【英语财经】中国汽车经销商转战二手车市场 Chinese Auto Dealers Move Into Used Cars

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2014-4-29 11:23

小艾摘要: There was a time when Patrick Chou was swimming in cash. Customers arrived at his Audi car dealership with bags of money. They dropped it on the table and posed for photographs, entire families smil ...
Chinese Auto Dealers Move Into Used Cars
There was a time when Patrick Chou was swimming in cash.

Customers arrived at his Audi car dealership with bags of money. They dropped it on the table and posed for photographs, entire families smiling proudly next to their shiny new luxury sedans. Then they then drove off, leaving Mr. Chou, who opened one of Audi's first car dealerships in China in 2002, to count millions of Chinese yuan in small bills.

'It was hard work counting all that money,' he says, chuckling. 'No one had credit cards back then, and there was no financing, so they had to pay with cash.'

Mr. Chou's business is still growing, but piles of cash are no longer falling into his lap. For the first time, Mr. Chou expects sales at some of his showrooms to decline this year, the result of slower overall growth, heightened competition pressuring margins, and the efforts of local governments to fight pollution by restricting new car registrations. That leaves Mr. Chou looking for ways to rev up China's next automotive growth markets: used-car sales and leasing.

In the last five years, 60 million new cars rolled onto the streets in China. Now, some are starting to come back on the market as used vehicles. As that happens, Mr. Chou finds himself on the front lines of a battle to entice car owners to bring their vehicles back to the dealerships rather than sell them on China's popular used-car bazaars or through other private channels. Mr. Chou is one of 290 Audi dealers in China authorized by the Ingolstadt, Germany-based car maker to refurbish and resell used Audis.

'We are ramping up the used-car business,' said Rupert Stadler, Audi's chief executive, on the sidelines of the Beijing auto show this week. 'Cars that would normally have been sold to family members are increasingly being sold back to dealers.'

Developing new revenue streams from used-car sales, financing and after-sales services parts and repairs in China is so important now that BMW AG put Karsten Engel, an after-sales expert, in charge of its China business last year. Mr. Engel had spent many years in Asia in various leadership positions with BMW. He once worked as CEO of A.T. U Auto-Teile Unger GmbH & Co., Germany's leading auto-parts seller, and more recently ran BMW's group after-sales business and distribution.

'There are 1.4 million BMWs in the market in China and half of them are two years old,' he said in an interview. 'This is potentially a big source of profit and turnover.'

The growth in used-car sales can be seen in Mr. Chou's business, which he launched in the 1990s after he decided to leave Germany and 'pursue an extraordinary opportunity' in the country his parents left behind two decades earlier. He now operates a network of 23 German-style full-service dealerships and has partnerships with Audi, sports car maker Porsche, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz. In 1998, he created a company called BetterLife China Investment Co., which generated 1.1 billion renminbi ($180 million) in revenue through the sale of 18,000 new cars last year, of which 10,000 were Audis.

The dealership in Tianjin, a city about a two-hour drive from Beijing with a population of 12 million, sold 2,500 cars last year, up 19% from the previous year. Four years ago, his Tianjin dealership sold 40 used cars, but that number grew to 500 used cars by last year. Now, Mr. Chou wants to give the used-car business a boost by building a separate dealership for used-cars near his new-car showroom in Tianjin.

The dealership here is located in an area of the city that locals call 'the airport,' says Mr. Chou, because of the hangar-like polished stainless steel and glass buildings of around 35 individual car dealerships huddled together in the area.

Some dealers are expanding with the car companies in parts of China that are less developed, smaller cities in the west, for example. But Mr. Chou says he will stay in big markets in big cities and focus on expanding services of his existing locations.

One reason Mr. Chou says he chose to invest in the used-car market in Tianjin is linked to the city's decision in December to reduce the number of new car registrations in the city this year to 100,000 from 300,000 last year. As a result of that decision, Tianjin issued no new car registrations during the first two months of the year, Mr. Chou says, which meant his Tianjin dealership had no sales until March.

'That's why the used-car market is so important,' he says. 'Through trade-ins we get the license plates. The city isn't retiring old license plates, so we can continue to use them.'

Trading in an old car isn't a precise science in China. There is no standardized list of values for used cars based on model and year of issue. Audi provides its dealers with rough estimates, but the rest is determined through negotiation with the customer.

Most Chinese car buyers still pay directly from their savings with a debit card even if they have discarded the practice of hauling sacks of cash to the dealership. But the use of car loans is on the rise. Mr. Chou's dealerships offer three-year loans from VW's finance group with a down payment of 20% to 30% and an interest rate of between 8% and 12%. The number of his customers that finance their new car purchase has risen to between 30% and 40%, says Mr. Chou, up from 10% in 2005.

The more money customers can get for their trade-in, the easier it is for them to buy a more luxurious new car. That is how German auto makers keep customers coming back in Western markets such as the U.S.

German car makers are betting that even if China's phase of explosive growth is ending, the numbers of people who could afford to buy a new car will keep rising. Consulting firm McKinsey last year estimated that by 2022 China's urban population will grow by an additional 100 million people to 357 million. During the same period, the upper middle class, Chinese households with disposable income between 106,000 renminbi and 229,000 renminbi will expand to 54% of all households from 14% in 2012.

This is a class of consumers who would be prime targets for luxury car marketers, especially if they embraced monthly payments. 'In Germany, 30% of the market is premium brands,' says Mr. Stadler. 'Why shouldn't that happen in China?'

Patrick Chou之前一度曾被现金淹没。

顾客手里拿着几袋子现金来到他的奥迪(Audi)汽车经销店。他们把钱往桌子上一放,摆姿势拍照,全家在他们闪亮的新豪车旁边笑得灿烂而骄傲。然后,他们开车走人,留下Chou一个人数价值数百万的人民币零钱。Chou是2002年奥迪在中国设立的首批经销商之一。

他笑着说,数完那么多钱实在很辛苦。他补充说,当时没人使用信用卡,也没有贷款买车。因此,顾客只能付现金。

Chou的业务仍在增长,但他再也不必接收一堆一堆的现金了。Chou预计,他展厅里的部分车型今年将首次出现销量下滑,原因是总体市场增长放缓,竞争加剧令利润率受压,以及地方政府为应对污染采取限发新车牌照的举措。这迫使Chou想方设法地加快发展中国下一个汽车增长市场:二手车买卖和租赁。

过去五年,中国共有6000万辆新车上路。目前,其中一些车辆已作为二手车开始重回市场。在这种情况下,Chou发现自己身处一场战斗的前线,吸引车主将他们的旧车回售给经销商,而不是卖给风靡的二手车交易市场,或是通过其它私人渠道卖车。总部位于因戈尔施塔特(Ingolstadt)的奥迪公司授权290家中国奥迪经销商负责二手奥迪车的翻新和转售,Chou也是其中之一。

奥迪首席执行长斯塔德勒(Rupert Stadler)在上周北京车展的间隙表示,奥迪公司正扩大二手车业务。他称,那些通常被卖给亲戚的旧车正越来越多地回售给经销商。

在中国市场,二手车销售、汽车金融、售后服务与维修都是非常重要的增收源泉,正因为如此,宝马汽车公司(BMW AG)去年任命了售后专家恩格尔(Karsten Engel)来负责中国业务。恩格尔在亚洲为宝马汽车效力多年,担任过许多领导职务。他曾经担任德国领先的汽车零部件销售商A.T. U Auto-Teile Unger GmbH & Co.的首席执行长,最近负责宝马汽车的集团售后和分销业务。

恩格尔在接受采访时说,中国市场有140万辆宝马汽车,两年车龄的占到一半。他说,这可能是很大的一块利润和营收来源。

二手车销售的增长从Chou的业务中可见一斑。上世纪90年代,决定离开德国的Chou在中国开始创业,他的父母20年前离开中国,他却希望在中国寻找非凡的机遇。如今,他经营着23个德国式的提供全方位服务的经销商,与奥迪、保时捷(Porsche)、大众汽车(Volkswagen)和梅赛德斯-奔驰(Mercedes-Benz)建立了合作关系。1998年,他开创了百得利(BetterLife China Investment Co.),这家公司去年销售新车1.8万辆,收入为人民币11亿元(合1.8亿美元),其中1万辆为奥迪车。

他在天津的经销商去年销售汽车2,500辆,较前一年增长19%。四年前,他的天津经销商只卖出40辆二手车,而去年二手车销量增加到500辆。现在,Chou准备在天津的新车展厅旁再建一个二手车经销部,给二手车业务再添一把火。

Chou说,他在天津的经销商坐落在一个被当地人称作“空港”的地方,那里有像飞机库一样的不锈钢玻璃建筑,区内有大约35家不同的汽车经销商。

一些经销商与汽车公司联手在中国欠发达地区、例如西部小城市拓展业务。但Chou表示他会留在大城市的大市场,并专注于扩大现有地区的服务。

Chou表示,他之所以选择投资天津的二手车市场,原因之一是,去年12月份天津市出台新规,今年新车限购10万辆,而去年这一数字为30万辆。Chou表示,受上述规定影响,天津市今年前两个月没有下发新车上牌指标,这意味着其天津的经销商在3月份之前没有生意可做。

他说,二手车市场如此重要原因就在这里。他说,通过二手车市场可以获得车辆牌照;旧的车辆牌照在天津市不会被淘汰,还可以继续使用。

在中国对二手车的估价并不精确,也没有一套基于车型和上市年限的估值标准。奥迪向经销商提供了二手车的大致估值,但其余则通过与客户的讨价还价来决定。

中国的购车客户虽然已经放弃了提着大捆现金购车的做法,但他们还是会从借记卡的储蓄账户中直接支付车款。不过使用汽车贷款的人也在增多。Chou的经销点提供来自大众汽车(VW)旗下金融集团的三年期汽车贷款服务,首付为20%-30%,利息为8%-12%。Chou表示,其客户中贷款购车的比例从2005年的10%上升至30%-40%。

二手车以旧换新中,客户卖旧车得到的钱越多,购买更豪华的新车也就越发容易。在美国等西方市场,德国的汽车生产商就是这样让客户不断重新光顾的。

德国汽车生厂商认为,即使中国汽车爆炸式增长的阶段已经结束,有能力购买新车的人数还是会继续增长。咨询公司麦肯锡公司(McKinsey & Co., Inc.)去年预计,到2022年中国的城镇人口将增长1亿,达到3.57亿。同期中产阶层家庭中的上层(家庭可支配收入在人民币106,000-229,000元之间)在所有家庭中的比例将由2012年的14%扩大到54%。

这一消费群体是豪华车营销的主要对象,特别是如果这一群体能接受月供。斯塔德勒表示,在德国,高端品牌占市场的比例为30%,难道中国就不可以这样吗?

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