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From Automotive News.

Second-car buyers show changes in China's auto market

Alysha Webb
Automotive News
April 19, 2007 - 10:13 am

SHANGHAI -- Visiting a Chevrolet dealership last week, I struck up a conversation with a man who was considering buying a Chevrolet Lova as a second car. Mr. Xi, who said he worked for a company that sold auto parts, called it a "family car," the family being Mr. Xi, his wife, and child.

After a decade in China, I'm still stunned at how quickly things change here. Private car ownership in China only took off about seven years ago, and already people in some markets are buying second cars! Talking with Mr. Xi taught me more than just that two-car families are emerging, however. It also suggested that China's consumers are growing up as quickly as the market.

Mr. Xi hadn't decided what car to buy yet. He had also looked at a Toyota Vios and a Volkswagen Santana. His other car was a Volkswagen, he said. So far, the Lova, which is a sedan version of the Aveo hatchback, seemed like the best bargain to him. It was a little less expensive than the Vios, and about the same size, he said.

The Santana was the cheapest of the three. "But it is a really ugly car," said the 45-year old salesman.

So price isn't the only thing on Chinese buyers' minds these days. The Santana is by far the biggest of the three. But looks trump size for some.

I asked if he had considered local brands such as Chery or Geely, which are priced below all the foreign brands. "I won't buy a local brand," he said. "Chinese people don't like those local brands that much. They're not that good."

Maybe some Chinese consumers in cities such as Shanghai don't like local brands, but Chery didn't get so big without selling a lot of cars. In China's less affluent cities, especially in the inland provinces, many consumers still go for cheaper, bigger cars.

Still, automakers and suppliers take note. Chinese consumers are getting pickier. Offering some extra luxuries at a good price, with a nice look, just might make your brand the second car of choice.
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