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.
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.”
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
Beijing’s drivers can get off their anti-anxiety medication. Beijing’s government has decided that Beijingers can go forth and buy as many cars as they desire. Beijing Municipal Commission of Development and Reform spokesperson Zhao Lei said that Beijing will not take administrative measures to restrain residents from buying automobiles, People’s Daily reports.
Sweden’s prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt had his fill of failed negotiations. Returning home from round-the-clock talks at the Copenhagen climate conference, he said that he saw the Saab collapse coming. Sweden’s prime minister is “unsurprised” by the collapse of the sale, says Reuters. Asked if he was surprised, Reinfeldt said: “No, the process was built around a loss-making company and an American owner that owned Saab for 20 years and made a profit in one of the 20. It’s clear that it was not successful enough.” Sweden’s head blames GM for the failure.
A few days ago I captured some news from Swedish Aftonbladet.se that Beijing Auto (BAIC) is buying Saab’s now to be replaced 9-5 technology. Even though the Koenigsegg-Saab deal fell apart, and BAIC were a part of the investor group, the Chinese has not given up the idea to build Saabs in China. At the time I couldn’t find any other reports on this, and wondered wether Aftonbladet had done some creative journalism, but yesterday, Nyteknik.se reported the same news, citing their own sources. They’ve even confronted Saab’s spokesperson Gunilla Gustavs, but of course she can not, will not comment on that.
Before this year ends, Beijing will have 4 million cars on the roads. Not to worry, says a city official, there is room for more.
Beijing’s car population reached 3.96 million last week, writes the state news agency Xinhua. The city adds 2100 new cars per day. At that rate, the 4m mark will be reached in 19 days.