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Beijing’s auto restriction policy prospers vehicle rental market

BEIJING – Beijing’s car rental market boomed during this past Chinese Spring Festival holidays. At the end of 2010, the city issued an auto restriction policy to tackle traffic gridlock. Prospective car buyers now need to submit applications and participate in a lot-drawing to get quotas. Zealous consumers went crazy at the year’s end and those not lucky enough to get one turned their sights to the car rental market during the holiday season.

The government’s preferential policies and subsidies had boosted auto sales in 2010. The car rental market, however, operated smoothly during the year. Vehicle rental companies provided prices like ¥49 ($7.2)/day, ¥69/day and ¥99/day for different models and some group purchasing websites even offered prices like ¥9.9/day to lure customers.

I bought a BYD F0 rental coupon for ¥9.9 in May 2010, but the coupon expired when I remembered it at the end of the year. I started to search for cheap car rental coupons before the holidays only to find that the market situation had led to a doubling of rental prices.

When I was searching on a group purchasing website, a ¥39 coupon including a ticket for the Ice and Snow Festival and a one-day car rental ticket caught my attention. I was disappointed later to find out that the car rental coupon was valid only after the Spring Festival holidays. With no other choice, I logged on to the official websites of the E-Hi Car Rental and China (Shenzhou) Auto Rental (CAR), two auto rental companies renowned for their inexpensive prices, hoping to find coupons cheaper than ¥100.

To my surprise, though they had discount labels showed on their front pages, the average prices were all over ¥100. For example, the rental fee for a Buick Excelle was ¥99/day in general, but surged to ¥299 during the Spring Festival holidays. Additional conditions included a minimum rental period of three days and maximum of 15 days, which discouraged me from renting.

It’s been reported that the rental rate of Beijing’s car rental market reached 80 to 95 percent before the Spring Festival holidays and that rental prices increased by 200 to 300 percent on average during the holidays. In a candid video clip taken by a TV reporter, staff of an auto rental company kept on telling the customers that they were out of stock. “There is a car returned yesterday but we haven’t cleaned it. You can drive it away immediately if you want,” said the clerk on the video.

Prices are over ¥300 for a car per day on the average during the holidays, he added. “The car rental market has been boosted by the purchase restrictions of new cars.”

Auto sales usually see rocketing growth at year’s end, but in December 2010, the auto restriction policy caught potential car buyers in Beijing off guard. People went crazy to purchase new cars before the deadline, even spending thousands or ten thousands more RMB than usual for a car. In a 4S dealership in Beijing, a man broke the glass of a displayed car and announced ownership of the car, which astonished the media and the public. Even the most luxurious vehicles were ransacked within a month.

I passed by Hotel Kunlun before the Spring Festival holidays and found the exhibition room of luxury cars on the first floor was totally empty. For those in urgent need of cars but without quotas, car rental becomes a less expensive and more efficient approach. The restriction on the non-Beijing number plates during rush hours also helped boost car rental service in the city

Translated by Jennifer Chen based on author’s article on


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