Saturday, October 25, 2008

I Told You So: Beijing's Car Sales Going Through The Roof

In a previous missive, I predicted that Beijing's car curbs might actually increase sales. Just as it did in Nigeria 30 years ago. I didn't think it would happen so fast. This is what is posted today in, which just hired me as cheap Chinese labor:

Beijing’s 30% New Car Sales Surge Explained
By Bertel Schmitt October 24, 2008

“Brakes come off auto sales” the semi-official, English-writing Chinese newspaper China Daily headlines today. “Beijing car sales, which account for about a tenth of the national tally, are surging this month after the end of Olympic traffic controls and because of rumors about new caps on vehicle numbers, ” reports the newspaper, citing the head of China’s largest car dealer. Beijing Asian Games Village Automobile Exchange, an 80k unit megadealer in China’s capital, has seen sales increases of 30 percent this month, and there’s still another week to go.

Beijing’s buyers are stampeding back to the showrooms, after half of the cars had been banned from Beijing’s streets during the Olympics. Following the Olympics, a Kafkaesque car ban on Beijing’s byways and highways was instated, driving demand for second cars. Or for two cars at a time. Rumors that Beijing’s city government could limit new vehicle registrations to 100k a year, about a third of the city’s average annual vehicle sales, also unleashed a storming of the showrooms.

“We don’t know how the rumor started or whether it’s true, but it’s certainly working in terms of boosting sales,” said Su Hui, General Manager of the megadealer.

So far, the only city in China which rations vehicle ownership is Shanghai, a.k.a. Gridlock-City. In Shanghai, each month 5k to 6k license plates are auctioned off. Shanghai plates are fetching higher prices than small cars. According to the official news agency Xinhua, the average price of a Shanghai plate is 47,711 yuan ($6253),. Chery’s QQ subcompact, one of China’s Top Ten sellers, goes for 39,800 yuan. Shanghai’s scheme hasn’t done more than boosting the city’s budget: Motorists simply register in other towns.

If America runs out of ideas of how to jump-start the auto business, maybe they could rip that page from China’s playbook. Or not.