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China EV-makers entice consumers with healing aromas and free masks

Retail auto sales in China dropped 45% in the first three weeks of March. It might take into the fall for the Chinese auto market to recover. So, to jumpstart the resumed sales of EVs, automakers are using creative but gimmicky methods. Will they bring car buyers back to dealerships and put them behind the wheel of an EV?

The EV unit of Guangzhou Automobile Group Co. (GAC) sells the Aion LX, an all-electric Model X-like SUV with battery packs ranging from 70 kWh to 93 kWh. The Japan Times (via Reuters) reported that GAC is testing a system to perfume the Aion LX with the healing aroma of traditional Chinese medicine.

SAIC-GM-Wuling, a venture between SAIC and General Motors, started offering up to 11,000 yuan ($1,500) off purchases of its Wuling and Baojun brand vehicles. Buyers also receive free medical masks.

Last week, Wuling, the GM brand, revealed photos of its yet-unnamed tiny new EV.

Tesla recently launched test-drive and delivery services in China with zero contact by sales staff. Geely, the owner of Volvo and Polestar brands, has at least four pure electric models for sale in China. The company is delivering disinfected cars and dropping off keys with drones.

Last month, Geely also unveiled the Icon, a gas-powered SUV promising that its air-filtration system will remove the threat of coronavirus.

Sales of so-called new energy vehicles in China have contracted eight months in a row, after a rollback in government subsidies. The central government appears reluctant to restore incentives, although local authorities are beginning to offer subsidies.

Electrek’s Take

Perfume, free masks, and keys delivered by drone are obvious gimmicks. So here are the questions for the world’s major EV markets: When will buying resume? And how can consumers in tough times be persuaded to buy a zero-emission vehicle?

Discounts are helpful but can’t last forever. When we finally rebound from stay-at-home orders due to the pandemic – as China is doing now – it will be time to get back on track with sustainable mobility.

Vehicle emissions dramatically dropped in March when we stayed at home. The worry now is that consumers will be all too ready to return to gas-guzzlers powered by cheap gas and sold for short-term profits in a weak economy.

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Avatar for Bradley Berman Bradley Berman

Bradley writes about electric cars, autonomous vehicles, smart homes, and other tech that’s transforming society. He contributes to The New York Times, SAE International, Via magazine, Popular Mechanics, MIT Technology Review, and others.