The Truth About Cars » Beijing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 06 Dec 2014 12:59:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Beijing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com BMW, Baidu Team Up For Automated Driving Trials In China http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/bmw-baidu-team-automated-driving-trials-china/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/bmw-baidu-team-automated-driving-trials-china/#comments Tue, 30 Sep 2014 13:00:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=921665 BMW has teamed up with the Google of China, Baidu, to begin work on automated driving trials in Beijing and Shanghai. According to Reuters, BMW says its group of research vehicles have already covered “thousands of kilometers” up and down the autobahns of Germany, and is now embarking “on a further research project which will […]

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BMW has teamed up with the Google of China, Baidu, to begin work on automated driving trials in Beijing and Shanghai.

According to Reuters, BMW says its group of research vehicles have already covered “thousands of kilometers” up and down the autobahns of Germany, and is now embarking “on a further research project which will pave the way for highly automated driving in China as well.”

The cars for the Chinese project expansion will be tackling the nation’s multi-level highways and other infrastructural challenges in Beijing and Shanghai, relying upon Baidu’s map and cloud services on-the-go to aid in a given vehicle’s navigation.

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BAIC, Siemens Team Up For Green Joint Venture In Beijing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/baic-siemens-team-up-for-green-joint-venture-in-beijing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/baic-siemens-team-up-for-green-joint-venture-in-beijing/#comments Thu, 24 Apr 2014 13:00:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=809266 Though Siemens won’t be putting their name upon the body of BAIC C70G for a DTM entry anytime soon, the Chinese automaker and German industrial giant will come together for an green vehicle-related joint venture in Beijing. Automotive News Europe reports the joint venture — Beijing Siemens Automotive E-Drive System Company — will mass produce […]

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Though Siemens won’t be putting their name upon the body of BAIC C70G for a DTM entry anytime soon, the Chinese automaker and German industrial giant will come together for an green vehicle-related joint venture in Beijing.

Automotive News Europe reports the joint venture — Beijing Siemens Automotive E-Drive System Company — will mass produce motors and inverters for hybrid and electric vehicles beginning in 2015, with small-batch and prototype production coming online sometime this year.

Once underway in full, the joint venture will push 100,000 inverters out the door annually, with BAIC being the first recipients of the Sino-German technology. There, the inverters will find a home in the automaker’s S, C and L series vehicles, and projected power output for each model will range from 45 to 200 kW (60 to 268 horsepower).

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Beijing EV Licenses Ignored In Spite Of New Car Registration Difficulties http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/beijing-ev-licenses-ignored-in-spite-of-new-car-registration-difficulties/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/beijing-ev-licenses-ignored-in-spite-of-new-car-registration-difficulties/#comments Wed, 19 Feb 2014 12:00:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=748241 Though the municipal government in Beijing has set aside 20,000 license plates for electric vehicles in an attempt to offset their ongoing air quality woes, very few residents are interested, even if it means waiting a long time to own a gasoline-powered car. South China Morning Post reports only 1,701 potential EV owners have filed […]

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Though the municipal government in Beijing has set aside 20,000 license plates for electric vehicles in an attempt to offset their ongoing air quality woes, very few residents are interested, even if it means waiting a long time to own a gasoline-powered car.

South China Morning Post reports only 1,701 potential EV owners have filed applications for new vehicle licensing thus far. The figure is less than 0.1 percent of the nearly 1.9 million new vehicle licensing applications received by Beijing’s city government for gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles.

Though all 20,000 applications would be issued if more applicants entered their name in the lottery system used to issue licenses, most would rather wait until they received approval for a conventional vehicle. As a result, the city government recently tweaked their lottery to improve the chances of those 640,000 applicants who tried their hand over 25 times to buy and license a non-EV vehicle, resulting in a 2.4 percent chance of success for those who applied more than 37 times.

The reason for the lack of enthusiasm in Beijing for EVs? A lack of supporting infrastructure for charging the vehicles, and a perception of poor performance and unreliability overall, with taxi drivers complaining of limited range and long-wait times to charge in regards of the 1,000 taxis and the 500 charging stations in the city to keep the taxis moving.

Beijing aims to alleviate the issue by installing 1,000 stations within city limits by the end of 2014, extending into the suburbs by 2017. City officials also aim to bring 1.7 million EVs to the road by 2017, as well, with subsidies of up to 108,000 yuan to help encourage more residents to buy electric.

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City of Beijing Implementing Traffic Congestion Fees to Slow New Car Registrations http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/city-of-beijing-implementing-traffic-congestion-fees-to-slow-new-car-registrations/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/city-of-beijing-implementing-traffic-congestion-fees-to-slow-new-car-registrations/#comments Tue, 03 Sep 2013 16:35:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=507105 The municipality of Beijing, China is going to be implementing traffic congestion fees on vehicles by 2017 to address increased air pollution. The plans were revealed as the city government published a five-year plan to deal with that pollution. Parking fees would also be increased and the areas where only locally registered cars and trucks […]

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January 2013 NASA satellite image of air pollution near the Chinese capital

January 2013 NASA satellite image of air pollution near the Chinese capital of Beijing

The municipality of Beijing, China is going to be implementing traffic congestion fees on vehicles by 2017 to address increased air pollution. The plans were revealed as the city government published a five-year plan to deal with that pollution. Parking fees would also be increased and the areas where only locally registered cars and trucks are permitted to be used will be expanded. At the end of last year, Beijing had more than 5.2 million registered vehicles and city officials would like to keep that number below 6 million by 2017. Three other cities in China besides Beijing restrict new car and light truck sales, Shanghai, Gungzhou and Guiyang.

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Curbing Cars, The Chinese Way – A Solution To Flagging Sales? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/curbing-cars-the-chinese-way-a-solution-to-flagging-sales/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/curbing-cars-the-chinese-way-a-solution-to-flagging-sales/#comments Wed, 13 Mar 2013 14:43:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=481077   I am coming back to China after having been away for months. My trusted sidekick of many years, a lady surnamed Zhang, seeks my advice. “Bertel, we have car problems.” Uh-oh, I think, and I mentally do a review of my accounts. This smells expensive. As it turns out, the problem is bigger than […]

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I am coming back to China after having been away for months. My trusted sidekick of many years, a lady surnamed Zhang, seeks my advice. “Bertel, we have car problems.” Uh-oh, I think, and I mentally do a review of my accounts. This smells expensive. As it turns out, the problem is bigger than what money can solve.

Ms. Zhang explains that her mother won the lottery. The Beijing license plate lottery.
“Now my mum needs to buy a car real soon, otherwise the win is forfeited.”

Ok, so buy a car, I say.

“But we already have two, and my mother does not enjoy driving.”

Ms. Zhang the elder could not resist entering the lottery though.

As the world knows, Beijing has enacted a lottery system to curb the number of cars on Beijing’s roads. That system seems to have the opposite effect.

Get rid of the oldest car and buy a new one, I suggest.

“That doesn’t solve the problem. I can keep the license plate of the old one when I sell it. We now have three plates. What shall I do?”

How about someone in the family, I suggest. Chinese are big on family.

“They don’t want it, they all have a car. Some have two.”

Ms. Zhang then relates to me the story of a lucky member of the extended family who came into two more license plates than he needs. “He bought two extra cars just to keep the plates. The cars sit in his garage.”

How about simply forgetting the whole thing? She already has two cars, does not want three, to hell with the extra license plate.

“But that plate is very valuable. Very hard to get.” Ms. Zhang is deeply conflicted.

If it’s so valuable, then sell the plate, I say. This is China, everything has its price.

“Cannot. Plate not transferrable,” says Ms Zhang. And there is an even bigger problem:

“After winning the lottery, if you don’t buy a car, you may never ever enter the lottery again.”

For the first time, I am out of good advice. I muse that when I came to China first in 2004, people were poor, nobody had a car, the highways were empty, and now, not even 10 years later …

Maybe that’s the solution to revive flagging car sales in Europe, and to bring America back to the 17 million heydays: Limit the cars people can have. Then, everybody will want three.

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Chalk One Up To The Beijing Police http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/chalk-one-up-to-the-beijing-police/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/chalk-one-up-to-the-beijing-police/#comments Thu, 01 Mar 2012 15:16:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=433325 This Beijing policeman has a hard look at this BMW X1. Not because it’s extremely dusty. A few days parked outside in Beijing, and any car looks like that. No, this car has no license plates. The plateless car has been gathering dust for a while on Beijing’s streets. So the policeman has the X1 […]

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This Beijing policeman has a hard look at this BMW X1. Not because it’s extremely dusty. A few days parked outside in Beijing, and any car looks like that. No, this car has no license plates. The plateless car has been gathering dust for a while on Beijing’s streets.

So the policeman has the X1 towed. In America, that would be that. But this is China. To maintain a harmonious society, the owner needs to be notified of the towing. Now, the policeman has a problem: There is no license plate on the car, so how should he know the owner?

A fast thinking member of Beijing’s Finest whips out a piece of chalk, kneels and writes (translation courtesy Carnewschina: )

“To the owner of the BMW X1 car. Please contact the local police station for information concerning your property.”

It looks like it hasn’t been raining for a while. The chalk may still be there when the owner comes back.

 

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Car Sales or Gridlock? China’s Central Government At Odds With Beijing’s Car Curbs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/car-sales-or-gridlock-china%e2%80%99s-central-government-at-odds-with-beijing%e2%80%99s-car-curbs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/car-sales-or-gridlock-china%e2%80%99s-central-government-at-odds-with-beijing%e2%80%99s-car-curbs/#comments Sat, 25 Jun 2011 07:00:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=400131 With a population approaching that of Australia and car sales of 700,000 new cars, or 890,000 new cars (depending on which issue of China Daily you rely more), Beijing used to be one of the most important car markets in the world’s largest car markets, China. As amply documented by TTAC, the car market in […]

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With a population approaching that of Australia and car sales of 700,000 new cars, or 890,000 new cars (depending on which issue of China Daily you rely more), Beijing used to be one of the most important car markets in the world’s largest car markets, China. As amply documented by TTAC, the car market in Beijing collapsed completely after city fathers ruled that new registrations have to try their luck in a license plate lottery first.

China’ top economic planners at the National Development and Reform Commission NDRC see their economic plans threatened, and are “appealing” to Beijing to change its policy.

In the first quarter of 2011, only 93,000 cars were sold in Beijing, a drop of  67 percent. Many car dealerships in Beijing are closed and boarded-up.

The NDRC wants Beijing to adjust or scrap its car quota, says Reuters, citing a story in the national Business Daily. In a report submitted to China’s State Council, the NDRC linked Beijing’s steps to the slowdown of auto sales in China. The Beijing market amounted to approximately 5 percent of China’s auto sales. This wasn‘t much as long as the market was growing in the high double digits. Now that China’s market is sputtering, every car counts. In the meantime, Dong Yang, secretary general of China’s automaker association CAAM told Reuters the report was not true.

The NDRC never had been a friend of harsh policies such as the one in Beijing. Chen Jianguo, deputy head of the industrial coordination department of the NDRC, had warned early on that purchase restrictions are not only insufficient to deal with the congestion problem, but could harm consumers and the industry overall.

In April, there were widespread reports that Beijing would exempt EVs from the license plate restrictions. However, these measures have yet to be enacted. There are no EVs to buy, and EV makers are waiting for the rules to come in effect.

 

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Lucky Beijing License Plate Winners To Be Punished Severely http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/lucky-beijing-license-plate-winners-to-be-punished-severely/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/lucky-beijing-license-plate-winners-to-be-punished-severely/#comments Mon, 06 Jun 2011 16:51:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=397550 Beijingers who are lucky enough to win the license plate lottery may be punished severely – if they don’t buy a car. In the beginning of the year, China’s capital instated a rule by which new car owners must enter a lottery for a license plate. Only 17,600 plates are available per month. In the […]

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Beijingers who are lucky enough to win the license plate lottery may be punished severely – if they don’t buy a car. In the beginning of the year, China’s capital instated a rule by which new car owners must enter a lottery for a license plate. Only 17,600 plates are available per month. In the latest draw, some 530,000 people did compete for the 17,600 plates. Only one out of 30 applicants could win. And what are the lucky winners doing? Most of them do nothing. In April, only 3,700 exercised their hard-won right and bought a car. At least that’s up from 2,000 in January.  Now, the city is thinking about meting out harsh punishment.

At bjhjyd.gov.cn, the website where the carless Beijinger applies for a lottery ticket to ride, the city solicits public opinion about possible penalties for people who win, but don’t buy. (If you go to the site, many security services will warn you that it contains spyware – just take my word for it. It’s in Chinese anyway.)

One option is to keep the current policy. Currently, if the right is not used within six months, it is forfeited, but the prospective car owner can re-apply. Good luck. Another choice is to bar them from applying for a year. The third option is no lucky draw for two years.

Doing away with the lottery is not on the menu. Neither is transferring the right, which would create a frenzy of a market.

According to China Daily, “Beijing’s auto market has stagnated since car restriction regulations took effect.” Stagnated? Collapsed would be the appropriate word. A total of 71,900 cars were sold in the first four months of this year in the city, a 62 percent drop compared with the same period last year.

Last year, between 700,000 and 890,000 cars changed hands in Beijing, nobody knows for sure. Beijing’s population is 19.6 million. As of April, there were 4.9 million registered vehicles in the capital.

 

 

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Hammer Time, Beijing Edition: Need a License? Go To Court http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/05/hammer-time-beijing-edition-need-a-license-go-to-court/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/05/hammer-time-beijing-edition-need-a-license-go-to-court/#comments Thu, 05 May 2011 12:10:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=393738 We have documented extensively how Beijing’s license plate lottery mucked-up the car market of China’s capital. Now, Beijingers found a creative way to get their sought-after license play without bothering Lady Luck: They go to court. A shortcut to the desired license plate leads through a court auction. “Vehicles seized by the court are not […]

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We have documented extensively how Beijing’s license plate lottery mucked-up the car market of China’s capital. Now, Beijingers found a creative way to get their sought-after license play without bothering Lady Luck: They go to court.

A shortcut to the desired license plate leads through a court auction. “Vehicles seized by the court are not included in the new regulation policy, which is why the auctions have become much more popular,” judge Tong Fei told China Daily. Cars fetch obscene prices at these auctions. “A Volkswagen Santana worth about 20,000 yuan ($3080) went for 60,000 yuan ($9,240) in a recent auction,” said the judge

And now it gets interesting: As the holder of a licensed car, you can go out and trade it in for, say, a Mercedes S Class without having to go through the license lottery. On the other hand, the poor guy who lost his car because he fell short on his payments gets punished hard: “If their impounded car is sold they will have no option but to take part in the city’s lottery to get a new license,” says the judge.

In the olden days, the beginning bid on a court auction car was 8o percent of its Red (?) Book value. If it didn’t sell, it became cheaper the next time around. Now, all cars at auction sell right away, at higly elevated prices.

Says CarNewsChina: ”It is yet unsure whether the Beijing government will close this loophole. They did close all other loopholes that were found earlier so it is likely just a matter of time before the good days at court are over.”

 

 

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Stick And Carrot: Why Beijing Will Become The World’s Electric Vehicle Capital http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/stick-and-carrot-why-beijing-will-become-the-worlds-electric-vehicle-capital/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/stick-and-carrot-why-beijing-will-become-the-worlds-electric-vehicle-capital/#comments Sat, 09 Apr 2011 23:01:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=390720 It’s long form Saturday! Most of you probably thought you would never see the day Bertel writes a fiery manifesto for the Electric Car. Today is your day. Yesterday, we were first to run with the story that Beijing most likely will become EV capital of the world. Not because Beijing scientists have developed the […]

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It’s long form Saturday! Most of you probably thought you would never see the day Bertel writes a fiery manifesto for the Electric Car. Today is your day.

Yesterday, we were first to run with the story that Beijing most likely will become EV capital of the world. Not because Beijing scientists have developed the miracle battery. Not because Chinese EVs suddenly go 400 miles on a single charge. Physics did not change. Beijing changes. Months ago, new car buyers in Beijing stopped dreaming about buying a new car.That dream was shattered. Now suddenly, an EV has become the only car a new car buyer can buy and drive tomorrow. Or on Monday. If one would be on sale. Here is what happened:

In Beijing, the car market has completely collapsed.

That does not grab you? Then  what if the car market had come to a complete halt in Australia? Beijing has about the population of Australia and had car sales approaching those of Australia. Why did the Beijing market collapse? Because the city doesn’t want more cars on its roads. New car registrations are strictly rationed. More here.

On Thursday, we picked up rumors, and on Friday, we received confirmation that Beijingers will be able to buy a car again. If it is an EV. The media didn’t believe it or ignored it.

Foreign reporters hop off their bar-stool at Maggie’s and go into a tizzy when someone drops a white flower in front of a Beijing McDonald’s. Reporters end up taking pictures of each other, because nobody else is there. Now, they are asleep at the wheel when the EV the media supposedly adores so much does become law. (And if you ask me: People from Glen Beck to John Stewart are missing great material.)

On Friday, the news was in the Chinese press only, and not served on an ready-to eat, fork & knife English platter. Today, the English speaking papers have it. From CCTV to People’s Daily to Global Times, they all run the story that EVs in Beijing will not only be “enjoying the same level of preferential subsidies with Shenzhen”, but will also “have the sole privilege of license-plate-lottery-free, no traffic restrictions and tax-free exemptions (paid by the government).”

You need to live amongst the people of Beijing to understand how big that last one is.

Before we do that, let’s go back to Shenzhen and the subsidies. They are huge: 60,000 yuan from the city and 60,000 yuan from the central government to the buyer of a pure plug-in. That’s a total of 120,000 yuan, or $18,362.64 in today’s dollars. That would be a big amount of money stateside, and the purchase power proponents will agree, it is is even bigger in China.

In Shenzhen, however, the money remained in the government coffers. Nobody wanted it.

Why would a customer not buy the BYD E6 over the BYD F3 with such a munificent donation? First, because there is no BYD E6 commercially available. Second, because the conventional F3 costs $9,000 or so, maybe less with generous BYD-in-distress discounts. Whereas the E6, even assuming a low $30,000 MSRP, would still cost $11,638 after subsidies. They are Chinese, it makes a difference. With the F3, they can drive to Guangzhou and back, whereas with the E6 – do we really believe the 249 mile range? Anyway, moot matter, no E6 available.

In Beijing, the first time buyer does not have that choice. Whether F3 or A7, with a mei you (no have) license plate, any ICE powered car is for all intents and purposes out of reach. With an EV, the car can be driven on Monday. It can be driven on any day of the week (conventional cars must stay off the streets for one day, as per Beijing regs). No tax on top, to sweeten the deal until it drips and you need a napkin.

For a Beijinger, it can’t get any better. Even if Ed McMahon himself would knock on my door and hand me the keys to the BMW 7series I just won in the Chinese Family Publishers sweepstakes, I could not drive it – no tags. McMahon can’t hand me the tags, not transferable. No, you can’t even give a regular car away in Beijing.

Suddenly, $11,638 or even $20,000 or more for an EV are mere afterthoughts. Remember: In Shanghai, people pay more than $7,000 for the license plate.

The only problem: Which EV? I would not know which EV I could buy on Monday, as Ash Sutcliffe rightly comments over at Chinacartimes. We shall see miles of cable in a week at the Shanghai Auto Show, snaking into parking lots of electric cars, but none for sale. Mock-ups we have seen for years. What are they waiting for? A market.

This being Beijing, the press is full of mentions of Beijing’s carmakers Foton and of Beijing Auto. Both are owned by BAIC, which is controlled by the City of Beijing. Get the picture? No wonder the plan was waved-through so fast. Foton has an electric taxi out, the Foton Midi. I can’t buy it. It’s used as a trial in Yangqing, which still is in Beijing proper, but way out there. I’m told, if I would tell the driver to take me downtown, or to the airport, he’d say “bu yao” – no good. Too far from the charging station in Yangqing. Those taxis don’t stray farther from that charging station than little chickies from their mother hen.

Beijing Auto has electrified versions of the former Saab in development. BAIC has a number of other vehicles in development. The operative word is “development.” So nothing from there – yet.

Who else?

Well there would be Nissan with a Leaf, or Mitsubishi with an i-Miev. Both market ready.

The Leaf would be just what the doctor ordered for Beijing. Nissan has plans for a few hundred in Wuhan this year, says Reuters. Wuhan is the city Nissan’s joint venture partner Dongfeng calls home. According to the Reuters report, Nissan wants to “make the Leaf in China as soon as possible, but the key issue to the decision is the sales volume.” That according to Tsunehiko Nakagawa, vice president of Nissan China Investment.

Dozo, Beijing is wide open. Let’s bring the Japanese price of $44K down a bit (this is China), say to $40K, deduct 18,362.64, and you have $21,638 – not bad if it’s the only choice you have. Around 140,000 yuan, a nice price point. Tough sell anywhere else, Nakagawa is right when he worries about sales volumes. He won’t find it in Wuhan. But in Beijing? The Leaf could become more ubiquitous than the Made-in-Beijing Hyundai Elantra taxi.

Mitsu’s i-MiEV would be ready also, but we have no China plans on the RADAR.

Shipping them from Japan may not be such a good idea at the moment, it would eat up 25 percent in customs duty anyway, spoiling all the fun.

Being first in this cornered market is absolutely essential. Let’s not forget: If you sell EVs here, you will be selling to first time buyers. They have never driven a car they owned. They will grow up with an EV and will know nothing else than a car must be electric. A car filled with gasoline will be as alien to them as chopsticks to most of us. Here is the chance to sell to first-time affluent, worldly buyers, in the world’s second or third largest city (they are fighting it out with Shanghai), in the capital of the world’s largest auto market, with the world watching in awe. I bet Dongfeng would not mind at all.

If neither Nissan nor Mitsu will occupy every street-level wall socket in Beijing (all conveniently 220V, and rock-solid supply), someone else will:

A few days ago, Volkswagen had sent out a blurb about “becoming the friend of the National Museum in China.” I probably wasn’t the only one who immediately (electronically) spiked it.

Who cares whether VW donates a few cars to take people museum hopping in Beijing? Who cares whether “as part of this sponsorship, Volkswagen will launch its first electric vehicle fleet in Beijing?” We’ve heard that greenwashing before. Who cares whether “China plays an important role for Volkswagen´s goal to become the leader in the global electric vehicle market by 2018?” Hyperbola in green. Recycle bin.

In front of the new regulatory backdrop, (or “unter den geänderten Rahmenbedingungen” as they so much fancy to say in the Fatherland), the electric museum shuttles become a stroke of genius. Whoever had the sheer luck or inside information (being familiar with VW, my money is on sheer luck) just started the best timed promotion there is. Most likely he or she will get promoted. They run a fleet of Golf Blue-e-motion (to be launched in Germany in 2013, in the U.S. in 2014) and Touareg Hybrids (available). They are the only electric cars on Beijing’s streets, while everybody is absolutely dying to have one. They can keep the Touareg Hybrid, and should launch the Golf Blue-e-motion immediately in Beijing. It would sell like hotcakes while the rest of China scrambles to make their prototypes ready for market.

Volkswagen doesn’t honestly believe that the Golf Blue-e-motion will be a volume model anywhere else anyway. What did Volkswagen’s sales chief Christian Klingler say? “The electric car is not a request from the customer, the electric car is a request from the government.” Now he could say: “The electric car is a request from the customer, the electric car is a request from the government. We have a win-win!” They love win-wins in Wolfsburg.

Volkswagen’s joint venture partner FAW, maker of the Golf, would be delighted to produce the electrified version. Mei wen ti! (No problem.)

Volkswagen’s southern JV partner SAIC has more electric know-how, but FAW wouldn’t mind picking some up. And while they are at it, they could also update the English version of their website. It’s from 2009 and in the old CI that never went anywhere. Bu kequi.

No Volt. So sorry. Pure plug-in only. Them’s the rules. Try the lottery.

Do I sound excited? Yes, I am. As most around here know, I do not believe that the EV will be taking over the world anytime soon. I am a pragmatist. Most buyers are pragmatists when they get into the showroom. I have sat in too many focus groups, listened to how they lied about protecting the environment at all cost. In the store, they take the car that makes the most sense for their money. I never really cared what propels a car, as long as it’s fast and peppy. Drive-trains are not a religion.  I believe in cars that make sense.

In Beijing, the only car that makes sense for a first time buyer that did not win the lottery is an EV. It’s a market, ripe for the plugging.

<a href=”http://images.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/evplug2.jpg”><img class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-390721″ title=”A market, ripe for the plugging. Picture courtesy of renewableenergyworld.com” src=”http://images.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/evplug2.jpg” alt=”” width=”450″ height=”310″ /></a> 

<em>It’s long form Saturday! Most of you probably thought you would never see the day Bertel writes a fiery manifesto for the Electric Car. Today is your day.</em>

Yesterday, <a href=”../../../../../2011/04/new-edict-turns-beijing-into-ev-city/”>we were first to run with the story that Beijing most likely will become EV capital of the world.</a> Not because Beijing scientists have developed the miracle battery. Not because Chinese EVs suddenly go 400 miles on a single charge. Physics did not change. Beijing changes. Months ago, new car buyers in Beijing stopped reaming about buying a new car.That dream was shattered. Now suddenly, an EV has become the only car a new car buyer can buy and drive tomorrow. Or on Monday. If one would be on sale. Here is what happened:

In Beijing, the car market has completely collapsed. That doesn’t move you? What if the car market had come to a complete stop in Australia? Beijing has about the population of Australia and had car sales approaching those of Australia. Why did the Beijing market collapse? Because the city doesn’t want more cars on its roads. <a href=”../../../../../2011/04/ttac-dossier-chinese-roulette-or-the-tao-of-beijing-car-ownership/”>New car registrations are strictly rationed. More here.</a>

On Thursday, we picked up rumors, and on Friday, we received confirmation that Beijingers will be able to buy a car again. If it is an EV. The media didn’t believe it or ignored it.

Foreign reporters hop off their barstool at Maggie’s and go into a tizzy when someone drops a white flower in front of a Beijing McDonald’s. Reporters end up taking pictures of each other, because nobody else is there. Now, they are asleep at the wheel when it becomes law that the only vehicle a first time buyer stands a chance to drive is the EV the media supposedly adores so much.

On Friday, the news was in the Chinese press only, and not served on an ready-to eat English platter. Today, the English speaking papers have it. From <a href=”http://english.cntv.cn/20110408/107888.shtml”>CCTV</a> to <a href=”http://english.people.com.cn/90001/98649/7344880.html”>People’s Daily </a>to <a href=”http://beijing.globaltimes.cn/society/2011-04/642539.html”>Global Times</a>, they all run the story that EVs in Beijing will not only be “enjoying the same level of preferential subsidies with Shenzhen”, but will also “have the sole privilege of license-plate-lottery-free, no traffic restrictions and tax-free exemptions (paid by the government).”

You need to live amongst the people of Beijing to understand how big that last one is.

First, let’s get back to Shenzhen and the subsidies. They are huge: 60,000 yuan from the city and 60,000 yuan from the central government to the buyer of a pure plug-in. That’s a total of 120,000 yuan or $18,362.64 in today’s dollars. That would be a big amount of money stateside, and the purchase power proponents will agree, that is is even bigger in China.

In Shenzhen, however, the money remained in the government coffers. Nobody wanted it.

Why would a customer not buy the BYD E6 over the BYD F3 with such a munificent donation? First, because there is no BYD E6 commercially available.  Second, because the conventional F3 costs $9,000 or so, maybe less with generous BYD-in-distress discounts. Whereas the E6, even assuming a low $30,000 MSRP, would still cost $11,638 after subsidies. They are Chinese, it makes a difference. With the F3, they can drive to Guangzhou and back, whereas with the E6 – do we really believe the 249 mile range? Anyway, moot matter, no E6 available.

In Beijing, the first time buyer does not have that choice. Whether F3 or A7, with a <em>mei you </em>(no have) license plate, any ICE powered car is for all intents and purposes out of reach. With an EV, the car can be driven on Monday. It can be driven on any day of the week (conventional cars must stay off the streets for one day, as per Beijing regs). No tax on top, to sweeten the deal until it drips.

For a Beijinger, it can’t get any better. Even if Ed McMahon himself would knock on my door and hand me the keys to the BMW 7series I just won in the Chinese Family Publishers sweepstakes, I could not drive it – no tags. McMahon can’t hand me the tags, not transferrable.

Suddenly, $11,638 or even $20,000 or more are afterthoughts. Remember: <a href=”../../../../../2011/04/ttac-dossier-chinese-roulette-or-the-tao-of-beijing-car-ownership/”>In Shanghai, people pay more than $7,000 for the license plate.</a>

The only problem: Which EV? I would not know which EV I could buy on Monday, as Ash Sutcliffe rightly comments over at <a href=”http://www.chinacartimes.com/2011/04/09/beijing-to-become-a-paradise-for-electric-vehicle-sales/”>Chinacartimes.</a>

This being Beijing, the press is full of mentions of Beijing’s carmakers Foton and of Beijing Auto. Both are owned by BAIC, which is controlled by the City of Beijing. Get the picture? No wonder the plan was waved-through so fast. Foton has an electric taxi out, the Foton Midi. I can’t buy it. It’s used as a trial in <a href=”http://goo.gl/maps/JXdb”>Yangqing</a>, which still is in Beijing proper, but way out there. I’m told, if I would tell the driver to take me downtown, or to the airport, he’d say <em>“bu yao”</em> – no good. Too far from the charging station in Yangqing.

Beijing Auto plans electrified versions of the former Saab. BAIC has a number of other vehicles in development. The operative word is “development.” So nothing from there – yet.

Who else?

Well there would be Nissan with a Leaf, or Mitsubishi with an i-Miev. Both market ready.

The Leaf would be just what the doctor ordered for Beijing. Nissan has plans for a few hundred in Wuhan this year, says <a href=”http://in.reuters.com/article/2010/04/08/idINIndia-47546620100408?pageNumber=1&amp;virtualBrandChannel=0http://in.reuters.com/article/2010/04/08/idINIndia-47546620100408?pageNumber=1&amp;virtualBrandChannel=0″>Reuters.</a> According to the Reuters report, Nissan wants to “make the Leaf in China as soon as possible, but the key issue to the decision is the sales volume.” That according to Tsunehiko Nakagawa, vice president of Nissan China Investment.

<em>Dozo, </em>Beijing is wide open. Let’s bring the Japanese price of $44K down a bit, say to $40K, deduct 18,362.64, and you have $21,638 – not bad if it’s the only choice you have. Around 140,000 yuan, a nice price point. Tough sell anywhere else, Nakagawa is right when he worries about sales volumes. But in Beijing? The Leaf could become mor ubiquitous than the Made-in-Beijing Hyundai Elantra taxi.

Mitsu’s i-MiEV would be ready also, but we have no China plans on the RADAR.

Shipping them from Japan may not be such a good idea at the moment, it would eat up 25 percent in customs duty anyway, spoiling all the fun.

Being first in this cornered market is absolutely essential. Let’s not forget: If you sell EVs here, you will be selling to first time buyers. Have never driven a car. They will grow up with an EV and will know nothing else. Here is the chance to sell to first-time affluent, worldly buyers, in the world’s second or third largest city (they are fighting it out with Shanghai) with the world watching. I bet Dongfeng would not mind at all.

If either Nissan or Mitsu will not occupy every street-level wall socket in Beijing (all conveniently 220V, and rock-solid supply), someone else will:

<a href=”http://www.volkswagenag.com/vwag/vwcorp/info_center/en/news/2011/04/Museum.html”>A few days ago, Volkswagen had sent out a blurb</a> about “becoming the friend of the National Museum in China.” I probably wasn’t the only one who immediately (electronically) spiked it.

Who cares whether VW donates a few cars to take people museum hopping in Beijing? Who cares whether “as part of this sponsorship, Volkswagen will launch its first electric vehicle fleet in Beijing?” We’ve heard that greenwashing before. Who cares whether “China plays an important role for Volkswagen´s goal to become the leader in the global electric vehicle market by 2018?” Hyperbola in green. Recycle bin.

In front of the new regulatory backdrop, (or “<em>unter den geänderten Rahmenbedingungen</em>” as the so much like to say in Deutschland), the electric museum shuttles become a stroke of genius and whoever had the sheer luck or inside information (being familiar with VW, my money is on sheer luck) just started the best timed promotion there is. Most likely he or she will get promoted. They run a fleet of Golf Blue-e-motion (to be launched in Germany in 2013, in the U.S. in 2014) and Touareg Hybrids (available). They can keep the Touareg Hybrid, and should launch the Golf Blue-e-motion immediately in Beijing. It would sell like hotcakes while the rest of China scrambles to make their prototypes ready for market.

Volkswagen doesn’t honestly believe that the Golf Blue-e-motion will be a volume model anywhere else. What did <a href=”../../../../../2010/11/vw%E2%80%99s-klingler-nobody-wants-evs-except-governments/”>Volkswagen’s sales chief Christian Klingler say?</a> “The electric car is not a request from the customer, the electric car is a request from the government.” Now he could say: “The electric car is a request from the customer, the electric car is a request from the government. We have a win-win!” They love win-wins in Wolfsburg.

Volkswagen’s joint venture partner FAW, maker of the Golf, would be delighted to produce the electrified version. Volkswagen’s southern JV partner SAIC has more electric know-how, but FAW wouldn’t mind picking some up. And while they are at it, they could also <a href=”http://www.faw-vw.com/en/index.php”>update the English version of their website.</a> It’s from 2009 and in the old CI that never went anywhere.<em> Bu kequi.</em>

<em> </em>

Do I sound excited? Yes, I am. As most around here know, I do not believe that the EV will be taking over the world anytime soon. I am a pragmatist. Most buyers are pragmatists when they get into the showroom. I have sat in too many focus groups, listened to how they lied about protecting the environment at all cost. In the store, they take the car that makes the most sense for their money.

In Beijing, the only car that makes sense for a first time buyer that did not win the lottery is an EV. It’s a market, ripe for the plugging.

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New Edict Turns Beijing Into EV City http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/new-edict-turns-beijing-into-ev-city/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/new-edict-turns-beijing-into-ev-city/#comments Fri, 08 Apr 2011 10:37:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=390459 Call it synchronicity, ESP, or plain dumb luck. Yesterday, only half in jest, I called upon the city of Beijing to issue its sought-after license plates to buyers of EVs and hybrids.  Little did I  know that the day before, Beijing had decided to do just that. Well, no quite. No hybrids. Beijing’s media, from […]

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Call it synchronicity, ESP, or plain dumb luck. Yesterday, only half in jest, I called upon the city of Beijing to issue its sought-after license plates to buyers of EVs and hybrids.  Little did I  know that the day before, Beijing had decided to do just that. Well, no quite. No hybrids.

Beijing’s media, from Beijing Youth Daily to the China Securities Journal, all report that buyers of pure plug-ins, and pure plug-ins only, will enjoy privileges the regular Beijinger can only dream of: EV buyers will not have to win the lottery to drive a car, they can drive on any day of the week, and they pay no tax. Doesn’t sound exciting to you? It could very well turn Beijing into EV city. Here is why:

For several years, Beijing, the city with a population equal to that of Australia,  had been fighting an ever increasing traffic congestion. On any given day, 2,000 new cars were registered. Before the 2008 Olympics, an odd/even regimen was introduced. Depending on the last digit of your license plate, you had to leave the car at home every other day. The result? Second car purchases skyrocketed.

After the Olympics, the odd/even rule was abandoned. Instead, you had to leave  your car at home on one day of the week, again according to the last digit of your license plate, and according to a constantly changing schedule. The result? Even more cars. Last year, 700,000 cars were registered in Beijing.

By the end of last year, the city of Beijing pulled the emergency brake and handed down draconian measures.

  • Only 240,000 new cars would be allowed onto Beijing’s streets per year. One third of the 700,000 bought in 2010.
  • Applicants for a license plate had to enter a lottery. No plate, no car.
  • Cars from outside of Beijing were banned during rush-hour.
  • Existing plates could not be transferred with the car to another buyer.

As a result, the car business, both new and used, crashed in Beijing. In January, the first batch of 20,000 plates was awarded through the lottery. Only 2,000 of those resulted in car sales. The remainder became a wall ornament.  The most precious thing in Beijing is no longer a Maybach. It’s your own license plate.

Trading-in or selling your used car became next to impossible.  How can you sell any car if the buyer has to win the lottery first? There are whole sections in downtown Beijing where formerly glitzy showrooms are now boarded up. The formerly teeming car markets on 4th Ring Road are deserted. Car rentals suddenly boom.

Tension in Beijing became high. There were speculations about a face-saving tactical retreat by the city.  The new rule comes unexpected, but it is a stroke of genius. It’s dark green. It’s all about choice. Put yourself in the shoes of a Beijinger. I know, it’s hard, just try.

You have money. You flipped some apartments, and being the only child, you inherited from both sides. You want a car. Now here are your choices. You either want a regular car. Then you have to throw your name into a huge hat that already holds hundreds of thousands of names and hope for lady luck. Or you get an EV. You can drive it tomorrow. No tax. A healthy subsidy to ease the pain of the higher price. You can drive it on any day of the week.

EV or bicycle? Suddenly, EV or not EV becomes a no-brainer.

For city driving, the range of say a Nissan Leaf is plenty. Want to visit Grandpa in Qingdao? No problem. I already see huge parking lots or warehouses (roofs for the affluent) in neighboring Hebei province, where the Beijinger parks (and registers) his Fünfer BMW or Audi A7. On return, his Leaf, or whatever battery-operated cars the Chinese car industry dishes up, will be ready, washed and with a fully charged battery.  You think I’m kidding?

The Chinese are serious. China is about to invest $15 billion into the new energy vehicle industry, writes Global Times. China wants to have 5 million EVs on the road by 2015, writes  China Daily. If Beijing sets a precedent for other cities, then China’s 5-million-EVs-by-2015 target suddenly looks more reasonable that Obama’s 1-million-EVs-by-2015 target. If the future is electric, then China wants to be in the driver’s seat.

Two days ago, when the first articles came out, it was just a plan. Today, my Beijing contacts assure me that the plan has already been approved. Someone must be in a hurry.

Now, B&B, who would be best positioned to profit first from this sudden electric bonanza? Hybrids, even plug-in hybrids may not apply. Price is suddenly not so important, it only competes with other EVs, but it should be attractively priced. Who?

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Beijing Measures Ease Traffic. At Car Dealers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/02/beijing-measures-ease-traffic-at-car-dealers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/02/beijing-measures-ease-traffic-at-car-dealers/#comments Mon, 28 Feb 2011 08:30:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=385510 Beijing is in a state of confusion after China’s capital drastically slashed the number of license plates available. You literally have to win the lottery to get a plate. Most winners keep the prized (but non-transferable) possession at home. Writes the party organ People’s Daily: “Only about 11 percent of those who won rights to […]

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Beijing is in a state of confusion after China’s capital drastically slashed the number of license plates available. You literally have to win the lottery to get a plate. Most winners keep the prized (but non-transferable) possession at home. Writes the party organ People’s Daily: “Only about 11 percent of those who won rights to car licenses plates through the new lottery system bought cars in Beijing in January, the first month after restrictions were implemented, according to Chi Yifeng, general manager of Beijing Yayuncun Automobile Transaction Market, the biggest car retail market in China. “

According to the manager, only 2,000 vehicles were purchased citywide after 17,600 plates were approved through the lottery. Instead of buying cars, Beijingers now hoard license plates. The paper found a salesman at a Chery dealership in Beijing who said that just 10 customers with plate numbers visited the shop in January.

Previously, Chi rechkoned that the car restriction regulation would cause about one-third of Beijing’s car dealers to go out of business. Now he forecasts that half will close.

TTAC’s forecast: The limitations will be watered down and will eventually go away.

Chen Jianguo, deputy head of the industrial coordination department of the powerful National Development & Reform Commission (NDRC), already warned that purchase restrictions are not only insufficient to deal with the congestion problem, but could harm consumers and the industry overall, reports Gasgoo. Like many his colleagues in the West, Chen recommends usage-based taxation instead.

On Friday, China passed a new law that decreases taxes on cars with smaller engines, while raising the tax on cars with bigger bore motors, Xinhua reports.

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Judges Made Unwitting Accessories In Beijing License Plate Scam http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/02/judges-made-unwitting-accessories-in-beijing-license-plate-scam/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/02/judges-made-unwitting-accessories-in-beijing-license-plate-scam/#comments Thu, 17 Feb 2011 11:39:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=384177 Beijing’s draconian license plate limits have a stimulating effect on the creativity of Beijingers. To skirt the new rules, complex schemes are being devised. Beijing’s courts are turned into accessories of the fraud. According to China Daily, the scheme goes like this: The seller and buyer of a used car invent a debt the vehicle’s […]

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Beijing’s draconian license plate limits have a stimulating effect on the creativity of Beijingers. To skirt the new rules, complex schemes are being devised. Beijing’s courts are turned into accessories of the fraud. According to China Daily, the scheme goes like this:

The seller and buyer of a used car invent a debt the vehicle’s seller supposedly “owes” the buyer for which the car is “collateral”. Both go to court.  The court  orders the “debtor” (the car’s seller) to hand over the car to the “lender” (the car’s buyer). Along with the transfer of the car’s ownership comes the already registered license plate. Bingo.

Under the new rulings, registered owners of a car can buy a new one without being submitted to the license plate limitations. However, the plate does not transfer with the used car. As a result, Beijing’s second had car market pretty much collapsed in January. In the tough rules is an exception for the registration of cars’ ownership transfers through court adjudications, or property transfers related to marriages and inheritances. False marriages with car owners will probably rise also. Adoption and subsequent death might prove as too complicated.

“Such stipulations provide loopholes for used car buyers to avoid legitimate channels,” said Zhu Xingdong, a senior staff member of the people’s court of Beijing’s Huairou district. He said it’s tough for the courts to determine that the debts are legit, because the two parties have colluded in supplying watertight debt and reimbursement agreements. “If it is found to enable people to get around the lottery to obtain license plates, there will be a surge in these cases,” Zhu predicted.

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Forbidden City: Not From Beijing? Get Outta Town! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/01/forbidden-city-not-from-beijing-get-outta-town/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/01/forbidden-city-not-from-beijing-get-outta-town/#comments Fri, 07 Jan 2011 11:44:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=379809 Want to belong to a really exclusive club? Own a car in Beijing. Don’t have one yet? Sorry, try your luck in the license plate lottery. Out-of–towner? Don’t even think of entering downtown during rush-hour. “Vehicles that are not registered in Beijing are prohibited from entering the urban area inside the Fifth Ring Road during […]

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Want to belong to a really exclusive club? Own a car in Beijing. Don’t have one yet? Sorry, try your luck in the license plate lottery. Out-of–towner? Don’t even think of entering downtown during rush-hour. “Vehicles that are not registered in Beijing are prohibited from entering the urban area inside the Fifth Ring Road during the two daily rush hours,” reports China Daily. Even during off-peak hours, Beijing’s capital is full of surprises for outsiders.

Beijing police has started handing out 100 Yuan ($15) fines to country folk that ignores the rush hour rule. $15 lighter, and with a warning notice in their hand, they are being turned around and sent back to the farm. The only way to get around it is with a special, and highly prized permit.

Even off-peak times can be a matter of high suspense: The “leave your car at home on one day of the week” rule now applies to out-of towners also. It depends on the last number of the license plate, and rules keep changing often enough to confuse even the most sophisticated Beijinger. Breaking that rule costs 300 yuan ($45).

The new rules jump-started a business that had been languishing in China: Car rentals. “Car rental agencies have been enjoying a boom in business ever since new restrictions made it harder for people to buy an automobile in the capital,” reports China Daily.

Another market is in a total state of confusion: Used cars. If you already own a car, you don’t need to enter the lottery if you get another one. That looked like a great loophole, and used cars turned into a prized possession. Then, word got around that the plates are not transferrable, and used car prices plummeted. Now, the market is in limbo and waits for new regulations to be handed down.

“The license plate lottery may benefit from some tweaks,” said China Daily yesterday. Beijing’s administration is taking the admonition to heart – and tweaks the system daily.

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53,000 Apply On The First Day Of Beijing’s Car Rationing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/01/53000-apply-on-the-first-day-of-beijing%e2%80%99s-car-rationing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/01/53000-apply-on-the-first-day-of-beijing%e2%80%99s-car-rationing/#comments Sun, 02 Jan 2011 07:10:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=379289 So. Yesterday, Jan 1, was the first day of the grand car rationing in Beijing, China. From now on out, only 20,000 new vehicles per month are allowed onto Beijing’s roads. (If you trade old for new, this rule doesn’t apply.) And what did Beijingers do? Take a taxi? The subway? No, they swamped the […]

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So. Yesterday, Jan 1, was the first day of the grand car rationing in Beijing, China. From now on out, only 20,000 new vehicles per month are allowed onto Beijing’s roads. (If you trade old for new, this rule doesn’t apply.) And what did Beijingers do? Take a taxi? The subway? No, they swamped the system.

A grand total of 53,549 people applied for a new Beijing license plate as of 5pm yesterday, the Beijing News reports. That’s more than double the number allotted for a whole month. Citizens can apply on-line. On the 26th of each month, there will be a big lucky draw, and if you win, you may buy a car. First in line stands the same chances as the applicant that entered on the 25th – which makes the run on the databank even more curious.

The 20,000 per month / 240,000 per year quota is not cast in stone. “Beijing will revise its car quota on a year-by-year basis, depending on road capacity and air quality,” transportation authorities told Global Times.

Those without a Beijing plate “are required from Jan. 1 to apply for a permit before entering the capital,” says Bloomberg.

That alone is fascinating. If taken literally, it would bring all traffic in China’s northern quadrant to its knees. If you inspect Google maps, you will see that Beijing’s city limits (dotted line) are drawn rather wide, and, not unusual for a capital, it is a traffic hub. Up there, most roads lead through Beijing.

When the new car regime was announced last month, a record 30,000 new vehicles were registered in Beijing in the week of December 13, Bloomberg says. The city now officially has 4.76 million cars. A city development, plan unveiled in 2004, had projected 5 million cars on Beijing’s roads by 2020. No wonder the following went viral in Beijing’s expat scene:

“Did you hear they will rename Beijing AGAIN?”

“No. What’s will it be called this time?”

“Honking.”

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Beijing Clears The Air http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/12/beijing-clears-the-air/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/12/beijing-clears-the-air/#comments Tue, 28 Dec 2010 12:55:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=378797 Beijing is serious about clearing the air. According to China Daily, the city is planning to require adherence to the Euro 5 standard for all vehicles by 2012. In Europe, Euro 5 had gone in effect in September 2009, but only for new vehicles. Beijing switched to the Euro 4 requirement for all cars in […]

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Beijing is serious about clearing the air. According to China Daily, the city is planning to require adherence to the Euro 5 standard for all vehicles by 2012.

In Europe, Euro 5 had gone in effect in September 2009, but only for new vehicles. Beijing switched to the Euro 4 requirement for all cars in January 2008, long before the standard became mandatory for all of China. So-called “yellow plate cars” – stinkers that were issued a yellow tag because the were not up to code, were banned from the streets. If you drive into the city with an out-of town car, prepare yourself for an emission test. These measures did much to improve the previously unbearable air quality. In Beijing, I can now see as far as the mountains, and at night, I see stars which I thought had left.

By going from Euro 4 to Euro 5, the city expects a further improvement of air quality by 30 to 50 percent. As a nice side effect, it will help Beijing’s beleaguered car dealers  sell more cars. Many plan to go out of business because the city limited the issuance if license plates to new cars to 240,000. However, if you already own a car, your new plate is guaranteed and does not count against the contingent. The step from Euro 4 to Euro 5 means a mass extinction of stinkers.

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Daimler Shrugs Off Beijing’s Curbs On Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/12/daimler-shrugs-off-beijings-curbs-on-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/12/daimler-shrugs-off-beijings-curbs-on-cars/#comments Mon, 27 Dec 2010 15:03:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=378687 Daimler is unimpressed by Beijing’s plans to limit new vehicle license plates to 240,000 next year. Daimler still expects double-digit car sales growth in China in 2011. BMW is similarly sanguine. A spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal that “these are not the first limitations in Beijing. With the existing ones, we haven’t had any […]

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Daimler is unimpressed by Beijing’s plans to limit new vehicle license plates to 240,000 next year. Daimler still expects double-digit car sales growth in China in 2011.

BMW is similarly sanguine. A spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal that “these are not the first limitations in Beijing. With the existing ones, we haven’t had any negative experiences. The additional measures aren’t a surprise to us, but it is unclear how they will be implemented. Therefore we can’t say anything yet about the effects.”

Both have reason to be blasé:

First of all, there is a giant loophole in the regulations. If you already have a car, you can buy a new one without drawing lots from the 240,000 pile. The China Automobile Dealers Association expects that at least 160,000 vehicles will be sold in 2011 in Beijing to those who trade in old for new. Some put this number at 200,000 or higher. Remember: Beijing already has 4.7 million cars.

Secondly, most of China’s new car growth is coming for the second and third tier cities, and this is where the wealth moves.

Thirdly, people who buy a “Benz” (as the call a Mercedes in China), or a BMW usually know how to deal with regulations like these. It is already expected that registrations in neighboring provinces will jump.

Daimler knows Beijing well: The city is their joint venture partner. BAIC, largely owned by the city, plans a 400 percent increase in its dealer network  before the end of 2011, Gasgoo reports.

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Beijing Hands Down Harsh Measures Against New Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/12/beijing-hands-down-harsh-measures-against-new-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/12/beijing-hands-down-harsh-measures-against-new-cars/#comments Fri, 24 Dec 2010 05:09:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=378471 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 […]

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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.

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Beijing Declares War On Cars: A War Of Words http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/12/beijing-declares-war-on-cars-a-war-of-words/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/12/beijing-declares-war-on-cars-a-war-of-words/#comments Tue, 14 Dec 2010 09:48:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=377120 For the past two weeks, China’s capital had been awash in rumors that it would use stern methods to stamp out rampant car growth. Most popular rumor: A one car policy. Only one per resident. There are 4.7 million cars in Beijing and 22 million people. That disparity did not allay the worries of motorized […]

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For the past two weeks, China’s capital had been awash in rumors that it would use stern methods to stamp out rampant car growth. Most popular rumor: A one car policy. Only one per resident. There are 4.7 million cars in Beijing and 22 million people. That disparity did not allay the worries of motorized Beijingers. They want their two cars just like they want their two kids. A run on the showrooms ensued, dealers ran out of cars.

In numbers: The city of  Beijing usually registers 1000 cars a day. Lately, that number had risen to 2000 a day. The rumors caused panic buying. During the week from Nov. 29 to Dec. 5, “Beijing had 21,000 new cars on the roads, translating to 3,000 more cars per day,” reports People’s Daily. To curb car growth caused by car growth curbing rumors, the city had to do something fast. And they did.

Today, readers of People’s Daily’s sister paper Global Times were greeted by the headline “Beijing declares war on cars.” On closer inspection, it is a war of words. Or not even a war. More like a finger wagging.

On Monday, the city posted a plan on its website to solicit public opinion on what to do with all those cars. This may sound odd to those who think of China as an authoritarian police state, but it is actually quite common here. Plans are open for discussion, and depending on where the discussion leads, plans are changed or shelved totally. There is no voting. But the government keeps a constant finger on the pulse of public opinion, unlike others that only read polls before voting time.

The new plan is a mix of everything. From expanding public transportation to higher parking fees, from new underground tunnels to a call to work from home. Conspicuously amiss: The much expected curb on car purchases.

Even the Wall Street Journal had expected (hoped for?) harsher measures. The WSJ complains that “Monday’s document left vague many details,” and that no-one at the Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport would return their calls.

Actually, the most radical part of the plan is a proposed limitation on the purchase of new government cars for the next five years. The capital has around 700,000 government vehicles, nearly 15 percent of the city’s car ownership. Auto analyst Jia Xinguang tells China Daily that “Government cars are far more frequently used than private cars, often for personal use.” Really? Controlling the number of government cars is welcome but it is more effective to limit their use, Jia suggests.

What is the authoritarian state coming to? The people get higher parking fees, but the officials get no new cars? Expect that one not to survive the discussion stage.

Beijingers hate traffic jams. Beijingers love their cars. And the city knows that.

With all the discussion on curbing car growth in China, there is one item that many forget. Cars are considered a strategic industry in China. Nearly all major car companies are state owned. There is rarely a province that does not have  (or want) its very own car producer. Beijing owns BAIC, Shanghai owns SAIC, FAW and Dongfeng are owned by the central government.  Despite all the green talk, the Chinese government is just as concerned with higher car sales as other car company owning governments.

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Beijing Runs Out Of Cars, Beijingers Mob Dealerships http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/12/beijing-runs-out-of-cars-beijingers-mob-dealerships/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/12/beijing-runs-out-of-cars-beijingers-mob-dealerships/#comments Sat, 04 Dec 2010 18:43:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=375774 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 […]

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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.

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Microsoft Mines Brains Of Chinese Taxi Drivers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/11/microsoft-mines-brains-of-chinese-taxi-drivers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/11/microsoft-mines-brains-of-chinese-taxi-drivers/#comments Mon, 22 Nov 2010 09:21:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=373834 It’s a well-kept secret, which will give the willies to people who are (at least publicly) worried about intellectual property: Microsoft has one of their best R&D centers in China. Located in the silicone gulch in the north of Beijing, MSRA (Microsoft Research Asia) is working on advanced technologies, mostly in the visual area. I […]

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It’s a well-kept secret, which will give the willies to people who are (at least publicly) worried about intellectual property: Microsoft has one of their best R&D centers in China. Located in the silicone gulch in the north of Beijing, MSRA (Microsoft Research Asia) is working on advanced technologies, mostly in the visual area. I worked with them once, and they are NFSWing good. They just had another great idea: Why not mine the knowledge of cab drivers when it comes to proposing the best route on your in-car navigation system?

Navigation systems usually provide two types of directions: The shortest-distance route, and the route that is fastest based on the length of the road and typical vehicle speed. Some augment them with real time traffic information – with mixed results.

“When selecting driving directions, taxi drivers usually consider multiple factors including distance, traffic flow and signals, direction changes, and the probability of accidents,” Zheng Yu, a researcher at Microsoft Research Asia (MSRA), told China’s Global Times.

So MSRA put GPS devices into more than 33,000 of the 80,000 Beijing taxis, and collected the data over three months.

“On average, 50 percent of our routes are at least 20 percent faster than the competing approaches,” says a report of by the MSRA. Earlier this year, an IBM survey had found that Beijing has the worst traffic in the world. At least Microsoft is doing something to get around it.

You are probably thinking the same as I did: What if all people suddenly know the hidden shortcuts? Microsoft thought of that as well. The taxi-based system, dubbed “T-Drive,” will dole out routes that try to balance the traffic.

Here’s an idea for MSRP: For their “T-Drive Ultimate,” I offer the data produced by a gizmo in my driver’s car. He (ab)uses bike lanes, bus lanes, takes shortcuts through hotel driveways, and sometimes goes down a one way street in reverse. I never missed a plane.

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Beijing Straddles Traffic Jams With Straddle Bus http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/08/beijing-straddles-traffic-jams-with-straddle-bus/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/08/beijing-straddles-traffic-jams-with-straddle-bus/#comments Fri, 27 Aug 2010 12:40:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=364000 The number of cars in Beijing is expected to double by 2015, the Beijing Transportation Research Center told Global Times. By the end of 2009, Beijing had 4 million cars. A taxi driver said it more succinctly: “We’re making another Great Wall, it’s just that this one is a wall of cars.”  Relief could come […]

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The number of cars in Beijing is expected to double by 2015, the Beijing Transportation Research Center told Global Times. By the end of 2009, Beijing had 4 million cars.

A taxi driver said it more succinctly: “We’re making another Great Wall, it’s just that this one is a wall of cars.”  Relief could come from a monstrous contraption called the straddle bus.

The monstrosity of a bus will sit on 7 foot tall legs. The two bus legs leave a “tunnel” wide enough for two lanes of small or medium-sized vehicles to drive right through under the moving bus.

No busses will take space from other cars or impede traffic by weaving in and out of stops.

The new elevated super bus will be road-tested in western Beijing by the end of this year, says Global Times.

If everything goes according to plan, more than 180 kilometers of the straddle bus line will be built, all the way out to the airport.

Laser scanners between the legs scan vehicles and warn them to keep a safe distance. The bus will be fitted with an ultrasonic detector on its tail to measure the size of incoming vehicles and deny entry to the oversized.

The price of one kilometer of straddle bus line comes to about 50 million yuan ($7.3 million,) that’s 10 percent of the cost of a subway.

Powered by electricity and solar power, the straddle bus can travel up to 60 kilometers per hour, with a maximum capacity of 1,200 to 1,400 passengers.

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Beijing Adds Another Million Cars This Year http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/05/beijing-adds-another-million-cars-this-year/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/05/beijing-adds-another-million-cars-this-year/#comments Wed, 12 May 2010 19:23:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=356318 Slowdown in Chinese car sales? Unheard of, as far as Beijing is concerned. In the beginning of the year, Beijing had 4m cars. By the end of the year, the Chinese capital is expected to have 5 million cars on the roads. That’s the educated guess of the government, as reported by Gasgoo. In the […]

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Slowdown in Chinese car sales? Unheard of, as far as Beijing is concerned. In the beginning of the year, Beijing had 4m cars. By the end of the year, the Chinese capital is expected to have 5 million cars on the roads. That’s the educated guess of the government, as reported by Gasgoo.

In the first four months of the year, a total of 248,000 cars were registered in Beijing, the Beijing municipal taxation office, collector of auto purchasing taxes, says.

15,500 new cars go on the city’s roads every week. That’s twice the old rate of 1000 cars per day. In 1949, there were about 2,300 cars in Beijing. It took Beijing nearly half a century to reach one-million cars in 1997. The second million was reached in 2003. The third million was registered in 2007. When the fourth million was reached by the beginning of this year, the official estimate was that it would take until 2015 to surpass the 5 million mark. That estimation is out of the window.

When we reported the 4 million cars last October, we mentioned that Beijing has 17m people. That number is also out of the window. The number is now officially “more than 22 million.” Supposedly, the city is constructed for a maximum of 18m.

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Shanghai’s Finest Receive Brand New Bimmers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/04/shanghai%e2%80%99s-finest-receive-brand-new-bimmers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/04/shanghai%e2%80%99s-finest-receive-brand-new-bimmers/#comments Thu, 01 Apr 2010 11:01:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=351053 Shanghai is gearing up for the Expo 2010, which is supposed to drive millions of visitors to the sprawling Chinese metropolis from May through October. The whole city is being refurbished. Shanghai’s Hongqiao airport received a spanking new terminal. Shanghai’s Finest don’t want to be left behind. The Shanghai traffic police received 20 brand new […]

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Shanghai is gearing up for the Expo 2010, which is supposed to drive millions of visitors to the sprawling Chinese metropolis from May through October. The whole city is being refurbished. Shanghai’s Hongqiao airport received a spanking new terminal. Shanghai’s Finest don’t want to be left behind.

The Shanghai traffic police received 20 brand new BMW 530’s, made by Brilliance in – doh! – Beijing, reports TheTycho. As if Shanghai doesn’t have enough cars to offer to replace the usual standard issue Santana: Shanghai is home to SAIC, which has joint ventures with GM and VW. It also has many other car manufacturers.

And Shanghai’s Police are riding around in Bimmers from BJ (as Beijing is affectionally abbreviated in China)? Come on SH, you can do better. And with just one month to go, you bet they will.

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Sand Storm Brings Beijing Traffic To Grinding Halt http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/sand-storm-brings-beijing-traffic-to-grinding-halt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/sand-storm-brings-beijing-traffic-to-grinding-halt/#comments Sat, 20 Mar 2010 12:25:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=349738 This morning, Beijing woke up in a massive yellow cloud. Motorists found their cars covered by thick layers of yellow grit. Air filters were quickly overwhelmed. What happened? A huge sand storm had transported tons of sand from the Gobi desert and dumped it on China’s capital. According to China Daily, the “Beijing weather bureau […]

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This morning, Beijing woke up in a massive yellow cloud. Motorists found their cars covered by thick layers of yellow grit. Air filters were quickly overwhelmed. What happened? A huge sand storm had transported tons of sand from the Gobi desert and dumped it on China’s capital. According to China Daily, the “Beijing weather bureau sent an alarm Friday night, warning a sandstorm was ‘on its way’. Yet many residents were utterly unprepared.”

Sand storms are a common occurrence in Beijing, and have given rise to a daily car wash index. Today’s storm has been recorded as the strongest of the year.

The sand storm delayed flights at the airport and triggered warnings as far as Seoul, Korea, and Tokyo, Japan.

According to ABC News, “the grit can travel as far as the western United States.”

There you go: Chinese imports that won’t affect the balance of payment.

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