Business / Auto China

Consumers welcome tweaks to auto maintenance industry in 'disarray'

By Du Xiaoying (China Daily) Updated: 2015-08-17 13:49

"You might be able to afford a car, but you cannot afford to have a car."

With prices to maintain a car in China soaring, this has been the lament du jour of auto owners.

With the average income in China at slightly more than $7,590 as of last year, according to the World Bank, prices for gas, parking and other auto expenses are exorbitant. But auto maintenance expenses are just as much of a headache for car owners, mostly because the car repair market is controlled by auto manufacturers and parts suppliers.

The government is making efforts to rectify the market in order to protect consumer's rights and interests.

Last week, the State Administration for Industry and Commerce announced that it is strengthening its supervision of the country's auto industry from August to December.

The administration said it is mainly investigating five violations: the infringement of consumer rights, dissemination of false or misleading public information, commercial bribery, unauthorized use of registered trademarks and improper use of contracts.

In recent years, as car ownership in China has risen, so has the need for auto maintenance services. But many consumers have complained about a lack of transparency in services and the arbitrary imposition of fees in the auto maintenance and repair market.

"I'm not allowed to enter the workshop when my car is undergoing maintenance. It is not transparent at all," said Fu Jingjing, a 37-year-old Beijing resident who drives a Citroen C5.

Fu accused many 4S stores and vehicle maintenance shops of not completing all of the maintenance services required of them. For example, he said the entire car should be examined at every checkup, but many shops don't always do that unless the customer asks.

Once, he claimed his car's engine oil was nearly depleted upon arriving home from a maintenance checkup. After he drove back to the shop, it was discovered that his oil valve hadn't been sealed properly.

Industry insiders also believe China's vehicle service market is in disarray.

"The market has always been in confusion, it has never changed," said Zhang Yu, managing director of Automotive Foresight (Shanghai) Co.

Zhang said the administration's reforms of the auto market will not have much impact on the market because it is "discussing theories".

But a regulation that forces automakers to publish their maintenance and repair technology information is much more "concrete" for consumers, said Zhang.

Jointly written by several government departments including the Ministry of Transport and the National Development and Reform Commission, the regulation will be released later this month, according to

"It will be good news for the independent auto maintenance and repair shops. It is in favor of market transparency and quality improvements, which will benefit consumers. But the implementation of the regulation won't be easy," Zhang said.

In February, the draft of the regulation was issued to seek public opinion. It received considerable opposition from vehicle producers and auto parts suppliers. They believe publishing their information will damage the company's interests.

"The situation is the same all over the world. Showrooms and maintenance shops are making money from the repair of cars and sales of auto parts," Zhang said.

The biggest problem for China's vehicle maintenance and repair market, said Zhang, are fake products. He believes the situation will change if the regulation is implemented effectively.

"Consumers' complaints about the vehicles and the auto services will certainly grow as there are more and more cars on the road. If the government's policies can really be carried out, the situation of auto maintenance and repair market will improve."

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