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Published on Sep 26, 2013 in Asia, China, Featured Articles, News

Buying a Car in China

Buying a car at a dealership in China is the polar opposite of purchasing a car in the United States. There are two main features that set Chinese car dealerships apart from those in the U.S. The first is that they’re patient. It seems almost incomprehensible, but it’s true. In China, purchasing a car is a big deal and generally takes a great deal of one’s personal income. Therefore, a typical Chinese car buyer peppers the dealer with hours of questions while fiddling with the car. This may go on for two or three more sessions, and possibly more, before the buyer feels they’re ready to make their purchase. During this sales process the car dealer shows no signs of impatience with the buyer. On the contrary, they’ll be just as happy to see the prospective buyer the fourth time they come through the dealer’s door as the first. Dealer pressure is not a part of China’s car buying process.

Photo from

Photo from

The second feature that sets Chinese car dealers apart from those in the U.S. is consumer service. Some dealerships offer manicures, movies, free food, and other conveniences to keep buyers in the showroom speaking with their salespeople. Repeat customers in some dealerships are treated to additional perks such as a cigar room, fitness center, game room, a full-time tea artist brewing various types of tea, and even a buffet that may offer multiple meat and vegetable dishes. Dealerships want you to feel at home when you come to buy a car and they go to great lengths to make you feel welcome and comfortable.

If you’re stuck at home and can’t make it to the dealer, that’s not a problem in China. Many dealerships have mobile showrooms that will take their cars to you!

Generally, when the buyer finally makes their purchase, the dealer will ceremoniously hand the buyer their key and walk them to their new car, which is festooned with ribbons. Around the car the dealership’s staff will be setting off strings of firecrackers and throwing confetti in the air. The dealer will also take photos of the buyer with their car and will give the photo to them as a keepsake. All this is aimed at making the buyer feel both important and respected.

For their part, buyers who have had a good experience tend to refer friends and other family members to the dealership. Unlike in the U.S., there’s no cold calling in China. There’s no billboards, no newspaper inserts, and no junk mail advertising dealership specials. Business and product referrals are done by word of mouth, whether you’re speaking about car dealerships or a branded product. As a result, a good consumer relationship is critical in China.

China’s car market is the largest in the world with auto sales expected to reach nearly 21 million vehicles this year. The United States, in contrast, expects vehicle sales of 15 million vehicles in 2013. China’s car sales are so robust that companies, such as General Motors, are building more factories and adding jobs as Chinese buyers have a preference for foreign automobiles. Recently, this preference has focused on the purchase of SUV’s, sales of which are expected to reach 4 million vehicles by 2015.

Alan Refkin

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