Technicians at Suning Auto Supermarket in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, explain the features of new models of different brands of cars to prospective customers.(Photo: Cui Xiao/For China Daily)
Alternative vehicle sales channels emerge, riding industry reform and technology
Everyone knows e-commerce and modern retail have transformed shopping in China, but not many are aware that the same innovative spirit is revving up a revolution in automotive sales in the world's largest car market.
These days, supermarkets are not just for shopping for groceries and household items. You can drive a brand new Maserati, Cadillac, BMW, Mercedes Benz or Audi off the supermarket shelf.
If that sounds like too much work still, how about going online and ordering a Porsche for express home delivery next day?
This is not fantasy but the reality of the world of e-commerce and digital technologies like big data, and a consequence of reform, restructuring and modernization of the auto sales sector.
At Suning Automobile Supermarket in Nanjing, capital of East China's Jiangsu province, a crowd of curious consumers got a taste of this reality last month as buyers drove off in new cars they just bought.
In two days after the car supermarket opened on July 15, more than 30 cars, mostly luxury brands worth millions of dollars, were bought. In addition, buyers picked up automobile parts, car decoratives and engine oil.
In doing so, they saved quite a bit because the prices were lower than those in the traditional market.
The scene was a contrast to the past, when car dealers in China dominated the segment of auto sales.
The manufacturer-dealer nexus was too strong; they could armtwist the consumer into accepting arbitrarily set prices and other terms and conditions for after-sales service.
Now, new regulations have introduced alternatives and empowered consumers. Coupled with innovative finance for buyers and restructuring of sales channels, the Chinese auto industry is driving into a new era.
First signs of the change appeared on April 14 when the Ministry of Commerce issued new guidelines for car sales. Under the new regime, auto trading companies can sell vehicles without any authorization from carmakers. The measures took effect in July.
That means, both authorized and unauthorized car sales are allowed. Auto supermarkets of the kind that Suning opened in Nanjing, exclusive multi-brand car stores and even e-commerce platforms sell cars now in China.
The ministry hopes the new measures will improve sales and after-sales service across different auto brands, an approach that is expected to save resources and boost efficiency.
As if on cue, Suning said it expects to open more than 100 auto supermarkets in first-and second-tier cities in China.
Liu Donghao, head of Suning's automotive business section, told reporters at the Nanjing store opening that the venture marks the starting point of the company's wider car-related business.