Learning to drive, in style
People looking for a more upscale experience while learning to drive can now do so in Shanghai at the newly opened school jointly established by Mercedes-Benz and Shanghai Dazhong Driving School, a branch of Shanghai Dazhong Transportation Group which is one of China’s largest transportation companies.
Opened in late November, the school in Shanghai’s Qingpu district offers driving courses conducted in Mercedes-Benz C-class cars. The course is priced around 16,000 yuan ($2,300), nearly double the usual fees. School officials said that they will analyze market response before deciding if they will open branches in other districts.
“It’s like the first-class cabin on the airplane for anyone pursuing a privileged experience. We believe the market demand for such driving classes is at least tens of thousands of people a year in Shanghai,” said Chen Jinghai, general manager of Shanghai Dazhong Driving School.
Chen added that what the school offers is very different from their traditional competitors. In regular driving schools, an instructor teaches between three and four students who share a single vehicle for practice. Bribing instructors in order to pass driving tests has also become rampant.
“In our school, students undergo one-on-one courses in Mercedes-Benz cars, which are unprecedented in driving schools. We also have instructors who Mercedes-Benz have certified to possess excellent driving skills, coaching techniques and communication skills,” said Chen.
Apart from driving skills, tire replacement and CPR techniques, a standard course package also includes a lesson on how to escape a car accident. This unique segment of the course is conducted in an overturning simulation machine that is currently the only one in Asia.
Chen said such training is necessary because people often suffer from neck injuries while escaping from an overturned vehicle.
“They’ll learn where to place their hands and feet and how to support their bodies before unbuckling the seatbelt so that they can avoid neck injury,” he said.
The first batch of more than 30 students have already started lessons at the school. The majority of them are under the age of 35 and women account for more than half of the cohort, according to Wang Qi, media officer at the school.
“I don’t want to have to learn driving in old cars where the air conditioners are switched off no matter how hot or cold the weather is. These Mercedes-Benz cars are quite comfortable, the instructors are nice and their lessons are standardized,” said Wang Yiyun, a 29-year-old stay-at-home mother.