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Fintech opens new vistas for buyers

By Wang Ying in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2017-12-19 08:14

Big data, cloud computing, AI offer plethora of options for customers

Financial technology, or fintech, is offering automobile buyers new purchasing experiences in the form of big data, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, face recognition, intelligent risk control etc, and the technology is expected to reshape the whole industry in the coming decade, a new report said.

As much as 4.04 trillion yuan ($611.4 billion) worth of automobiles were traded through retail channels across China in 2016, and the penetration of automobile financing had reached 35 percent. Compared to other retail sectors, automobile consumers are more traditional, meaning there is still huge room for upgrading and development, according to a report on the application of fintech in China's automobile finance sector published on Dec 12.

The report was jointly published by US market research firm JD Power and Shenzhen-based Ping An Bank. It noted that innovative fintech applications have improved customers' buying experiences. For example, big data and system automatic decision-making engines have accelerated the process of issuing bank loans, said Xue Min, general manager of financial services at JD Power China.

Industry players have cut the waiting period between loan applications and car pickup with loans to a mini-mum of 500 seconds, compared with 8.79 days two years ago, said Xue.

China, the world's largest automobile market for eight consecutive years, manufactured 28.12 million cars and sold 28.03 million units in 2016, up 14.5 percent and 13.7 percent respectively, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

However, according to JD Power's estimates, new automobile sales in China will slow down in the next couple of years.

In the past five years, along with soaring sales of passenger vehicles, Ping An Bank's auto finance division has seen its business scale expanding 10 times to 100 billion yuan, said Fu Zhongqiang, president of the auto finance division at Ping An Bank.

Fu said the auto finance sector is expected to be a key profit contributor to Ping An's retail business.

Though China's car financing market remains in its infancy, many young Chinese consumers are willing to buy cars on mortgages. However, the industry still lags behind its counterparts in the United States and Europe where between 70 percent and 80 percent of cars are purchased on credit, said Zhang Xu'an, CEO of Yixin Group, a leading Chinese online automobile transaction platform.

"More than 35 percent of Chinese automobiles were sold last year through financing and leasing, and we expect the figure to rise to 45 percent by the end of this year," said Zhang.

Nearly 30 percent of car purchases in China in 2015 were on credit, up from 18 percent in 2013, according to a Deloitte report, which predicted China's penetration rate of auto retail finance products to cross 50 percent by 2020.

"Buying cars at a traditional dealership often means more time and higher cost than buying online due to the limited availability of car models, lack of information, long transaction period and insufficient services," said Zhao Xiang, an analyst from Analysys, a domestic internet research firm.

According to Zhao, online automobile transaction platforms have stimulated car buying demand as they offer Chinese consumers an opportunity to buy their dream car with low down payments.

"There is not enough data available about new car trading, but the available used car online trading data do give us some insights of internet's involvement in the automobile trading business," said Zhao.

According to Zhao, 10.39 million used vehicles were traded throughout 2016, up 10.3 percent year-on-year.

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