Call it the little engine that could. The Pearl Grey smart car, manufactured by Mercedes (a division of Daimler AG), has been rumbling through China with unprecedented power. Last week, online retailer Jingdong Mall offered 300 units of Pearl Grey for sale on their site.
They were sold out within 89 minutes, reflecting the growing popularity of smart cars in China and the willingness of Chinese consumers to buy big-ticket items like cars if given a credible online platform.
“Smart’s target audience is quite broad, ranging from first-time buyers of 18 to drivers aged 70, evenly split by gender,” said Stefan Herbert, head of smart operations at Mercedes-Benz (China) Ltd.. “So we need to tailor-make strategies and marketing campaigns for different target groups.”
So far, the internet has been the most successful in targeting the greatest amount of people. Mercedes previously set another record by selling 205 smart cars within four hours through group buying on Taobao, a Chinese online marketplace, in 2010.
“I believe that Chinese customers would prefer the low-cost online shopping experience even for vehicles, if there is a credible platform to provide high-quality products,” said Herbert. “Another surprise is that the 300 orders came from all over China, not just first-tier cities.”
Herbert said that China was the only country where these special edition cars had been sold exclusively through an online retailer. “We got the largest portion of the total 1,200 units globally.”
Since the smart car entered the mainland in April 2009, China has become its third-largest market after Germany and Italy. Last year, sales surged 180 percent to almost 11,000 units.