Although Wilh. Wilhelmsen had been offering regular shipping services to China since the 1920s, Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics opened its first local Chinese office in Beijing in 1996. Since then, the business has expanded to five offices and four vehicle processing centres (VPCs), as well as terminal operations across three ports.

WWL’s Head of China, Xavier Leroi, explains that the crucial success factors for doing business in China are strong relationships, brand and customer focus.

“A long history and great reputation are highly regarded in China, and we’re lucky to have both,” he says. “Over the years we’ve built strong partnerships with ports, government bodies, customers and partners. Being able to cope with constant changes is also key to success in a dynamic, fast-moving market such as this.”

Since WWL established an office in China 20 years ago, the country has experienced major changes and massive growth. What had been an importer and exporter of low-cost goods has become a huge importer of luxury products, as well as cars and equipment for construction and transport. Fast-forward to 2016 and several OEMs are also starting to launch export programmes from China.

Although China is not expected to continue to experience the growth of the boom years of 2007-2012 (in 2007 alone, GDP in China increased a staggering 14.2 per cent), the outlook for the automotive market remains positive.

Since the economy began to stabilise, Leroi says, China has reached a steady rate of 1 million import units and around 500,000 export units a year. Going forward, export growth is expected to continue, reaching some 750,000 units by 2020. Meanwhile, the domestic distribution market has grown tremendously in order to handle a market that is expected to reach a mind-boggling 30 million units by 2020.

“The key to our success in China is that we’ve always kept our ear to the ground and responded quickly to market changes,” Leroi says. “As China prepares to embark on a new era, WWL will be ready to provide the logistics services needed. This includes the unmatched capacity and frequency we offer on our trades to the Americas, Europe and Oceania, as well as expanding our land-based operations according to customer needs.”