|Rush for cars in Nanjing
Car retailers in Nanjing, capital city of Jiangsu province, have seen twice the usual number of customers preparing for a possible quota on license plates since Hangzhou in neighboring Zhejiang province restricted the issue of new car licenses on March 26.
Liu Juan, an employee at an auto retail store in Daming Road, said she can sell more than 10 SUVs in a single morning.
"Many people rushed to the retail store on hearing Hangzhous quota on license plates," said Liu. "Some customers dont even want to wait for cars in their favorite colors or models."
Because of the increasing numbers of customers, many retail stores have given fewer discounts or even canceled preferential policies relating to some popular cars.
"Now we only offer a 15,000 yuan ($2,415) discount on a certain model, while two weeks ago a 22,000 yuan discount was given," said Wang Ying, who works at Skodas retail store in Nanjing.
"Although we just have gray and red colors for some models, customers will have to wait about two weeks for other colors if they dont place orders today."
In the foyer of the retail store, a banner hanging from the ceiling reads "Hangzhou imposed a sudden restriction on the issue of license plates. How soon will Nanjing issue its restriction? It only takes a second to implement the restriction policy."
Car retailers also sent out text or WeChat messages to potential customers last week, informing them about the car plate quota policy in Hangzhou and urging them to buy cars quickly.
"I really need a car," said Shi Siyi, a 32-year-old Nanjing resident who just purchased a vehicle to avoid the possible quota. "Once I put a piece of bread in my handbag after work and took the bus home. It was like a pancake when I got back. Thats no exaggeration. Thats my life. I dont want to be shoved and pushed in crowded public transport, and I dont want to try in vain for 30 minutes to wait for a taxi under the hot sun or in a chilly wind."
During the evening of March 25, Hangzhou announced the issue of new car licenses would be restricted the following day to fight air pollution and traffic congestion, making it the sixth Chinese city to introduce a car plate quota policy.
Hangzhou will restrict the number of plates issued every year to 80,000, and issue new plates via an auction and lottery.
Among the other five cities, Beijing and Guiyang issue plates through a lottery system, while Shanghai employs a bidding procedure, and Guangzhou and Tianjin adopt both systems.
Ren Kefei, secretary-general of Nanjing Automobile Association, said restrictions on the issue of license plates are not the best way to solve problems of traffic and air quality.
"Its the easiest way for government to restrict the issue to limit the numbers of vehicles," said Ren. "But its better for local governments to develop public transport, introduce environmentally friendly petrol products, promote vehicles using clean energy and improve the quality of roads. Its not the right moment for the Nanjing government to restrict the issue of registration plates because the city traffic is not as bad as the five cities that have already imposed restrictions. Most of the time traffic congestion only appears during peak hours."
According to Nanjings vehicle management bureau, the city now has more than 1.8 million registered vehicles. It said that the number may exceed 2 million by August, which indicates that, like Beijing, one in four residents in Nanjing will own a car.
According to the Nanjing meteorological center, in 2013, the city experienced about 250 smoggy days. In December, all kindergartens, primary and middle schools suspended classes because of heavy air pollution.
However, local government said it has no plans to curb car ownership immediately. Miao Ruilin, mayor of Nanjing, said during an interview that the city has not considered restrictions on the issue of registration plates and that any measures taken will involve the development of public transport and parking lots.
"Imposing plate quotas is not fair to people who dont own a car," said Ma Zhendong, a 54-year-old teacher living in the citys Jianye district. "The government should take more responsibility in fighting traffic problems and air pollution. Any quota should be a last measure, not the first to be imposed."