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Western companies are "living with a false sense of security" and underestimating the threat from Asian rivals, according to a leading brand consultant.

Corporate Edge chairman Chris Wood says the success of companies such as Toyota and Samsung should act as a warning to those who believe that brands from the Far East offer nothing more than a "cheaper alternative".

Wood adds: "This is the calm before the storm. We are assuming that things will go on as they have been, with the East providing the cheap stuff and the West providing the high margins, but that's changing. Companies in Asia are not stupid. They realise they need to build their brands. This is very real and it's bad news for European brands."

Wood's comments follow last week's news that Nanjing Automobile Corporation and Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation, the Chinese firms that battled to buy MG Rover's assets two years ago, are teaming up for an assault on the global car market.

Korean car manufacturer Hyundai and its sister marque Kia have also announced ambitious plans to become serious global players. Kia poached Toyota GB's commercial director Paul Philpott to become its UK managing director at the start of this year, as exclusively revealed by

Wood also points to Chinese computer company Lenovo, which has a sponsorship deal believed to be worth between £10m and £15m with the Williams Formula One team.
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