Kunming car ownership rates are continuing to skyrocket, with the city adding an average of more than 1,000 vehicles per work day to its streets over the last three months.
There are now more than 1.3 million motor vehicles registered in Kunming and the city is on pace to have added more than 240,000 during the year 2010, according to recently released government statistics.
The majority of new registrations are private cars, a growing number of which are SUVs.
New car owners queue up every Monday through Friday in long lines at the seven vehicle registration offices throughout the city. After their wait is over, they pay their fees, get a license plate affixed to their car and drive away onto increasingly congested streets.
Historical car registration statistics put into perspective just how explosive the growth in car ownership has been in Kunming in recent years – and how fast it is accelerating.
Kunming did not hit the 100,000 vehicle mark until 1992. It took four more years for the city to have 200,000 registered vehicles in 1996. By 2008 Kunming had hit 800,000 vehicles, and then last year it became only the ninth Chinese city to have more than one million vehicles, despite being only China's 23rd-largest city.
Ironically, the year-end surge in car purchases that has forced registration offices to work overtime processing paperwork might be partially fueled by government efforts to cool the car market.
City and national tax breaks and other incentives to encourage private car ownership are set to expire at the end of the year. Many consumers therefore have been rushing to purchase a car before taxes go up or the government enacts any other measures to reduce growth in the number of vehicles in urban areas.
A local reporter interviewed a customer surnamed Wang at a Kunming car dealership about his newly-purchased car. Mr Wang said that he had spent several months shopping around various dealerships and waiting for a good promotion.
"But then I heard that a lot of the preferential policies are going to be cancelled, and that big cities like Beijing and Shanghai were already issuing new limits on cars," Wang told the reporter. "This alarmed me so I just bought a car right away."
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