Auto sales boom brings challenges

Updated: 2010-10-13 11:13
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BEIJING - Auto sales in China continued to expand last month, raising the forecast for annual sales to a record 17 million units this year, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) said in Beijing on Oct 12.

Auto sales boom brings challenges

Photo shows cars for sale at an automaker’s lot in Yancheng city in eastern Jiangsu province on Jan 28, 2010. [Photo/Asianewsphoto]

Sales of automobiles rose 16.89 percent in September from a year earlier and 24.69 percent from August to 1.56 million units, while auto production was up 16.94 percent year on year to 1.59 million units, said CAAM.

In the first nine months of this year, auto production reached 13.08 million units, up 36.1 percent from a year ago.

A total of 13.14 million units of domestically-made auto vehicles were sold in China in the same period, up 35.97 percent year on year.

Sales for the January-September period are quite close to the total number of vehicles sold last year, when China overtook the United States to become the world's largest auto maker and auto market with production and sales hitting 13.79 million and 13.64 million units respectively.

China's annual production and sales of new autos are likely to surpass 17 million units this year, CAAM predicted, matching the highest annual level ever reached in the United States.

Although the expansion in the sector has brought in an industrial boom and played an important role in China's domestic demand, it has also triggered widespread concerns over the country's energy capacity, pollution levels and rising traffic pressures.

For general citizens and city planners in China, the increasing number of traffic jams is the most obvious problem in enjoying a life behind the wheel.

In Beijing, the rising number of private cars, along with heavy rainfall and a spurt in holiday travel, caused a record 140 traffic jams in a single Friday evening last month. In some parts of the city that day, people spent nearly two hours on what would normally have been a 15-minute ride.

Earlier this month, figures from the Ministry of Public Security revealed that the number of automobiles on China's roads had hit 85 million, while a total of 144 million Chinese had learnt to drive vehicles.

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Statistics from the Beijing Transportation Research Center (BTRC) revealed that the number of registered cars in Beijing had topped 4.5 million in September, and would possibly exceed 7 million by 2015.

However, the city's road system will be over-burdened by then, as its full capacity is estimated to be 6.7 million vehicles, said Guo Jifu, director of the BTRC.

In addition, experts and officials have warned that the burgeoning number of vehicles could pose threats to the country's energy reserves, as China is still highly dependent on oil imports.

China's oil dependency reached alarming levels last year with imports accounting for more than 50 percent of consumption. However, that figure rose to 55 percent by the end of August this year.

Xu Changming, an official with the State Information Center, said the auto market's growth should be maintained at around 1.5 times the growth in the country's gross domestic product (GDP).

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