Sales of low-emission cars in China declined 11.67 percent in the first half of the year with the majority consumers valuing social status over the environment.
The dip in sales was in stark contrast to general automobile sales figures in China which increased nearly 30 percent on the previous year, reported the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.
Low-emission car sales dropped 25 percent in Beijing alone, according to Su Hui, head of Yayuncun automobile market.
"When consumers purchase automobiles, their tend to consider how the automobiles reflect their 'face', their social status. Larger vehicles, more expensive models and famous brands are usually preferred," Su explained.
No low-emission car brand was listed among the top 20 best sellers in the Yayuncun automobile market in Beijing unlike last year when Xiali and QQ were on the list.
A survey, done by Sinotrust Marketing Research & Consulting company targeting 15,000 potential consumers, shows no more than 20 percent would consider low-emission cars as their first choice for quality reasons as well as social status.
One consumer surveyed, Mrs Huang, intended to buy a low-emission car but found they performed poorly in terms of operation, comfort, and safety after a test drive compared with larger cars.
Many low-emission cars, including Chery QQ and Changan Auto, have yet to reach the Euro III emission standard yet. Some of them were withdrawn from the Beijing market because they lacked OBD (On-Board Diagnostics), a device that provides real-time monitoring of emissions.
Lang Xuehong, leader of the automotive department of Sinotrust, said many manufacturers were reluctant to invest in low-emission car research and development as they could only make a few hundred yuan (less than 100 U.S. dollars) in profits.
"If any domestically-made low-emission car could match the performance of the Volkswagen Beetle or BMW Mini, it would be well received," Lang said.
"It needs the joint efforts of the automobile manufacturers and consumers to expand the low-emission car market in addition to the government's promotion. Enhancing its performance and reducing prices are the only ways to increase their market share," he added.
The current price of Chinese low-emission cars range from 30,000 to more than 40,000 yuan (about 4,000 to 5,400 U.S. dollars), while the imported Beatles or Mini Cooper range from 300,000 to 400,000 yuan, nearly 10 times higher.