Shanghai licence plates 'precious as gold,' says vice mayor

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 January, 2013, 3:05pm
UPDATED : Monday, 28 January, 2013, 5:39pm

If scoring a licence plate for your car in Shanghai means winning an auction, getting one for your car in the future will be akin to winning the lottery – with gold as the prize. 

Shanghai's vice-mayor Shen Jun said that as the government ramped up efforts to curb traffic congestion, the price of a licence plate in the city could soon become as valuable as yellow metal, the Oriental Morning Post reported on Monday.

Speaking at the municipality’s People’s Congress meeting on Sunday, Shen said chronic traffic problems in the city of 23 million “could not be ignored” and that more efforts would be put into developing public transport networks including bus and rail.

“We are using the auction system to ease road congestion…so far the results have been pretty good,” Shen said. “It’s not that the government wishes to see Shanghai plates getting more and more expensive. We don't expect this auction method to become a way of raising public revenue either.”

Prices for Shanghai plates – the city's newest luxury item – have skyrocketed in recent months as motorists’ fears and expectations of further price hikes fuel panic purchases. Many have even turned to buying plates before the car.

According to the Shanghai Commodity International Auction, the average licence plate price was 75,332 yuan (HK$93,880) in January – about 6,000 yuan more than last month. One of these plates a year ago would have fetched just 50,000 yuan.

Motorists who do not have Shanghai car number plates are forbidden from using some of Shanghai’s highways during peak hours.

Shanghai’s municipal government reportedly rakes in about 4 billion yuan a year from these auctions alone. 

Motoring in Beijing is said to be worse. Scoring a licence plate in China’s capital literally entails winning a lottery – with luck, not money, the major determinant.

Since 2010, Beijing has limited the issuance of new car licence plates to 240,000 a year in a bid to ease traffic congestion equally as bad as Shanghai. In December, 1.3 million applicants competed for just 20,000 licences putting the success rate at just one driver every 71 applicants.

As of 2013, the chances have gotten even slimmer with only one driver out of 75 applicants able to secure a plate.