After a decade-long surge in sales that made China the world's largest new car market, the nation's auto industry players appear to be taking its next major step: creating a modern market for used cars.
The new car market in China may have grabbed headlines early this year, with sales of just over 18 million vehicles in 2011, but sales of used cars almost tripled that figure last year.
A total of 42 million secondhand cars changed hands in 2011, up 15 percent year-on-year, according to figures from China Automobile Dealer's Association.
Shen Rong, deputy secretary-general of the association, predicts that with continued support, the growth of China's used car market will exceed that of the new car market, and is hopeful that total sales of secondhand automobiles will top 5 million for the year.
"The rise of used cars indicates that China's motor-vehicle market is entering a stage of maturity," Shen said.
China's Ministry of Commerce expects that secondhand car transactions will comprise more than 10 million units by 2015, according to a statement on the ministry's website. It will also license secondhand-car dealerships. As existing cars grow old, dealerships with post-sales services can benefit from such new business.
In addition, the State Administration of Tax has introduced a new policy which removes many of the old administrative burdens involved when selling secondhand cars in 2012, apart from a trade-in initiative.
In response, many automakers, including Daimler and Volkswagen AG, are racing to lay the foundations for used car operations that can take trade-ins for new cars and offer dealer guarantees and services on used vehicles.
"Though the sales of used cars in the first month of 2012 have reportedly been slow due to the Chinese Lunar New Year holidays, I'm confident that the market will pick up in the second month and with the arrival of a warmer season," said Chi Yifeng, general manager of Yayuncun Car Market.
However, China's auto industry is so new that there are still few used car businesses today and limited involvement by big dealers, analysts said.
This week, we have selected three popular used car models with prices that will be attractive to secondhand buyers.