Jack Perkowski is the chairman and chief executive officer of ASIMCO Technologies, one of the most important players in China's automotive components industry. He founded the company in February 1994, after spending three years investigating opportunities in Asia and China and before others recognized the significant role that China would play in the global economy. With seventeen factories in eight provinces and fifty-two sales offices located in every corner of the country, ASIMCO Technologies is unique because it functions as a foreign-invested company built to specifically to serve the Chinese market. Under Perkowski's leadership, ASIMCO has gained a reputation for developing local management and integrating a broad-based China operation into the global economy. In 2005, ASIMCO was named one of the "Ten Best Employers in China," ranking third in a survey conducted by Hewitt Associates and 21st-Century Business Herald.
Jack’s new book Managing the Dragon: How I’m Building a Billion Dollar Business in China (Crown Business; March 18, 2008) discusses Jack’s experiences building ASIMCO from the ground up and the lessons he learned in developing the company’s local management team. The book also covers a wide range of topics such as decentralization; China’s different cost perspective and how it creates two markets for any product; intellectual property concerns; and practical advice on how to start a business in the country.
Question: How is the Chinese automotive industry responding to the green movement?
Jack Perkowski: Every local car company in China is working on hybrids. In fact, going back to the point; Toyota makes a Prius Hybrid now in China, 260,000 RMB. [IB] a local car company makes a hybrid, it’s a 160,000 RMB, not as good as that Prius, I guarantee you, but it’s a 100,000 RMB cheaper. Every single local car company and local car company is [accounted] for 30% in all the passenger car business in China. The truck and bus business is almost completely local. There is no foreign company that has a meaningful participation in that commercial vehicle industry. So there’re a lot of local passenger car companies, truck companies, and so forth, diesel engine companies that are all thinking about the environment. Everybody’s working on programs to improve the fuel efficiency and the environmental impact. I think that the whole thinking about the environment in China’s mind switched 7 years ago when they announced that the Beijing would get the 2008 Olympics. At that point, every official in China realized that in 2008, for the first time, millions of people are coming to China and they didn’t want the environment to be the big issue.
So there’s a long way to go and believe me, China’s got a huge environmental issue. But, the first step begins with thinking differently; I think that’s already happened. And so, everybody’s conscious about it. They’re working on it.
I guarantee, I think a lot of the new innovations, for example, in the auto industry, they’re going to come out of China. Why? Because there’s no single country in the world that has a bigger vested interest in getting that done than China. China needs to grow to lift up those 900 million people. To grow, it needs more transportation. If more transportation, the more pollution. If it can’t make available that transportation, that’s a constraint on growth. So for China, it’s a matter of economic life and death to find better ways to do it. And that’s what I think is going to happen over the next 10 years in China.
Recorded on: September 22, 2008