacific Pte Ltd, said earlier this year in Taipei while introducing the new Lexus RX330 sport-utility vehicles.

DaimlerChrysler, which distributes Mercedes-Benz, Chrysler, Smart and Jeep brands domestically, sold nearly 5,000 Mercedes-Benz vehicles this year, Wolfram Geisler, the incoming president and CEO of DaimlerChrysler Taiwan Co, said earlier this month.

Industry watchers, however, are taking a wait-and-see attitude towards Hotai's ambitions for Lexus, as Mercedes-Benz has built a strong brand image in consumers' minds.

"The euro trend [against the greenback] will be a make-or-break factor for Hotai to achieve that goal," said Jeff Chang (張世澤), an auto analyst at Yunta Core Pacific Securities (元大京華證券).

The strong euro has forced European auto makers to raise prices sharply this year, making them a lot more expensive than the Japanese Lexus, Chang said.

The exchange rate factor has also reduced the market for luxury sedan cars, which shrank by 12.3 percent to around 47,596 vehicles as of mid-December, compared with 49,249 cars sold a year ago, according to the government.

Another threat will come from the planned imports of Nissan Motor Co's revamped Infinity models into Taiwan next year, as Infinity has outpaced Lexus in the US market by unit sales this year, Chang said.

However, the possibility of a shake-up in the luxury-car market looks slim, as the sector is nearing maturity, said Arthur Liu (劉逸平), an analyst with Hua Nan Securities Investment Management Co (華南永昌證券).

"With a strong brand image, Mercedes-Benz has a strong appeal to elite customers. Though this fact is difficult to change, Hotai is very skilled in marketing the Lexus brand to local customers, which has allowed it to outrank BMW in just six years," Liu said.

Together with its Toyota cars, Hotai expects sales to reach about 102,000 vehicles this year, about 24.9 percent of the market. The company expects sales to rise slightly to 105,000 cars next year, helped by the nation's improving economy and higher employment, Yang said.

Some 403,215 vehicle plates were registered as of Dec. 20, up 7.8 percent from a year earlier, according to the government's statistics. Hotai, China Motor Corp (中華汽車) and Yulon Motor Co (裕隆汽車) were the largest car-sellers of the year.

This story has been viewed 3891 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top