You may be aware that I have, for the first time, become a proud new car owner. That car happens to be the Cheapest New Electric Car in the World, the remarkable Changli. I bought the Changli online from the Chinese e-commerce site Alibaba, where it’s more commonly sold to elderly people in rural China to go to the market or pick up their hopefully delighted grandkids. It doesn’t seem like the idea of a non-invalid, under-80 American human buying one ever crossed anyone’s mind in China, which may be why it’s become such a strangely big deal on Chinese social and official media.
Because of the way China controls their internet access so tightly, I can’t really access Chinese social media, but, luckily, I have a friend in China who can, and he’s been sending me updates, surprised when my Changli videos began popping up in his social media feeds.
China doesn’t permit access to Twitter or YouTube for most people, so our videos have been copied and uploaded to Chinese video sharing sites (that also means Jalopnik gets zero yuan (which, I checked, also comes to zero U.S. dollars based on current exchange rates) for these videos.
My friend in China works for a large automobile company there, and as such knows Chinese auto journalists, who have been sending him links to the videos. To my friend’s genuine shock, his own father-in-law sent him the links, too.
When you get those sweet, sweet father-in-law links, you know it’s good.
The tone seems to be one of good-natured disbelief, and amusement at my delight?
My friend also sent me some translations of the comments on the Weibo video:
Over on Weibo.com I told you this morning that you had 1.6 million views, it has now increased to 1.8 million views in the space of an hour. There are over 2000 comments.
Some of the comments:
The graphics are awesome
Changli needs to make an English instruction book
Golf carts are too expensive!
Shut up, it looks great!
Can you put plates on this thing?
The shipping fees and taxes are worth more than the car!
This foreign friend needs to do sales, he will be an excellent sales consultant, he makes me so excited!
Hahahahahah he is so cute (this was from a lady, by the way)
Ha! Uncle is so excited!
It looks like ChangLi’s business is gonna be great
His happiness is infectious
He bought the cheap version, he should have got the high end version with GPS and AC - these things are just as good as cars now!
I want to see more episodes, iI’m curious!
Even though I’m a girl, I’m excited for him!
Also loads of people laughing at the Youtube Comments where it says its rear engine and basically a 911 etc etc.
So, that’s awful nice, people of China! These are all really quite supportive, and most of them echo the questions I’ve seen in YouTube comments: can it be legally registered, noting that the shipping and customs fees cost more than the car, golf carts are crazy expensive, and so on.
Oh, and I’ll try addressing many of these questions, too, so don’t worry. Also, I’m not sure why there seems to be a belief that women wouldn’t be excited for this, and some mild surprise when they are—this is a Changli, people, everyone gets excited!
Also, I kind of like being called “Uncle,” and, as some translations put it, “Brother American.”
Of course, like many things in China, once something starts to get any attention, it seems like the state wants to check in, and so we get this story from CGTN, China’s state-run television network:
The story is pretty straightforward, documenting my clear and unashamed delight:
Torchinsky was even more pleased by the fact that the car body is made of metal instead of plastic, with “a real steering rack, real suspension,” and related charging devices. It seems that the vehicle has everything but the name of a real car.
“How much does this actually seem like a car as opposed to some glorified mobility scooter or something, and I’m happy to say, this is a car,” he said in the review.
They also remind readers that these types of vehicles are technically not legal on Chinese roads, are pretty unsafe, and
This type of vehicle is more commonly known as “mobility scooters for the elderly” in Chinese, as it was first designed for the elderly or people with disabilities.
...all of which adds up to a sort of subtext where the article could also have been headlined “American Simpleton Likes Shitbox, Is Idiot.”
Oh, but I’m not going to be dissuaded by their quoting numbers like 18,000 deaths and 186,000 injuries in accidents with vehicles like these! And, I’m going to register it, legally, as a low-speed neighborhood electric vehicle just as soon as I get some junkyard seatbelts on this thing, and then I’ll show them, I’ll show all of them!
Even you, state-run Chinese media! You won’t scare me away from my beloved Changli!