Learn­ing to drive, in style

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By ZHOU WENTING in Shang­hai zhouwent­ing@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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.

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