SEMA News - February 2010
By Yvonne Wang
The Chinese Specialty-Equipment Market
Liu Yan, CEO/founder of V-Man Tuning (left) poses with Ben Mizban, CEO of California-based T-Rex Grille at a networking session during the 2009 SEMA Familiarization trip to China.
SEMA News is interviewing top distributors/retailers in China in a series of monthly articles to introduce the larger players in the evolving specialty-equipment market in China to the magazine’s readers. For this month’s international insight into China, SEMA spoke with the founder and CEO of V-Man Tuning, Liu Yan. V-Man Tuning is an off-road distributor and installer that was established in 2004 and currently employs 55 people, including 11 installers. The company specializes in performance parts for a wide variety of off-road vehicles. The brands V-Man distributes include TRD, Fox Racing and King Suspensions.
SEMA News: What is the most popular product being installed among retail customers and enthusiasts in your region?
Liu Yan: Eighty percent of the customers at V-Man Tuning purchase suspension shocks for their off-road vehicles. Titanium front and rear bumpers and grille guards are also gaining in popularity. There is a growing demand for U.S.-manufactured off-road accessories, such as overhead consoles, tool and equipment boxes, rear cargo storage items and high-quality interior accessories that make lengthy adventure trips more convenient and comfortable.
SN: How has the market changed over the past two years?
LY: Consumer demand has significantly increased. Consumers are more aware of brands and have increased their knowledge of the parts and accessories available to improve their vehicles’ performance and functionality.
SN: Who are your typical customers? How much are enthusiasts spending on average?
LY: The amount of money a “typical customer” at V-Man Tuning spends varies widely—anywhere from 20,000–250,000 RMB [Renminbi, Chinese currency] ($3,000–$36,700 USD). The customer who spends $3,000 USD typically puts on exterior accessories, such as front and rear bumper guards and a pair of off-road lights. A customer who spends more than $36,000 USD at V-Man usually modifies the exterior with front and rear guards, tire carriers, roof racks, winch mounts, off-road wheels and tires and chrome or grille inserts. Additionally, that customer would also accessorize the vehicle with a lift kit, such as shocks, stabilizers and steering accessories, and seek engine-performance upgrades, such as superchargers, computer chips and module monitors.
SN: What are the most frequently modified vehicles in your installation center?
LY: The most modified vehicle at V-Man Tuning is the Toyota FJ Cruiser, followed by the Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Cherokee. Also among the vehicles V-Man customizes are the Land Cruiser 80 and Land Cruiser 120, Nissan Paladin, Isuzu Rodeo and Mitsubishi Pajero.
SN: What percentage of the products you sell are imported?
LY: Fifty percent of the products are imported from the United States or Australia, with the remainder of the products domestically manufactured. Most of the products from overseas are performance and handling upgrades, including lift kits, shocks, struts and entire suspensions and accessories. The parts manufactured domestically include exterior restyling products made of steel, aluminum alloy and titanium alloy.
SN: Are you looking for new products? If so, what is your company looking to import into China?
LY: V-Man is seeking engine performance products for Jeep Wranglers and Cherokees and Toyota FJ Cruisers and Land Cruisers. Some examples of U.S.-supplied products the firm is looking for are performance chips, modules, tuner gauges and all engine switches and wiring accessories.
SN: What kind of suggestions do you have for our member companies that are looking to sell into China?
LY: V-Man customers often take extensive off-road trips—including a 10,000-km trip to Tibet—and thus there exists a need for durable products. U.S. companies can gain a better understanding of the market by communicating with Chinese enthusiasts and by participating in the large-scale off-road events that take place throughout China. U.S. companies should also pay attention to the differences in the gasoline in the market, which could affect the use of performance products. For example, there have been repeated problems with a high-quality supercharger which, after a few road trips, would have problems with the engine starter, and the emergency engine light would turn on. These problems do not appear under the same circumstances when the product is utilized in the United States. The problem may be caused by the petrol gas that is used in China, which differs from that found in the United States. In addition, the struts on a suspension kit will wear out quicker than in the United States due to the harsh road conditions and lack of road structure in China.
Contact information for V-Man Tuning is available on SEMA's International homepage, as is a SEMA report on the Chinese specialty-equipment market. Members may also contact Yvonne Wang at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.