China's BAIC, Didi plan car leasing service amid new car sales slowdown

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BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese automaker BAIC Group and ride-hailing service provider Didi Chuxing plan to team up with other industry players to lease BAIC’s cars to customers amid concerns about ride hailing and vehicle sharing eating into car sales.

The companies, which have a joint venture to develop “next-generation connected-car systems”, will partner with electric vehicle (EV) battery maker CATL, State Grid, Postal Savings Bank of China and online used car trading platform Uxin to build an “exchange of car use right”. They aim to have a fleet of 100,000 cars for leasing in the next three years, companies said in a statement released on Saturday.

Yang Jun, vice president of SoftBank-backed Didi, told an online press conference that Didi will explore more leasing projects in the future including car rental and sharing services.

China, the world’s biggest auto market where more than 25 million vehicles were sold last year, is also world’s biggest ride-hailing market.

Auto executives have expressed concerns that new car sales will be disrupted by passengers' growing ride-hailing use. As a result, Didi launched joint ventures with different automakers including Volkswagen VOWG_p.DE and BYD while SAIC Motor and Great Wall operate their own ride-hailing services.

General Motors Co’s Cadillac also launched its first leasing project in China earlier this year.

Research by consulting firms Bain & Co and Deloitte showed fewer customers in China’s big cities think owning a car represents their social status or is a symbol of their identity.

Industry-wide auto sales fell 8.2% last year, pressured by slowing economy, new emission standards and the impact of Sino-U.S. trade tension.

Reporting by Yilei Sun and Brenda Goh; Editing by Lincoln Feast.