China / Society

In 'piles of scrap', Nanjing drivers spot opportunity

By CANG WEI and SONG WENWEI in Nanjing (China Daily) Updated: 2014-01-05 23:59

Nanjing car dealers are stocking up on secondhand cars to prepare for a possible quota on car license plates, as the city government looks to fight air pollution and traffic jams.

Zhang Jiyuan, who runs a dealership in the Zhongchi trading market, said cheap vans, especially those costing less than 10,000 yuan ($1,650), are very popular among buyers.

"The buyers of cheap secondhand cars just want the plate," he said. "When Nanjing imposes a quota on new license plates, they can use the plates of the used cars to avoid a lottery or having to bid in auctions."

Zhang said some buyers even consider cars with more than 200,000 kilometers on the clock, which in his words are equal to piles of scrap metal.

Wu Changqing, a 26-year-old from Nanjing, decided to buy a used car because he knew a friend in Beijing who had tried in vain for three years to get a license plate after the capital introduced a lottery.

"Buying a new car is expensive right now," the real estate agent said. "When I buy a cheap used car, I won't be restricted by any quota policy."

Zhang Sheng, a car dealer near Nanjing's Daming Road, said he has stocked more than 30 secondhand cars, as he expects a quota will be imposed in the near future.

Cheap vans are hard to find because dealers like him are saving them for the future, he said.

"The cheapest one in our market costs about 20,000 yuan, an increase of 30 percent compared with last month," the dealer said. "A car license plate in Shanghai costs almost 100,000 yuan, and I believe that the price of Nanjing's plates will soar (if a quota is introduced).

"Considering Nanjing's traffic conditions and the air quality, the city government will introduce traffic restrictions sooner or later."

By November, Nanjing, the provincial capital of Jiangsu, had experienced 218 smoggy days in 2013.

According to the Nanjing meteorological center, in December citizens witnessed no less than 20 heavily polluted days. On Dec 4 and 5, all kindergartens, primary and middle schools in the city suspended classes due to poor air quality.

Tianjin introduced a regulation on applying for license plates on Jan 1 that requires residents to participate in a lottery or auction to get a plate.

Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou have taken similar measures to limit car ownership. While Beijing has a lottery to issue plates, Shanghai uses a bidding system and Guangzhou uses both.

According to Nanjing's bureau of statistics, by June the city had 1.07 million registered private cars, accounting for 83 percent of vehicles on its roads.

However, according to the city traffic management bureau, the city government has no immediate plans to curb car ownership and declared it would solicit public opinion before introducing a quota.

The authority also said secondhand cars will be subject to a mandatory scrapping system if they fail to meet safety checks and emissions requirements for three years after being purchased.

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