China’s Capital Beijing received a largely unwanted Christmas present yesterday: Drastic curbs on new car registrations. “Under the new regulations, vehicles purchased starting today will be subject to strict new restrictions,” reports Global Times, “setting off a last-minute, car-buying spree last night.”
- The city will license only 240,000 new vehicles next year, and buyers of new cars will have to apply for license plates by means of a lottery. This quota is about a third of the 700,000 new cars that have hit Beijing roads this year.
- Only permanent residents of Beijing, as well as “military servicemen, foreigners, residents of Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan” are eligible to apply for license plates.
- Cars not licensed in Beijing will be barred from entering the main city area during rush hours on work days.
- Beijing municipal government agencies and public institutions will not increase the size of their motor vehicle fleets during the next five years.
- A Beijing driver will be permitted to own only one car in his or her name.
- Car owners who replace their old vehicles will be automatically given new car plates and do not have to take part in the lot-drawing.
The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) protested, saying that the new restrictions are unfair, and that the limit on auto purchases will have a negative impact on the general economy in China. The resale value of my car in the downstairs garage in Beijing however exploded overnight.
Grouching Beijingers have themselves to blame: Earlier this month, the Municipal Commission of Transport released a draft plan on clearing traffic congestion, which was posted online to gauge public reaction from Dec 13 to 19. More than 3,000 responses were received from members of the public and only 5.8 percent of the respondents opposed the plan. However, the plan had mentioned nothing a bout a drastic limitation.
Even before the earlier draft plan was published, rumors of limits ran rampant in Beijing over the last two months, prompting a reverse effect: Sales of cars in Beijing reached 96,000 units last month, an increase of 24,000, or up 33 percent, says the CAAM. A total of 30,000 new vehicles were licensed in the past week alone, the Xinhua News Agency reports. Car ownership in the city has surged to 4.7 million vehicles this year from 2.6 million in 2005. Yet, this represents a car density of only 210 per thousand in China’s second most populous city. The average in China is 63 per thousand. The average in the U.S.A. is more than 800 cars per thousand.