Flat TV maker VIZIO plans to expand in Japan

Daily Yomiuri Online
By Hiroyuki Ueba
October 27, 2009

Leading U.S. flat screen TV manufacturer Vizio Inc. is looking to expand its presence in Japan's market "in the near future," Vizio Chief Executive Officer William Wang said Monday.

The Irvine, Calif.-based TV maker was only launched in 2002, but has rapidly grown since then to become a rival of other major brands in the North American market, such as Sony Corp. and South Korea's Samsung Electronic Co. The company is known for its budget-priced product lineup of LCD and plasma high-definition TV sets, such as its 32-inch LCD HDTV, which has a retail price of less than 500 dollars (about 46,000 yen).

Vizio's shipments of LCD and plasma HDTV units reached more than 1.4 million in the first quarter of 2009, according to iSupply Research data, making it the market leader in the United States. It shipped 3.5 million HDTV sets in total in 2008, with sales of more than 2 billion dollars.

In September last year, Vizio started selling its 42-inch LCD HD TV unit for less than 100,000 yen at Costco Wholesale Corp.'s outlets in Japan. Although the sales campaign took place on an experimental basis for marketing purposes, the company still managed to sell about 15,000 units. "The result was satisfactory for us," Wang said during an interview with The Daily Yomiuri. "And the [customers'] reaction is pretty good."

Before embarking on a full-scale entry into the Japanese market, Wang believes it will be necessary for Vizio to learn more about the market, such as its competitors, Japanese consumer behavior and how the nation's distribution system works. However, he said, "We do plan to expand our presence [in Japan] in the near future."

Wang also expressed confidence that Vizio will be able to hold its own in the highly competitive Japanese market by quickly establishing its own niche. About 90 percent of the domestic flat screen TV market is accounted for by Panasonic Corp., Sharp Corp., Sony and Toshiba Corp.

"We can offer better affordability and better technology," he said, mentioning Vizio's latest models for the North American market, which he claimed had the best picture quality and thinnest screen in the world. "We have no intention to come to Japan to become another Sony or another Panasonic."

From his experience in the United States, where he launched his business from scratch and established it as a brand, he believes he can do the same thing in Japan, although he said it will take time.

"Nobody wants to buy a nonbrand TV in the U.S., either. But if we keep on offering good products and affordability, consumers will switch. Consumers aren't stupid," Wang said.