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Automakers bet big on China car-sharing

SHANGHAI

Unable to afford a car, Shanghai university student Long Yi faces a lengthy, expensive commute across his vast city but has found a solution in the car-sharing schemes quickly gaining momentum in China.

Essentially an Internet Age twist on car rentals, car-sharing is growing rapidly from virtually nothing two years ago as Chinese millennials seek more mobile lifestyles without the cost and hassle of buying cars.

Long, 20, drives himself to school for around 50 yuan ($7) using EV Card, a service launched by state-owned automaker SAIC Motor that offers compact electric vehicles sprinkled around the city, slashing his travel time and at one-quarter the cost of taxis.

“It is cheaper and more convenient and very flexible. I would choose EV CARD as my primary way of transportation almost every time,” said Long.

After years of skyrocketing sales, the global auto industry is contemplating a sales slowdown as it convenes this week for the Shanghai Auto Show, putting alternative sales channels like car-sharing in focus.

Long-established in Western countries, car-sharing schemes are relatively new in China, but are a growing component of an ongoing Chinese personal-mobility revolution.

Drivers typically use a smartphone app to find and even unlock cars, later parking them anywhere or at set locations.

Already, bike-sharing businesses have exploded across China, flooding major cities with bicycles that are unlocked by GPS using an app, can be left anywhere and have become critical to the commutes of countless Chinese urbanites. Dozens of Chinese and foreign companies have now either launched or invested in car-sharing businesses, with some making purpose-built cars.

Germany-based consultancy Roland Berger forecasts car-sharing will grow annually by 45 per cent.

Agencies