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Chinese Students Major in Luxury Cars

Auto dealers in U.S. college towns are hawking pricey rides to mainland kids on education visas
Oregon’s International Student Auto Club
Oregon’s International Student Auto ClubPhotograph by Clayton Cotterell for Bloomberg Businessweek

Chinese students at the University of Iowa began coming into Carousel Motors in Iowa City about three years ago to get their Mercedes and Audi luxury cars serviced. Finally, general manager Pat Lind started asking if they’d ever considered his dealership when they made their original purchase. No, the students told him. Back in China, they’d been told to buy their wheels in Chicago before heading to college.

So Lind began sponsoring the university’s Chinese student association, which sends information to incoming students in China before they arrive in the U.S. Sales to Chinese students doubled and now make up about 5 percent of the vehicles sold at the dealership, located about two miles from campus. “We became an advertiser,” Lind says, “and got our face in front of them.”