China's EV Evangelists
Bloomberg Businessweek|August 09 - 16, 2021 (Double Issue)
Forget makeup. Influencers are pitching electric cars in the No. 1 alternative fuel market
By John Liu and Chunying Zhang, with Tian Ying

Emma Meng, dressed in a pale pink Victoria’s Secret top, faces the selfie stick reflected in her bathroom mirror and ties her tresses back into a tousled ponytail. Young and fresh-faced, she may seem ready to offer a hairstyling tutorial or skincare review. Instead, she launches into a dissection of Tesla Inc.’s Battery Day, complete with an analysis of its 4680 power cell and the latest developments on nickel cathodes.

Meng, or EV Emma as she’s known to her 700,000 followers, is among the swelling ranks of Chinese influencers blogging, vlogging, and flogging cars in the world’s biggest electric vehicle market. The money is so good that some like Meng, who graduated from Cambridge University in 2013 and worked as a regional business developer in France, were able to ditch their corporate careers. In the process, they’re helping reshape the way automobiles are sold in a nation that was late to embrace personal car ownership but is driving full speed into cleaner, greener vehicles.

Consumers in Asia’s biggest economy are confronted with a veritable smorgasbord of choices when it comes to EVs, from SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile Co.’s cute and compact Hongguang Mini, which starts at just $4,500, to Tesla’s fast-selling Model Y crossover, which carries a sticker price of about $42,600, and Nio Inc.’s ES6 SUV, which tops out at more than $72,000.

Several automakers now have multiple new energy vehicle brands, each targeted at a slightly different customer segment. Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. alone has Geometry, Polestar, Lynk & Co., and, most recently, Zeekr, an all-electric marque aimed at millennials.

EV adoption, meanwhile, is accelerating at a startling pace. China’s Passenger Car Association reported sales of new-energy vehicles of about 1 million in the first six months of 2021, prompting association Secretary General Cui Dongshu to describe the body’s full-year sales target of 2.4 million as “conservative.” The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers is forecasting sales of combustion and electric cars combined will climb about 7%, to 27 million units, for the year.

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