Beijingers who shop for a car increasingly find themselves SOL. Dealers report a shortage of cars. Especially scarce: inventories of Volkswagens, China’s largest passenger car brand. “I have to turn to another auto brand for not being able to get a single car of Volkswagen’s for five months,” a customer named Li Guang complained to China’s Global Times. The paper reports delivery times of 3 months for China-made Polos, Sagitars (formerly known as Jetta) and Magotan (known as the Passat B6 in other countries.) Now, Beijing’s car dealers are pouring more oil on the fire. The rumor mill is ablaze with talk that Volkswagen might postpone its car supply to Beijing’s auto market for January next year, because Beijing might launch new car registration limit policies at that time. The result?
A run on dealerships. Other auto brands in Beijing also face inventory shortages. Sales of GAC-Honda’s City in Beijing exploded in November, and local dealers had to get vehicles from other cities. On top of it, Honda, Dongfeng Peugeot and Dongfeng Yueda Kia are planning a dealer cull.
In order to reduce the traffic pressure in Beijing, there is one day in the week where my car must stay in the garage. This is based on a byzantine system that is based on the last digit of your license plate. It increased car sales even more: People bought a second car with a different digit. Beijing drowns in cars. Every day, more than 1000 cars are newly registered in the city. Last year, Beijing added more than 400,000 cars. Now the rumor is that Beijing will only register 100,000 car plates in 2011.
There is precedence: In Shanghai, there is only a set number of new license plates available (between 5000 and 6000 a month) and they are auctioned off. A plate can cost more than a small car: $5,000 to $6,000 a plate are not unheard of.
Not a peep from the city government on this. Usually, impending measures are being discussed for a while. It usually starts with a professor of a famous university to make a suggestion. Experts weigh in with interviews and op-ed articles. Chatrooms and blogs go back and forth. The pulse of the population is taken, and if there is too much opposition, the measure is quietly scrapped. Nothing of that kind on the radar screen. My contacts at Volkswagen Beijing likewise deny any knowledge of such a scheme.
Which brings the usually well informed Global Times to the conclusion: “Experts say the rumor might be auto dealers’ plot due to sales target pressure.”
Is it Snopes-material? Or is it true? We’ll know in January. My take: Snopes.