Authorities quiet about car restrictions report

Updated: 2011-06-29 08:21

By Chen Xin and Xu Wei (China Daily)

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BEIJING - The capital's restriction of car purchases has been a controversial subject since it was introduced in January. Now, concern about the impact of the policy on the auto industry has prompted the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) to send a report to the State Council, asking for the end of car purchase limits in Beijing, the National Business Daily reported on Friday.

However, Beijing News subsequently reported that the authorities have denied such a plea was ever made.

Both the NDRC and the Beijing traffic authority have refused to respond.

As part of its bid to tackle increasing traffic congestion, Beijing will only allow 240,000 license plates to be registered this year, a sharp decrease from the total sales of last year.

Potential car buyers must now take part in a monthly lottery and hope to be selected before they can get a license plate and subsequently buy a car.

According to Chi Yifeng, general manager of Yayuncun Automobile Trade Market, a total of 122,800 cars were sold during the first five months of this year in the city, a fall of 61 percent year-on-year.

But Chi, who is also vice-chairman of the China Automobile Dealers Association, said he believes there is little chance that the car purchase restrictions in Beijing will be scrapped.

"I know that some organizations in the car industry are lobbying the authorities to adjust the polices," he said. "I think, if changes are made, they will be superficial, it is impossible to adjust it substantially."

Chi said Beijing residents collectively own too many vehicles and he envisions that, in future, new rules may only allow half of the licensed cars in the capital to be driven within its Fourth Ring Road on any given day.

"The city's goal of limiting vehicles will not be changed, at least not in the next three to five years, because, compared with car sales volume, easing traffic congestion is more important to Beijing," he said.

Beijing's population has already officially reached 19.6 million, surpassing the target population of 18 million for the year 2020. As of June 19, there were nearly 4.92 million registered vehicles in the city.

Gao Zhicheng, a salesman at a Toyota dealership in Beijing, said his company has seen at least a 50 percent year-on-year fall in sales.

Gao said the scrapping of the restriction on car ownership would mean the industry would return to normal.

"If car purchase limits are canceled, I believe our sales volume could return to last year's figures or be even better," he said.

The limitations on car ownership set off a frenzy among people wanting to buy. In the latest license plate lottery on Sunday, some 570,000 people competed for the 17,600 available plates, meaning only one in 33 came away happy.

For some citizens eager to buy a car, the wait seems endless.

Liu Binwen, who works for a decoration design company in Beijing, is annoyed about being prevented from buying a car.

"I really want to buy a car and I think easing traffic congestion should be done by changing the city's transportation pattern, not by restricting what people can do," he said.

Zhang Changqing, director of Beijing Jiaotong University's transportation law institute, said, even if the car purchase restrictions in the capital are left in place, the city's traffic gridlock will not be eased because vehicle numbers are still increasing, even if they are doing so more slowly than last year.

"Only by having more scientifically planned roads and more convenient public transportation facilities can Beijing's gridlock be solved," he said.


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