BEIJING - Residents in Beijing may receive penalties if they fail to buy cars within the required half year after winning a car registration lottery, a mechanism the city introduced late last year to reduce vehicles on roads.
Traffic authorities launched a survey on Thursday at www.bjhjyd.gov.cn, the website to apply for car license plates, to solicit public opinion about possible penalties.
One option is to keep the current policy that prospective car owners can continue applying for the right to register a vehicle if the right they won is not used within six months. Another choice is to bar them from applying for a year, or, the third option, for two years, according to the survey.
Beijing plans to issue 17,600 plates a month to private car buyers this year, but residents must apply for and win the right to register through the lottery before they can buy a car.
The regulation has set off an application frenzy. In the latest draw, on Thursday, some 530,000 people competed for the 17,600 plates, so only one out of 30 applicants could win.
But traffic authorities said that only 21 percent lottery of winners in April used the right they won to register.
Lu Xiongyu, who works at a machinery trading company in Beijing, said such the penalties should have been in place much earlier.
"Winners should pay for wasting the right. If they are banned from applying, people who really want to buy a car, like me, would have a bigger chance to win the lottery," he said.
Some people disagree.
One netizen said on her Twitter-like micro blog on Weibo.com that she applied for the license plate in January, and even after five months of drawings, she has had no luck.
"I'm disappointed that the policy could change so fast. What if I win a right to register but my money is temporarily tied up in investments and I don't have enough at the moment to buy a car? I think a penalty is unreasonable," she said.
Jiang Xiangming, a 25-year-old Beijing resident who won the car plate lottery in April, said he already had a car, but he would not waste the right whether a penalty was involved or not.
"A two-year ban from re-applying is too severe. I'll buy another car before my right expires in October because I hear that more vehicle restriction plans might be put forward next year," he said.
Jia Xinguang, an independent auto industry analyst, said the reason only a small proportion of registration lottery winners have used the right is partly because prospective car buyers mobilize family members to apply to increase the chances. Even if they all win, the family buys just one car.
"I think trying to solve traffic congestion by introducing the lottery is unreasonable because people's right to buy a car should not be restricted. I'd suggest better control of the city's booming population, more effective traffic management and construction of more efficient public transportation to address the problem," he said.
Beijing's population has reached 19.6 million, already surpassing its target of 18 million in 2020. As of Sunday, there were 4.9 million registered vehicles in the capital.
Beijing's auto market has stagnated since car restriction regulations took effect. 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, according to Chi Yifeng, general manager of Yayuncun Automobile Trade Market.
"I think if penalties were introduced, people would not readily waste their right to buy a car. And I believe our sales volume could double the current figures," said Gao Zhicheng, a salesman at a Toyota dealership in Beijing.