By on January 8, 2010

This is just the beginning. Picture courtesy carthusiast.com

In today’s wode tian (OMG) moment, China’s People’s Daily reports that “a total 16.7 million vehicles were sold in China last year, bringing the country’s total vehicles to more than 186 million.” Shen me? (Excuse me?)

Careful with the Chinese numerology. In China, everything with a motor (except for battery bicycles,) down to the gadzillions of motorcycles, counts as a vehicle. So no, China hasn’t eclipsed the American good old times of 16m cars just yet.

Wode tian (OMG) moment #2: “Around 41 percent of the vehicles were cars and 51 percent were motorcycles,” says People’s Daily. Jeez, does that mean that Chinese bought only 6.85m cars in 2009, half of the expected 13.5m? Take a deep breath. Bad translation. Should read “51 percent of the 186m vehicles are motorcycles.”

The numbers above were released by China’s Ministry of Public Security that handles vehicle registrations. Total numbers of Chinese car sales have yet to be announced by the China Association Of Automobile Manufacturers. Watch this space for the official announcement.

Interesting factoids: According to the Ministry’s statistics, 76m cars are on China’s roads. Taking the official Chinese population number of 1.3b at face value, then this comes down to 60 cars per thousand pop. A far cry from the more than 800 cars per thousand in the US, or the 500 cars per thousand in most developed countries. Think they’ll never drive more than a bicycle? Think again.

Almost 200 million Chinese can drive a vehicle, about 15 percent of the population. There are 138m holders of a driver’s license for a car, nearly twice the number of cars on the road. (In the US, there are some 200m licensed drivers, and some 250m registered cars.) About 19 million Chinese obtained a driver’s license in 2009.

The talks of a Chinese car bubble are bubbles in some peoples’ brains. China has taken the first baby steps to mass motorization. China has many decades of growth ahead of it.

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