When we reached agreement (though his Russian colleagues) about this meeting, we noticed that the head of the company had a name that did not sound Chinese – Joe Johnson. However, he is really called Xu Jiangsheng, Xu being his surname (under Chinese rules, the surname is always written first). The explanation proved highly practical. In order not to create unnecessary problems for Russian colleagues and partners,who do not always find it easy to pronounce and remember Chinese names, Xu was modified to the European form we find more familiar.
— Did you expect Moscow to be your new work location?
— For several years, in Haier, I was head of the subdivision responsible for the sale of industrial air conditioners in Europe, including Russia and the CIS. I visited Moscow more than once. I had certain connections here. I knew the Russian market. That was why they decided to send me here. Today we are selling Chery cars in Russia with a guarantee for five years or 150,000 kilometres. That means that Chery is a fully competitive, high-quality and continuously renewable product. And this refers to its position in external markets. Experience was needed, and I had accumulated this in my previous post.
— How many Chinese car marques can be seen in Moscow?
— I couldn’t even tell you. The number is constantly changing. Some small companies enter the Russian market, which is extremely attractive; others leave it because they can’t stand the competition. But there are four which seem well established and “make the running”.
— Who do you consider your direct competitors in Russia, not counting the Chinese ones?
— Probably the marques from Korea. Korean marques entered the Russian market before Chinese ones. They have a considerable and stable market share today. They have a good service network. We study their experience. We would like to learn something from them and to cooperate with them in some ways.
— ZAO “Chery Automobiles Rus”was created in 2005. Who are its owners? Is the Chinese Chery company associated with it?
— “Chery Automobiles Rus” was founded as a Russian distributor firm. But it is a company with foreign capital. It belongs 100% to the parent company, Chery.
— How many people work in “Chery Automobiles Rus”?
The Chinese car company Chery Automobile Co., Ltd. was formed in 1997. At the present time, Chery produces 900,000 cars a year in 21 models. Chery Automobile Co. includes six motor vehicle factories and 11 assembly facilities throughout the world. The company is the leader among Chinese car companies for volume of exports. Its cars are officially supplied to 80 countries around the world, including four in Europe. At the end of April, in the 15th annual national prize “Car of the Year in Russia – 2015)”, the Chery marque was declared the best recognized Chinese marque in our country.
— Seventy-six Russian specialists plus nine Chinese.
— Who are your clients in Russia? By social status, by income…
— The Russian car market has a longer history, the customer here already knows exactly what he wants, what use a car is to him and how he will use it. And he chooses the marque and model accordingly.
It is a different situation in China. For many Chinese families, the car the are buying today is the first one in their lives. For them it is still an object of some luxury. Sometimes they do not yet have a clear idea of how they will use their car. So they often choose by the marque and are attracted to the larger-sized models.
— How constant are your clients in Russia? Do many of them stay faithful to the marque?
— How is the current crisis affecting Chery’s plans in Russia? In 2014, you opened new sales and service centres in a further 23 towns. How do you assess the prospects for this year?
— You are offering eight Chery models in Russia at the same time. But sales statistics show that 68% of your turnover comes from two models, the compact CUVs Cherry Tiggo FL and Tiggo 5, which is new. Are you maintaining such a wide range for prestige reasons?
— We are keeping eight models on the market so that we can satisfy the demands of all possible categories of purchaser. We shall make use of this demand, and may possibly add new cars specifically for this niche to our model range.
— Ninety per cent of the main Chery company belongs to the state. We are sometimes told that state companies and companies with state participation are always less efficient than private ones. What is your opinion?
— I can state with confidence that we are more efficient than many private Chinese companies. But Chery is always willing to assimilate front-line technical experience and to cooperate with the best producers of the West and East. In 2002, for example, Chery became the first Chinese car manufacturer to receive an ISO/TS 16949 TUV certificate. This is an international industry standard of requirements for quality management systems in design, production and servicing.
We have cooperated with the Japanese Mitsubishi and the British Lotus Engineering. Our new transmission was created with the participation of the German Bosch. Eighteen different car engines have been developed and produced together with the Austrian company AVL. And the new series of Chery Ambition Line models which we offered last year was worked on by a whole international team of engineers, constructors and designers. Germans, French – and the head designer was the Canadian James Hope, who previously worked for the US firm General Motors.
— The Chery marque has a highly developed network in Russia today: 106 dealer centres in more than 80 towns. How do you select new dealers?
— First we select candidates for the dealership department, and then we talk to representatives of each candidate here in the company. We discuss their capabilities and prospects in terms of technical equipment, marketing strategy, supply of spares and so on. And then we decide who to select. We are interested in long-term cooperation with them.
— Last year Chery stated up its own assembly line in Russia at the Derways factory in Cherkessk. Are you selling models assembled there in Russia, or are you also importing cars made in China?
— Your company takes part in the Russian road rescue service for drivers. I am thinking of “Chery – assistance on the road”…
— Yes, we are the only Chinese marque in the Russian programme of technical, informational and legal assistance to motorists on the road. We joined it even before the Russian “Lada”. The programme is run with the assistance of our partner, the company “Russian Automobile Association” (RAA).
— What sort of car do you drive in Moscow?
— An Arrizo 7.
— Is that the rule, that you have to drive a Chery car?
— I simply like it a lot. It uses all the latest technologies. Besides, I always want to get behind the wheel myself, to understand what is changing in our cars and in what way. Because it is one thing to talk about what is written in the brochures, and quite another to experience the changes yourself.