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China's Gree aims for US expansion

Published on 04/08 2019  Source: China Daily
 

Entering its fourth year in the US market, Gree Electric Appliances Inc, one of China's top air-conditioner manufacturers, aims to continue expanding in the US market in 2019.

"In the next two to three years, the Gree Commercial team's goal is to set up a marketing network throughout the United States," said Ouyang Jun, vice-general manager of Gree's Overseas Sales Company, during a strategic planning event on March 29 in New York.

One of the industry leaders in China's air-conditioner market, Guangdong-based Gree entered the US in 2015 with an initial focus on residential air conditioners, and achieved a US market share of 8 percent with its split-system air conditioners.

Through the years, Gree has been laying groundwork for the introduction of its commercial products as well, building up sales and service networks and establishing training centers across the US, according to Ouyang.

"Since entering the United States at the end of 2015, the Gree Commercial team has steadily opened the mainstream of the US heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) market, making the 'Made in China, Loved by the World' concept integrated into the American HVAC market," he said.

The company has set up sales system in 22 states and built partnerships with local distributors, many of which are well-recognized across regions.

"Everyone in my business in the US is aware of Gree," said Mike Shea, president of Atlanta-based Tom Barrow Co, sales representative for commercial heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) manufactures with more than six decades' of experience.

The company has a big presence in the Southeast with offices in Tennessee, Georgia, Florida and Alabama.

"Who wouldn't want to be a part of an organization that is one of the best, and largest, and growing in the world," he said, referring to the company's decision to represent Gree in the Southeast.

In the next two or three years, Gree looks to expand its presence in the US market and its distribution network to all the states, added Ouyang.

Gree has also put in great effort to establish and cultivate a professional and technically skilled team.

The company has six training centers in Los Angelos, Dallas, Chicago, New York City, Tampa and Atlanta, and it plans to add four more by the end of next year, according to Ouyang.

In New York City, where the company headquarters is based, Gree has especially shown a strong presence by having more than 1,000 people go through training sessions, said Ouyang. Attending the sessions were people involved in all the sales and distribution processes of Gree products, including installment and after-sale service.

"There's a saying in the industry that an air conditioner relies 30 percent on the machine itself and 70 percent on the installment," said Andrew Lo, who leads the Gree Commercial.

"That's why we put in a lot of effort in training — we highlight quality control in every procedure involving our consumers and products. We want to ensure that every household will get not only our top-quality product, but top-quality service as well," said Lo.

Michael Zhong, who also heads Gree Commercial's team, said that the company has been talking to major architectural institutes across the states, hoping they will consider Gree when doing building design.

"They've already expressed much interest," said Zhong.

"We have already trained many [building] designers in New York, helping them to learn more about our products and how they stand out," said Ouyang. "In this way, they can get familiar with Gree's air conditioners and make them part of their design."

The three major commercial air-conditioner product series that Gree Commercial's team will focus on in 2019 are all highly innovative and contain excellent and unprecedented features dedicated to an energy-saving, environment-friendly concept, said Zhong.

One of them, Gree's ultra-heating series, stands out with its capability to withstand cold weather and deliver constant performance.

According to a 2018 evaluation report by US-based Underwriter Laboratories Inc, an internationally wide-recognized security testing and technology certification provider known for its UL certification, Gree's products can ensure a 100 percent heating capacity at ‐4 degrees Fahrenheit outdoors, an 80 percent heating capacity at ‐22 degrees Fahrenheit outdoors, and stable operations at ‐31 degrees Fahrenheit outdoors.

Another product series that Gree sees potential for in the US market is its solar series, which excels in energy conservation and environmental protection, both are important global trends in the air-conditioner industry according to Ouyang.

Unprecedentedly, Gree's solar products cannot only achieve self-sufficiency in electric power, but can also generate extra energy if applied in regions with sufficient sunlight, making it possible for users to even sell the excess energy back to electric companies, Zhong said.

Gree's solar products have long been recognized by the industry globally. In February 2017, Gree's photovoltaic multizone system — a solar-powered system used in its products — received the world's first UL certificate for its innovative, direct-drive hybrid power supply mode and its energy-saving and environmental protection concepts.

It won two other UL certificates with its products in 2018, one of which also is in the solar category.

The UL-certificated Gree GMV photovoltaic system uses solar energy technology with a direct-action coefficient of up to 98 percent, which increases efficiency by at least 6 percent compared to a conventional photovoltaic air-conditioning system, according to the company's website.

Gree also seeks to impress the US market with its innovative packaged terminal air conditioner variable refrigerant flow (PTAC VRF) series, which company executives said is tailored specifically to the US market.

PTAC is a type of air conditioner widely used across the states by hotels, apartment building, hospitals and similar facilities. Gree creatively integrated the traditional PTAC model with the VRF system, which studies widely recognized as an energy-saving and cost-saving technology.

"There are several drawbacks commonly found in today's PTAC products. They produce a high-level of noise and use a large amount of energy," said Zhong, and Gree's PTAC models are dedicated to solving those issues.

Gree's PTAC VRF, combining both the exterior and technical features of PTAC models — a widely recognized and utilized one in the US market — and VRF technology, the research and development in which Gree is especially experienced, can save at least 40 percent of energy compared to most models available today in the US, said Ouyang.

That could save not only energy costs for consumers, but save considerable infrastructure costs for a city as well, he said, and could become a part of renovation projects for older buildings across the US.

Zhong said the company is planning to apply its PTAC VRF models in some older buildings across Brooklyn to showcase the products' effectiveness in energy conservation.

All three series Gree is introducing to the US market demonstrate Gree's dedication to create energy-saving, environmentally friendly and smart products, which is also the global trend today, said Ouyang. He attributed success in developing innovative and high-quality products to the company's investment in research and development.

According to China Daily's interview with Dong Mingzhu, chairwoman and president of Gree Electric Appliances earlier this month, the company has 14 research institutes, 13,000 technical employees — engineers more specifically — and nearly 1,000 laboratories.

China National Intellectual Property Administration's 2018 report showed that in the number of patents it was granted over the year, Gree topped the home-appliance industry, and ranked sixth among companies in all industries.

"With strong research and development capability, we are able to achieve exceptional innovation speed and quality" that allows the company to adapt to industry trends and market needs, said Ouyang, and the company is one of the biggest Chinese clients for UL that tests and certifies product qualities.

"We were very blessed with the opportunity — the quality of products, the people that we've met with and worked with the past eight months, [and] the excitement that they had moving into the United States," said Shea of Tom Barrow Co, a major distributor for commercial HVAC in the Southeast region.

Gree is a brand well-recognized by his customers, said Shea, adding that the brand stands out because of the quality of its products.

"It really wasn't much of a decision. When the opportunity arose, we went after it," said Shea, who said he had been familiar with Gree long before it entered the US market and had always awaited its decision to come to the US, and that he looked forward to a long and mutually beneficial partnership with Gree.

Gree company executives say that considering the company's short history in America, it still has a long way to go to raise its brand awareness in the US, but they add that high-quality service and products as well as innovative technologies of its products tailored to the US will increase the chance for Gree's commercial air conditioners to succeed in the US.

Beyond expanding growth in the US market, company executives said that Gree Commercial is hoping to have positive impacts on the communities it enters.

Zhong said the company is planning to establish an education center in Brooklyn under the invitation of Brooklyn borough President Eric Adams, in which it will exhibit all its new models as examples of energy-saving products for local college students in related industries to examine and on which to have hands-on research experience.

The company also donated $50,000 to Rochester, New York-based Monroe Community College for the development of its applied technologies center, which provides practical, hands-on training for students entering industries such as HVAC and solar-thermal technology.

"We are looking beyond the business benefits — we are also giving back to the society by facilitating the educational process, especially on energy saving and environmental protection," said Lo.

"The US is a most important strategic market" for Gree's commercial air-conditioner products, said Ouyang, who looks to the company's future development in the market and a further realization of its 'Made in China, Loved by the World' concept.(Source: China Daily)