Smart cars speed off auction site

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 September, 2010, 12:00am


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It was the ultimate in smart selling - a promotional deal run through one of the mainland's top online auction sites managed to sell a phenomenal 200 Mercedes-Benz Smart cars in under 31/2 hours.

The offer of almost a quarter off the retail price proved too good to resist for the mainland's car-crazy nouveau riche, and they snapped up the two-person runabouts at breakneck speed.

Each customer had to put down a 999 yuan (HK$1,144) deposit for a car that was part of a 'bulk purchase' of Smart coupes. Depending on how many signed up, the price dropped in stages to 135,000 yuan - 41,000 yuan less than the retail value.

The promotion, launched on at 10am yesterday, was originally intended to last for three weeks. All but two of the 206 available cars were sold by 1.30pm.

The mainland is in the midst of a car-buying frenzy as the newly affluent hunt for ways to flaunt their wealth.

Figures released by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers yesterday showed car sales soared 39 per cent during the first eight months of this year compared with the same period last year.

The association predicted total national sales would reach 16 million by the end of the year.

However, there are suggestions that some of the growth may be driven by heavy discounting and government cash incentives for environmentally friendly vehicles.

Business appeared sluggish at the flagship Smart showroom in central Shanghai yesterday afternoon: neither it nor the two-storey Mercedes-Benz store next door had a single customer.

When asked about deals, a salesman pushed the group purchase offer.

'It could save you around 40,000 yuan,' said Tom Tang Xiaoqin. 'Of course we would never be able to sell 200 cars [quickly enough] in Shanghai alone, so we are running it nationwide. We are using a number of websites to promote the concept. You can register online or we can do it all for you right here if you prefer.'

Tang said none of the Taobao customers had yet come into the store to arrange for delivery. He was surprised to learn all the cars had been sold on the first day of the offer.