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What is a 'Standard Auto Accessory with Chinese Characteristics'?

Date:12-07 15:47 Authour:He Lun

- Auto Q&A No.69

The nightmarish smog in northern China has made the public more interested in new car sales pitches like "Beijing outside the car; North Europe inside the car". Auto air conditioners capable of filtering out external smog have become a hot topic. In fact, air conditioning is not the only auto accessory with 'Chinese characteristics'.

Q: The recent severe smog has worried many people and they are starting to ask questions about smog-filtering auto air conditioners. One media outlet has carried out a test that showed that no matter the model, if the filter element of the air conditioner is of good enough quality, it can effectively keep out PM2.5 and other pollutants, and the air quality in the car can be improved if the conditioner is set on "internal circulation" mode with strong fan power. It seems that the smog-filtering auto air conditioner is nothing special.

A: These findings don't tell the full story. If the air conditioner is on "internal circulation" mode, or if there are several people in the car, the oxygen level in the car will gradually fall, so the real challenge lies in how to effectively eliminate PM2.5 and other pollutants on the "external circulation" mode, which is something that some new-generation auto air conditioner systems do well. New models from brands like Volvo, Infiniti, Lexus, Toyota and BYD are all equipped with such air conditioners.

Q: Li Shufu's slogan of "Beijing outside the car; North Europe inside the car" sounds great, but exactly how effective is this kind of air conditioner?

A: You should ask the relevant department whether it has in place the necessary standards and certification. As far as I know, the current standard for air quality inside the car concerns the pollutants emitted by the vehicle itself rather than from external sources. Since smog is such a serious problem and so detrimental to human health, and it cannot be solved in the short term, formulating relevant standards for air quality in the car concerning air from external sources, and requiring automakers to fit their products with smog-filtering air conditioning, is very much of a hot topic.

In my opinion, smog-filtering air conditioning should be the No.1 standard accessory in all cars sold in China.

Q: Are there No.2 or No.3 standard accessories?

A: Possibly. For instance, the car-borne display screen can be connected to a smartphone and use its GPS, but it has to be isolated from the on-board computer for fear of mutual interference or virus infection. At the moment, the GPS provided by automakers is extremely expensive, and its lifespan is limited, either because it cannot be upgraded or the speed of upgrading cannot keep up with the speed of evolution in Chinese cities and their buildings, and upgrading itself is very expensive too.

According to a representative from the China Head Office of a major auto brand, his colleagues, including foreigners, don't use the original GPS fitted in the car, but download amap or Baidu map on their smartphone for navigation. This is a huge waste of resources and hurts consumers' interests because they are paying more than RMB10,000 for the car-borne GPS, but what they end up with is just a decoration. Besides, as car owners then have to install a smartphone holder in the car, that poses a threat to driving safety. Some automakers are now launching displays that can be connected to the smartphone, but there is no unified standard for them and they are only compatible with one system – either Android or Apple.

Moreover, to deal with another China-specific phenomenon, 'Peng Ci' (where people intentionally get themselves hit by a car and then try to extort money out of the driver), and traffic accident disputes, many owners have installed automobile data recorders in their cars, but are always worried about the position and reliability of the device and whether it will trigger other safety issues. ZD EV has responded to such concerns immediately and set an example by integrating the data recorder with the inner rear view mirror. Should there be national standard for this and should it become a standard accessory too?Also, in many cars in China the lights do not switch themselves on automatically. Drivers sometimes take to the road without turning on the lights, which is a danger to pedestrians and other vehicles. Should there be a standard function that turns lights on automatically when a car is on the road and it gets dark?

Q: Audi's matrix LED headlights can automatically avoid dazzling vehicles and pedestrians in front of the car. Should this become a standard function? Dazzling pedestrians with full-beam lights is a bad driving habit that is all too common in China. It puts both the driver and the pedestrian in danger, and there should be a compulsory way to solve this problem.

A: That's going to be impossible for the next five years because Audi's matrix LED headlight is too expensive - EUR2580 in Germany, about RMB18,000.

Q: The accessories and functions we just mentioned are all specific to China. Whether the automakers will provide them is currently up to themselves, but should they become mandatory in China?

A: We've often complained in the past that China has always followed and adapted to foreign standards and has suffered as a result. Now there is an opportunity for us to formulate standards with Chinese characteristics. It sound rather self-centered, but if it can protect consumer interests, make arrogant multinational automakers adapt to Chinese standards at their own expense, and give us a chance to hold our heads high, why not? If you were serious enough about this to make a list of Chinese drivers' bad driving habits and study them carefully, you would be able to come up with a fairly exhaustive system of auto standards with Chinese characteristics.

Of course, if your purpose in formulating such standards was to protect backward domestic automakers, that would be another matter.

Q: If they really became national standards, they would be compulsory standards for "Chinese-spec cars". Wouldn't that add insult to injury to those engaged in parallel auto imports?

A: No, it wouldn't. Parallel import cars are not "Chinese-spec cars". They don’t have standard 3C certificate and already they don't comply with certain Chinese standards, so one more issue of non-compliance wouldn't do any real harm. The authorities would probably turn a blind eye since parallel imports are on a very small scale. That's a Chinese characteristic too!

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