Calling for attention to child travel safety
Interview between THE PAPER and Mr. Zhenghuan Song, Goodbaby International Group Chairman/CEO ‘THE PAPER’ is an online paper with smart phone app, very popular and with high impact in China.
In China, car accidents involving children under the age of 14 years happen 2.5 times more often than in Europe; and 2.6 times more often compared to the USA. In 2010, the number of children deaths in a car accident was 18.500 in China. By 2014 this number grew to 35.000, making car accidents the number one cause of death in this age group.
The use of safety car seats for children is less than 0.1% in China. Consumers know very little about the safety standards of car seats. We are happy to see that China has become the biggest market for car sales. So far, the focus was mainly on the look, safety and functionality of the car, but child safety in the car, the current standards are 20 to 30 years behind the rest of the world. We are not behind in technology, but in awareness. Without much safety awareness, parents do not know how to protect their children.
In order to give parents some inspirations, “THE PAPER” conducted an exclusive interview with Group Chairman/CEO Zhenghuan Song on the occasion of the International Children’s Day (June 1st). He explained the topic child travel safety to us. The Goodbaby International Group is one of the global market leader in manufacturing and sales of child safety car seats.
Mr. Song, congratulations, we have heard that the Brand CYBEX, which belongs to the Goodbaby International Group, achieved excellent results in the most recent ADAC test.
Yes, all products we developed last year achieved outstanding results in the ADAC test.
As an expert, what do you think about the current market status in China?
The tests results of the first batch of 20 child safety car seats, published by the China Automotive Technology & Research Center (CATARC) on May 27th is disappointing. On the one hand, the quality of the products is not fully assured; on the other hand, even though the number of vehicles in China is constantly increasing, the coverage with child safety car seats has not increased. Each year the number of deaths due to the lack of child safety car seat is rising. Therefore, the government, the media and we ourselves should take on the challenge and educate the population.
Are consumers still not ready yet?
Consumers have the purchasing power now. According to reports of FROST&SULLIVAN, the average annual household spending on juvenile products in urban China lies between 5.000-18.000 RMB (EURO 700 – 2.500). Under the one-child policy, Chinese babies and young children receive more and more attention and parents have started to gain safety awareness. However, this awareness is rather related to food safety for example in terms of milk powder and feeding bottles and the public opinion. Also, the press pay more attention to this field. This doesn’t mean that Chinese parents don’t know anything about child safety in cars. Those parents that have been born after 1980 are developing safety awareness gradually, but most parents still do not have a clear concept of travel safety. They are ready to guard their children’s safety, but we haven’t done enough yet to spread the knowledge of child safety in cars.
How do you see the Chinese market and the foreign markets?
Developed countries have a deep understanding of child safety car seats. The most important purchase of parents shortly before their children are born is a car seat. This is not only due to legislation, but is also a result of objective knowledge.
Goodbaby’s sales of car seats to overseas markets amount to 3 million annually and China is the most important base for production of car seats, but our national market for child safety car seats is still in a very early phase. We have been exporting many car seats of high quality to overseas markets, contributing to make children’s lives safer. However, it is a shame that we have not yet achieved our goal to bring effective protection to most Chinese children. Therefore even if we manage to enlarge our business much further and become No. 1 worldwide in even more areas, we have many challenges and tasks ahead of us.
How would you describe the market of child safety car seats in China?
A mix out of positive and negative! The cost of applying low standards is too low. Due to the lack of awareness, parents do not even know that there are already reliable standards when they buy car seats. From September 1st on, a mandatory product certification (CCC) will be implemented for child safety car seats, which will promote the standardization of the car seat market. Goodbaby is the first company that has achieved this certification. Just like in the milk powder industry, safety is also the most important factor we focus on. We must put all of our hearts and energy into production and design, because each product is directly related to an infant’s life. With a potential of hundreds of millions of child safety car seats, this market has a huge development ahead. But before focusing on the potential profit, we should improve on product quality. It is not enough to meet the standards. It is our goal to be above it.
How does the mandatory usage of car seats legislation influence the car seat industry?
First of all, we consider this good news for the whole industry. Apart from the potential profits in the near future, we feel responsible to promote and develop the child travel safety consciousness of the public. We still have a lot to do. Each step in improving relevant laws and regulations will help to save thousands of lives. As a corporation, we should make efforts in improving our products constantly and contribute to children’s travel safety. As far as I am concerned, we should try our best to promote the legislation. Currently, one of my most important tasks is help the government to set up and implement the Chinese child travel safety legislation.
What should the child safety industry do to promote the legislation?
Goodbaby is one of the world’s leading durable juvenile products companies. Until now, Goodbaby has taken part in and led 80% of the formation of industry standards. Goodbaby Group is also one of the leading companies setting up child safety car seat standards. But there is still much to do to communicate and popularize these standards. First of all, our main task is to help the government to inform the public on product standards, so the manufacturers, retailers and consumers have a clear understanding of the new national standards. Moreover, we will also help to analyze car accidents. Finally, we will work on a media strategy to raise awareness how a lack of child safety can harm children when traveling in cars.
More than 80%? So they are basically your company’s standards?
You may think this is strange, but not only in China but also throughout the world, subsidiaries within the Goodbaby Group work under the highest standards. Since we have been invited to become members of ASTM and CEN in 2011, we have taken part in the establishment of all national and regional standards for durable juvenile products. Furthermore, we were invited by CPSA Japan to take part in the revision of the national standards there. Till the end of 2014, Goodbaby has taken part in 144 terms of revision of national standards in Europe, the USA and Japan and led the establishment of 65 national standards. I am certain that our corporate standards are far higher than the national ones.
How have you achieved these high standards?
Goodbaby has nine R&D centers throughout the world. We have partnered with 62 international Brands and last year we have merged with the German Brand CYBEX, which achieves the top results at the independent ADAC tests. Furthermore many renowned experts work for us.
There is for example Dr. Phillip Przybylo, who is an expert in child safety and has been working at Ford for more than 20 years. He regularly works with NGOs such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), being mainly responsible for monitoring the establishment and implementation of safety standards. He is now working for Goodbaby in the position of Director Technology Development at our global R&D Center.
As another good example let me mention Dr. Fukuda, who established the Japanese National Sled test standards and we have Mr. Franz Peleska, who used to be the director of the first independent child safety car seat testing and assessment organization, now working at CYBEX. He also took part in the establishment of standards for car seat tests and safety legislation in Europe. They are all our employees rather than just foreigners impersonating scientists.
Our company invested more than 46 million RMB in our laboratories, which are the largest in our industry and can provide safety tests, assessment analysis as well as professional consultation for risk management and safety assurance.
Apart from that, we built a complete process control system to assure that every car seat produced by us meets the highest standards. Till now, none of the more than 20 million child safety seats we produced has encountered quality problems. Such statistics help you understand child safety car seats better. I hope everyone who reads this interview gains more knowledge about the importance of child safety, because if more children can be protected more families will be happy.
What are the most important factors when we talk about car seat standards?
The material you choose, the technology you use and the testing standards you meet.
The material you choose:
It is well known that good products use good raw materials.
There are three important components which parents have to know:
1. The main shell is the most important component of a car seat. Its function is to protect the child from injuries requiring the shell to be crash-resistant. For example, in Formula 1 we have the best racing cars in the world and also the highest requirements on those racing cars. Exxon-Mobil, which is the number 2 among the fortune 500 companies, is a cooperation partner of Formula 1 and they also supply us with specially engineered material.
2. Key structure components: once the frame is there, the components have to very good as well.
3. Highly elastic, highly durable and highly dampening anti-slipping shoulder straps. Like the shell, shoulder straps are also very important components. The special body structure and behavior of children shoulder straps have to meet high quality standards. PA shoulder straps from DuPont, USA, are our first choice. Furthermore, air permeability, formaldehyde content and fire resistance are aspects that have to meet the relevant standards.
1. We use gas-assisted injection molding for the shell which is commonly used in the automotive industry. However, blow molding is still widely used which can lead to very small openings.
2. These can cause a serious safety risk in a car accident. We adopted a central intelligent material system to provide material accurately and to controlee each element.
3. It is also important to employ advanced tools to control the process. Goodbaby uses the most advanced tools throughout the world such as intelligent sensor technology, high speed imaging and finite elements to analyze crash tests.
The European standards ECE R44, ECE R129, the American standard FMVSS 213 and the Chinese standards GB 27887, to name the most important ones. For us it is the minimum requirement to meet these standards. There is always a speed simulation in each test, both the international and national standards are 49km/h with plus-minus 1km. But it common to drive faster than 49km/h in real life. If your goal is only to meet the standards under a speed of 48km/h, your products are within the standards, but your company is not. At a speed of 49km/h, the children’s combined chest acceleration needs to be within the range of 55g according to GB 27887; good products according to the China Star Assessment Standard (C-NCAP) receive a “Good” if they achieve 41g. We achieved to hold the factor within the range of 33g. This factor is very important, it shows how heavily the children’s chest would be impacted. The smaller the number, the better the product.
You have the products and a growing market. What are your next steps?
Marketing! This can be considered as setting up our business all over again. During the first company set up, we have successfully launched Goodbaby to be the No.1 throughout the world and I am very confident concerning the quality of our products. Nevertheless, in comparison to our products, our marketing is far behind. We should have products on a level of 8 out of 10 and do Marketing at a level of 10 out of 10. I rank our products a 9.9 and I would be satisfied if we would be recognized for marketing capabilities around 8. I hope more brands within our industry will produce good products and do better marketing, convincing more parents to use child safety seats and at the same time create a bigger market. This would also have a positive effect on the whole society.
What kind of marketing are you going to do?
In the past we just focused on our products but did not embrace our consumers. Many foreign brands, especially those from Japan, gained trust of the local consumers, whom they gave the impression that they will provide the best products to satisfy the domestic market. So even products such as toilet seat covers, diapers etc. made in Japan sell very well. Most of these products are of high quality. But we also have good products, but what we need to do now is to reach the hearts of the consumers with our products, eliminate their doubts and provide a sense of security to new mothers. To provide the best products to Chinese moms, Goodbaby utilizes all resources available worldwide and ensures a first-class service. But we cannot rely on ourselves alone, we also need the support from the media. You are much better in launching educational programs.
Do you have concrete strategy?
On the Group level, we set up the BOOM strategy meaning “explode” in English. It stands for Brand + Online + Offline + Mobile, which will be the core of our operations. The Brands shall motivate purchases online and offline, attract fans and the mobile internet shall be the place of interaction between Brands and consumers. What does this mean? We are going to pay attention to our customers’ requirements rather than mainly focusing on our products and Brands. Even the most advance crash simulation cannot replace the complex reality. Hence, we should communicate with moms more and learn about the real issues and challenges. We organized a special discount activity at Children’s Day. Parents received coupons via “shake-shake” or “swipe-swipe” on WeChat, together with a promotion at department stores (Wanda Plaza, on Wangfujing, Kaide etc.) all over China.
By the way, does your 15-month old granddaughter also uses products from Goodbaby?
I love my granddaughter so much. My love for her is beyond anything I can describe in words. She uses a CYBEX car seat, as CYBEX is the high-end Brand with amazing quality test results within our group.
‘Restraint systems for children in vehicles’ were launched almost 3 years ago and the “China child restraint White Book” has been published one year ago. Legislation on child safety in cars is already set up in Shanghai, Shenzhen and Shandong, which means we have achieved great progress in establishing legislation and rules in China. Nevertheless, we still have a lot to do.