SHANGHAI – With the coronavirus pandemic remaining under control in China since mid-March, new-vehicle sales in the country have rebounded for two consecutive months and automakers are rolling out new product on schedule.
But no new vehicle has attracted as much attention this year as a minitruck launched by SAIC-GM-Wuling, General Motors’ light-vehicle joint venture with two Chinese automakers -- SAIC Motor Corp. and Wuling Motors Holdings.
After hitting the domestic market Tuesday under the Wuling brand, the vehicle became an instant hit on social media platforms such as WeChat, the Chinese answer to Twitter.
The next day, shares in Wuling Motors Holdings, a Hong Kong-listed company, surged 53 percent.
The reason behind the minitruck’s buzz is a sea change in the Chinese government’s attitude towards street vendors.
As the government was keen to clean up the environment in domestic cities, street stalls and vendors have been banned in the past few years.
But the coronavirus outbreak, which resulted in a 6.8 percent contraction of the domestic economy and a sharp rise in unemployment in the first quarter, has prompted the government to reverse its position.
Since late May, an increasing number of Chinese cities including the northwest city of Chengdu and the east city of Jinan have reopened streets to stalls and makeshift markets selling all kinds of products such as food, farm produce, toys, clothes and shoes.
Meantime, official media have churned out reports to tout the positive results the “stall economy” has produced in reviving economic growth and creating jobs in the wake of the viral outbreak.
Against such a background, the timing for the Wuling-badged minitruck’s arrival in the market couldn’t be better.
The vehicle is meant specifically to support the “stall economy,” SAIC-GM-Wuling said on its social media site.
It is -- in many ways.