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Baidu launches auto-focused app in wager that COVID-19 drives consumer demand for private vehicles

The app will carry comprehensive information about consumer vehicles and connect users with auto dealers.

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Baidu has rolled out an app called Youjia, offering encyclopedic information about automobiles as well as a portal for users to connect with auto dealers to inquire about prices, 36Kr reported on Tuesday.

The information carried by Youjia is mainly drawn from content producers on Baidu’s Baijiahao content aggregation service, while the sales communication channel is embedded by US-listed Bitauto, which provides information about consumer automobiles on its website and app.

Baidu declined to comment on the new app when contacted by KrASIA on Tuesday.

There are existing platforms that are similar to Youjia. ByteDance’s Jinri Toutiao hosts a car-focused channel called Dongchedi. Softbank-backed Guazi is a trading platform for secondhand vehicles. Autohome, which is like Bitauto and is also listed in the US, provides web-based marketing services that are utilized by automakers and auto dealers.

Youjia is going online at a time when automakers and auto dealers are being negatively affected by the novel coronavirus. This, in turn, may cultivate consumer interest in purchasing their own vehicles.

In February, 310,000 consumer vehicles were sold in China, plummeting 79.1% from a year ago, Xinhua News Agency reported last week, citing Xu Haidong, assistant secretary general of the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

Autohome’s chairman and CEO Lu Min told analysts during the company’s latest earnings call that the company’s first quarter business will definitely be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, but emphasized that “just because of this epidemic, a lot of the general public believe purchasing a private car is really necessary.”

He said that the company conducted a survey with the assistance of a third-party agency, which showed that 85% of the respondents said they would like to purchase private cars.

Autohome, which was established in 2005 in Beijing, booked RMB 8.4 billion (USD 1.2 billion) in net revenue in 2019, up 16.4% year-on-year.

That included RMB 3.7 billion from media services, RMB 3.3 billion from leads generation services, and RMB 1.5 billion from online marketplace and other channels. The company reported RMB 3.2 billion in net income in 2019, compared with RMB 2.9 billion in 2018.

36Kr is KrASIA’s parent company.