China's appliance makers take aim at Japan

China's appliance makers take aim at Japan
Hisense plans to release in Japan a selection of 4K TVs, like these ones displayed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.

TOKYO - Chinese home appliance makers are changing their tactics to court Japanese consumers.

Generally known for inexpensive, low-end products, they are attempting to polish their brands and move upmarket. For their Japanese rivals, this means more competition.

Midea Group is set to release in Japan high-end rice cookers under its Midea brand by the end of this year. The company, based in China's southeastern Guangdong Province, has created a development unit dedicated to this project. The team has 200 members, including Japanese engineers. The new models are expected to go for 50,000 yen to 100,000 yen ($412 to $824), on a par with Japanese rice cookers with similar features.

The company will produce the rice cookers at its plant in Guangdong, where it already makes high-end products on an original-equipment manufacturing basis for Japanese and South Korean companies. It aims to gradually release other consumer electronics, such as washing machines and refrigerators, under the same brand. And it intends to expand its sales and marketing capabilities in Japan.

Hisense Group, meanwhile, is expected to release three 4K TVs this autumn, ranging from 40 inches to 65 inches. The Qingdao, Shandong Province-based company has hitherto focused on 50-inch liquid crystal display TVs priced at less than 100,000 yen. It aims to roll out higher-quality 4K sets while still beating Japanese rivals on price. Hisense also plans to introduce other electronics in Japan, including tablet computers, large refrigerators and air conditioners.

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