HARBIN, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- Roaring engines and drifting from high-octane scenes of the movie series "The Fast and the Furious" could not be more familiar to locals in the city of Heihe, northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.
With temperatures plunging to minus 20 degrees Celsius, the cars seen jetting across the tracks are new models from car companies undergoing performance tests in the cold weather.
Between November and March is the busiest season in Heihe, which can host up to 100 plus domestic and overseas auto enterprises. The "test drive business" has become a new engine to drive the local economy.
"Even getting a berth would be difficult in the season," said Xu Lei, manager of a local hotel. Local data showed more than 6,000 people flooded Heihe during the 2018-2019 test run season, pushing up the sales volume of local businesses including supermarkets, hotels, entertainment and flight tickets.
Every year, auto enterprises hire nearly 1,000 local drivers to conduct road tests, and even more local residents are employed to work as staff. The urge for visitors to reward themselves with local delicacies also helps lift sales of the retail and catering industries.
Shen Jing, with JAC Motors, has been coming to Heihe since 2005. She said car companies are putting more attention on test runs under extreme conditions, and Heihe has become "the first choice for car tests in cold regions across the country."
Now 24 companies, including leading car brands PSA Peugeot Citroen, Volvo, Volkswagen, General Motors and Hyundai Motor, have set up bases in Heihe.
Heihe's bid in the test drive economy began in 2006 when the city set up a test drive leading group, the first government organization in the country specializing in providing test run services for auto enterprises.
In 2019, Heihe set up a service center, offering one-stop services for auto enterprises.
"Applying for a test license has become much easier now," said Shen. "As long as we put the license in the front of the car, we will not be intercepted by the police when testing on the road, which can guarantee that our data will be valid and true," she said.
Now the city has made plans to upgrade itself into a base with higher innovation and technological capability. The Heilongjiang Red Valley Automotive Test Co., Ltd has established cooperation with over 160 auto companies and research institutes, according to Zhao Xinhong, general manager of the company.
"We are also collaborating with Tsinghua University and the Shanghai Motor Vehicle Inspection Certification & Tech Innovation Center to launch closed and semi-open test bases for smart connected driving in cold regions," said Zhao.