December 13, 2013, 4:16 PM

A Chinese online auto seller goes public in the U.S.

Autohome.com.cn sold 17,776 cars in a 24-hour sales event last month. Consumers pay a deposit on the web site, then pick up the car from a dealer.

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Chinese consumers are buying cars online, and the operator of a web site that facilitates those sales is now valued at over $1 billion after going public this week on the New York Stock Exchange. Autohome Inc. began trading Dec. 11 at $17 a share. Today, its shares were trading at around $28.50, and the company was valued at $1.03 billion.

The company’s web site in China, Autohome.com.cn, provides vehicle listings and reviews.   “Part of their Strength is to encourage users to generating content. Hence, the site has strong user stickiness and engagement,” says Li Yan, an analyst with research company Snowball Finance.  

Autohome earns revenue from advertising fees paid by about 100 auto makers in China and listing fees for the dealers’ networks. The company’s sales increased 69% to 732.5 million yuan ($120.1 million) in 2012 from 433.2 million yuan ($71.0 million) than a year earlier.

Chinese customers can put down a deposit on Autohome.com.cn and then collect the car from a dealer.  Autohome sold 17,776 cars online in a 24-hours sale Nov. 11, a day that has become a major online shopping event in China.

“The sales results show Chinese consumers like to purchase automobiles online,” Autohome CEO Qin Zhi, said of the Nov. 11 sales.

China’s automobile market is rapidly growing. Already the world’s largest automotive producer and consumer, China could double its sales of automobiles and light trucks between 2012 and 2019, according to professional services firm PwC.

Other Chinese Internet companies also sell cars online. For example, Chinese online market place Tmall.com, which started selling cars in 2011, says car sales increased from 2,000 in 2011 to more than 10,000 in 2012.  Tmall estimates sales will reach 50,000 this year and 250,000 next year.

Tmall.com is owned by giant Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba Group, No.1 in the Internet Retailer Asia 500.

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