Fear of public transport helps increase car sales in Shanghai

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 May, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 May, 2003, 12:00am

Nervousness over the Sars outbreak has helped boost already soaring Shanghai car sales and pushed up the price of vehicle shares on the stock market, companies and dealers said yesterday.

Vehicle sales in the city last month rose more than 50 per cent over the same month last year, with Shanghai General Motors selling 14,800, an increase of 13.8 per cent over March. In the first four months of the year, it sold 43,600 vehicles, up 60.7 per cent year on year.

In the same period, Shanghai Volkswagen sold 128,214 vehicles, an increase of 80 per cent over the same period last year.

Song Baolu, a salesman with Shanghai Yongda, one of the city's biggest car dealers, said supply could not meet demand. 'Sars is one factor in the higher sales, but not the only one. There are many new models, giving people a great variety of choice. Prices are lower than last year,' he said.

'The impact of Sars is clearer in Beijing, where people bought cars to avoid going by bus or subway, but is not so evident in Shanghai, where the disease has been controlled better.

'People who buy for their own use spend about 100,000 yuan [HK$94,400] and those who buy for business go for bigger models, such as Buicks.'

A second dealer said people considering purchases had brought them forward because of Sars. 'They feel uneasy travelling in the subway and on the buses and prefer to have their own car. They know who they are travelling with. This has helped our sales,' the dealer said.

Such news helped push up prices of vehicle stocks on the Shenzhen and Shanghai markets on Monday and yesterday.

The city government yesterday said that, because of Sars, it was cancelling its normal monthly auction of car licences and replacing it with an auction by telephone and Internet, for safety reasons. The auction, of 3,800 vehicles, will be held on May 24.

Meanwhile, Shanghai Volkswagen yesterday announced its first export of the Passat passenger car, with 10 going to the Philippines.