10/1/14: Harry H. Horinouchi, Consul General of Japan, Los Angeles
11/17/14: Adam Perlow, Vice President, Sales Operations, Kia Motors America
02/04/15: Se-Hwang Kim, Korean Electric Guitarist
04/08/15: James Leckie, Professor of Environmental Engineering and Applied Earth Sciences, Stanford
LMU's Center for Asian Business kicked off its 2014-2015 lecture season with a special presentation titled "Japan - China Update: Competition or Cooperation?" by Harry Horinouchi, Consul General of Japan, Los Angeles. Japan and China are often referred to as “rivals” in the Asia Pacific region – however, to what extent is this true or false? Mr. Horinouchi’s talk focused on recent developments between Asia’s two largest regional economies, and addressed the actual state of current Japan-China relations.
Mr. Horinouchi began by giving the audience an overview of recent events and developments between Japan and China, including fluctuations in tourism and trade. The two countries have had a rocky past but are starting to work more closely on aligning efforts. Horinouchi presented a number of photos showcasing unity and cooperation between leaders at various summits. Overall, Horinouchi is optimistic about the future relations between Japan and China and says the two countries appear to be headed in the right direction and progress is being made.
Horinouchi was appointed Consul General of Japan, Los Angeles in August of 2014. Over his decades-long career in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), he spent over 10 years in China, and the remainder of his overseas postings in the United States. The post of Consul General in Los Angeles is his second U.S. mission. During home ministry assignments at MOFA headquarters in Tokyo, Horinouchi has been charged with legal affairs and treaties portfolios several times, in addition to Asian and Oceanian regional affairs and international intelligence analysis. He has written numerous law journal articles on international legal issues, authored one book published in China for Chinese readership, and has been a lecturer on international law at Waseda University’s Graduate School of Law. He is a graduate of the Law Faculty of Tokyo University, and also attended Nanjing University in China and Harvard Graduate School in Regional Studies.
In 2008, Kia in the U.S. offered cars with average styling, average quality, average safety ratings, little technology, below average resale values and advertising focused on price. The company developed and executed a plan to become best in class in every category and invested billions when competitors were retreating in the face of a collapsing economy. What unfolded over the next 36 months shocked competitors who believed Kia was not capable of becoming relevant let alone dominant in the auto industry.
On the evening of November 17, the Center for Asian Business welcomed Adam Perlow for a special lecture titled “How Kia Became the Fastest Growing Automotive Brand in the U.S.” As vice president of sales operations for Kia Motors America, Perlow played a pivotal role in Kia’s transformation from a generic and boring brand into one of the hippest, top-selling, and most reputable auto companies in the nation.
“Kia is all about adversity,” said Perlow. “It’s a challenger brand that had to figure out a way to compete to become mainstream. We looked at the recession as an opportunity instead of a challenge. While most companies were closing factories and laying off employees, Kia invested billions in new products, marketing and dealer networks in the U.S.”
In Korean, Kia is roughly translated to “rising out of Asia” and that’s exactly what the company has done over the last few years. The first priority for Kia was to improve the quality of its vehicles. Today, Kia’s quality ranks 6th by J.D. Power and Associates, better than many well-established brands like Honda, Nissan, Ford, BMW and Volkswagen. In fact, Kia is now outselling most luxury vehicles. And with a new focus on quality, Kia now has the longest warranty (10 years) in the industry. In addition, nearly all Kia models have 5-star safety ratings.
The company also hired Peter Schreyer as president and chief design officer to create a consistent and innovative design. The Kia Soul was the first vehicle to undergo a design transformation, and as of October 2014, the entire Kia lineup has completely transformed.
Kia sales skyrocketed thanks to sleek new designs and clever TV advertisements featuring hip hamsters that appealed to Generation Y. Kia also partnered with high-profile celebrities like Lady Gaga and Maroon 5 and secured a lucrative sponsorship with the NBA. Basketball superstars Blake Griffin and LeBron James now act as ambassadors for the Kia brand.
The U.S. and China are Kia’s largest markets. But in order to become more significant in the U.S., Kia decided to build a plant on American soil. They did so in West Point, Georgia and created an entire economy with thousands of new jobs for the small, isolated town. The Optima and Sorento models are currently being made at the Georgia plant. With Kia’s new and improved brand image, the company also decided to redesign all Kia dealerships to make the customer experience more consistent with its new brand image.
In sum, Kia was able to achieve enormous success by focusing on the following key elements:
- Residual Value
- Dealer Network
- Product Cadence
- Sports Sponsorship
The Hilton auditorium transformed into a rock concert venue on the evening of February 4th when LMU students, alumni, faculty and staff had the rare opportunity to see (and hear!) one of the top electric guitarists in the world perform. International music pioneer Se-Hwang Kim plugged in his electric guitar and played a few songs at this special event organized by the Center for Asian Business, Center for Entrepreneurship & LMU Department of Music.
Kim is considered an international music pioneer by creating a crossover between rock ‘n’ roll and classical music. He has released over 14 albums as a solo artist and as a member of Korean rock bands N.EX.T and Novasonic. Kim is also the first Asian to receive an Honorary Doctorate of Music in Performance from the Musicians Institute in Hollywood. He’s extremely grateful for all his success but admits none of it came easy.
“My entire life I’ve had to work twice as hard to prove myself and be respected,” said Kim.
Kim spent the first half hour talking about growing up in conservative Korea and the challenges he faced with his musical pursuits. At his mother’s influence, he started playing classical guitar at the age of four. His family moved to Washington, D.C. where a young Kim was exposed to American rock bands like Van Halen.
“I never grew up thinking I’d be a rock star,” said Kim. “I just knew I would be. It was so natural to me, like a part of everyday life.”
He returned to Korea in 1986 with dreams of bringing a different kind of sound back to his home country, but found barriers instead.
“No record label wanted me because I had long hair, jeans and a loud guitar,” said Kim. “They said my music would never be successful. I set out to change that.”
Kim finally debuted in 1991 as lead guitarist for Korean rock band, N.EX.T. The band went on to popularize the pop music genre in Korea. Though he loved rock music, Kim was yearning to return to his classical beginnings. He began touring with world-renowned orchestras such as the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the famous Italian chamber orchestra I Musici and gained international acclaim for his crossover talents. Kim has also worked with over 100 K-Pop artists.
His advice for aspiring musicians is to find a way to separate yourself from the competition.
“Breaking into the industry is all about grabbing people’s attention,” said Kim. “Media is changing by the day and seems to be getting more and more extreme.”
In other words, stay true to yourself and fight for what you believe.
“I definitely fulfilled my dream and I am very proud of what I’ve accomplished.”
Professor James Leckie of Stanford University gave an enlightening presentation on “Sustainable Development in China: Water, Energy and Food” on April 8 as part of the Center for Asian Business Y.B. Min Lecture Series. An audience of primarily business and engineering students showed up to hear Professor Leckie talk about why China is plagued by these environmental problems and offer solutions on how the country can become more sustainable.
The world’s population has been growing steadily since the 1950s. Over the next 30 years, Asia and Africa are projected to have the greatest population increases. China in particular has experienced rapid urbanization and dramatic resource utilization since its reform process began in the late 1970s. China is expected to urbanize 350 million people over the next 20 years, which is roughly the population of the United States.
Worldwide meat production (beef, chicken and pork) is the second largest greenhouse gas source behind energy production. It emits more atmospheric greenhouse gases than transportation or industrial processes. China is the largest producer of pork (50%) which requires a lot of water. The country is solving its food problem by outsourcing to other parts of the world like Ethiopia and South America.
“This is not sustainable,” says Leckie. “The West needs to reduce its meat consumption to allow for wider use of animal protein in the developing world.”
The water situation in China is dire. With the largest population in the world, China has less than one-fourth of the world’s average per capita water capacity. Among the nearly 700 cities in China, 400 are facing a water shortage. Overexploitation and pollution of surface and ground water sources have led to scarcity and environmental degradation. Industrial use of water has increased and 90 percent of aquifers are contaminated. The urban areas are pumping ground water as a source but this is not sustainable. Plans are in the works for China to reuse water for a second time.
In 2009, California changed its business model for energy consumption which allowed for the amount of energy per capital to flatten out. We’ve switched to LED bulbs which save energy by 30% and introduced energy efficient appliances like refrigerators. China looks to California as a leader in energy efficiency policies and practices and is now adopting similar strategies.
What’s the Solution?
“I believe China can solve its air pollution problem in less than 10 years,” says Leckie. “It’s a matter of political will and setting strict regulations.”
China has an incomplete legal system and weak law enforcement which makes it difficult to implement regulations. One of the biggest polluters in China is power plants which are controlled by the government. There appears to be a lack in cooperation and user participation amongst the Chinese to set new standards.
“There is so much opportunity and room for improvement,” says Leckie. “The infrastructure investment can only be made once so they must get it right.”