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Several residents buy cars on Saturday night at a 4S shop in Guangzhou. As local authorities began to restrict car purchases on Sunday, many car dealers kept their shops open until midnight. Chen Kunlun / for China Daily
Up to 10,000 new license plates to be issued each month starting in July
The sudden decision to limit vehicle registrations in Guangzhou has disrupted the plans of many residents to buy cars in the southern metropolis.
"Starting July Guangzhou began limiting car purchases," said Xian Weixiong, director of Guangzhou commission of transport, at a news conference on Saturday.
"No more than 10,000 new vehicles a month will be granted with license plates beginning in July."
Guangzhou is the fourth city on the Chinese mainland to limit car purchases by clamping down on vehicle registrations. The others are Beijing, Shanghai and Guiyang, capital of Southwest China's Guizhou province.
"I had planned to buy a new car within a month, but now the new limitations upset the apple cart," said Zeng Xiangzhong, an office worker who in May bought a new apartment in Conghua, a Guangzhou suburb.
Zeng said his apartment is more than 40 kilometers from the downtown area where he works.
"If I can't buy a car, I'll have to spend more than 2 hours a day commuting between my home and the office," he said on Sunday.
Zeng said many of his friends who want to buy houses in the Guangzhou suburbs, where property prices are still low, oppose the new car restrictions.
The announcement has already affected business at local auto dealerships.
Ding Fen, a car saleswoman in Guangzhou's Baiyun district, said her sales center now has to handle only the orders signed before Saturday.
"The sales center, which did brisk business in the previous months, will have to diversify its business in the coming months," she said.
Government departments should announce the car purchase limits after a public hearing has been organized and won support from local residents, Ding said.
Insiders say the sudden decision will affect the city's automobile industry, which has become a pillar industry, and its carmakers.
Guangzhou has attracted major Japanese carmakers, such as Toyota, Honda and Nissan, to set up production facilities in the city.
None of the carmakers commented the purchase limits as of Sunday.
Guangzhou aims to improve its traffic situation to maintain an average driving speed of more than 25 kilometers per hour on major roads and streets by 2015. Currently, heavy traffic has reduced the average driving speed to less than 20 kilometers per hour on more than 27 percent of the major roads and streets.
To reach the goal, the city government introduced measures to help it overcome the traffic problems, Xian said.
Under the new registration limits government departments, companies and individuals will have to apply for vehicle registrations before they can purchase vehicles.
"It has yet to be decided how the registration for car license plates will be distributed," Xian said. "The vehicle registration limits come after the rapid growth in the number of cars in the past years. The heavy traffic is preventing the city's economy from growing fast, worsened the air condition and antagonized many local drivers and residents."
Construction of the parking places has lagged far behind the fast growth in the number of vehicles," he added.
Chen Fuqiang, a Guangzhou taxi driver, said the clogged roads have hurt his business.
"Almost all of the streets are jammed at peak hours," he said.
According to the Guangzhou traffic police, the city of 16 million people had more than 2.4 million registered vehicles by the end of May.
The number of vehicles has grown by more than 19 percent annually in previous years.
In addition to the car purchase restrictions; the city will introduce higher parking fees in downtown areas and more strictly enforce traffic laws to help ease the heavy traffic, Xian said.
Guangzhou also intends to prioritize "green public traffic systems" by increasing the number of buses and further improving subway service, Xian said.
Xian said his commission will open new bus routes and increase the number of the buses.
The Guangzhou metro company plans to increase light rail service.
(China Daily 07/02/2012 page5)