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February 29, 2020

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Car producers look online for new sales

MAJOR automakers in China are selling cars through livestreaming platforms to win customers stuck at home due to the coronavirus.

Livestreaming has become an important tool for car manufacturers to minimize the impact of the outbreak on their businesses, maintain close relations with their customers and attract buyers.

The online trend comes amid a downturn in sales — retail sales of passenger vehicles plunged 92 percent annually in the first 16 days of February, according to the China Passenger Car Association.

Consumers are less likely to visit stores and test drive because they are afraid of getting infected. Faced with a temporary slump, some foreign automakers, joint ventures and domestic car manufacturers have turned their attention to online.

As well as introducing models on livestreaming platforms such as short video sharing app TikTok and e-commerce platform Taobao, car viewing using virtual-reality technology, online ordering and on-site test drives through appointments have become the latest trend.

Brands such as SAIC Motor, BMW and NIO are showcasing their models, interiors and test drive experiences online.

Shanghai-based auto giant SAIC Motor is selling vehicles through several livestreaming platforms such as TikTok, Alibaba’s Tmall shopping platform and the SAIC Roewe mobile app. On February 14, the company said more than 500,000 people watched its livestreaming on TikTok. Yu Jingmin, vice president of SAIC Motor Passenger Vehicle Co, also communicated with consumers during the livestreaming.

German auto brand BMW began to livestream models on Tmall and JD mobile app from February 10. BMW’s product experts introduce different car models every day and answer questions from the audience.

The electric car startup NIO also joined the trend earlier this month. The company released a livestreaming schedule on its mobile app to inform customers well in advance.

China’s largest privately-owned carmaker Geely said customers can now order and customize their cars on its website. The vehicle can be delivered directly to a consumer’s home, meaning customers do not have to visit showrooms for test drives, and thus avoid close contact with people.

Industry insiders also pointed out that there are many challenges in online car selling and the real impact may be limited.

Zhang Xiaofeng, an independent analyst, said: “There are a lot of people watching online but few of them buy.”


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