In recent years the car has moved from being a luxury item in China to a true mass product. According to a report published by the China Automobile Dealers Association, car sales in the first 10 months of this year rose 25.7% year-on-year to 5.8 million and are expected to exceed seven million for the full year.
As much larger segments of society buy cars, the vehicles no longer become signals of extreme wealth and are instead seen as means of transportation, with all the accompanying practical requirements. "Chinese consumers are becoming more rational," said an official at the China Automobile Dealers Association.
Unsurprisingly, rational consumers go for safe products, as statistics from China appear to confirm. Complaints about safety made up 22.9% of all complaints about car quality in the third quarter of this year, according to the China Quality Association and the Auto Engineering Research Institute of Tsinghua University. Statistics on deaths on China's roads suggest this is a wise choice. In the first half of this year, 41,933 people were killed in traffic accidents in China, according to the public security ministry.
The 2006 China Automobile Customer Satisfaction Index, published earlier this month, showed defects had been found in 77% of locally made cars bought within six months in China. Many car users said they had to complain more than once before their problems were dealt with and the maintenance staff might play various tricks to conceal problems and charge higher fees when the warranty expired.
In addition to safety, prosaic issues such as comfort and convenience are key concerns for Chinese consumers.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006