The black market for illegally pieced-together vehicles in Hubei province thrives, despite repeated crackdown orders, due to the support of local manufacturers and oversight agencies, state media said.
Illegal car factories remained widespread in the province's Shiyan city - a major source of car parts - CCTV reported in a story timed to run in advance of yesterday's World Consumer Rights Day.
In the city's Bailang Economic and Technical Development Zone alone, about 30 factories provide vehicles that are pieced together with car parts made on site, one factory owner was quoted as saying.
Chen Guojin, the owner of a factory going by the name Jieyao Industry and Trade, was quoted as saying that his factory produced an average of 200 to 300 pieced-together vehicles a year, adding that his business was 'small-scale' because of fierce competition.
It took merely four hours to piece together a truck, an undercover investigation by the broadcaster found.
One type of truck produced by the illegal factory was an imitation of a model made by DongFeng Motor, a leading light-duty-vehicle maker whose headquarters are in Wuhan, Hubei's provincial capital.
Although the illegal factory claimed its truck was capable of carrying an 80-tonne payload, while being much cheaper than DongFeng's truck, the illegally made vehicle was found to have problems as soon as it was rolled off the assembly line - it had a power-steering leak and its exhaust pipe did not fit.
All of the shady factories promised certificates of authenticity with the vehicles, as well as access to licence plates.
Chen said it was an open secret that such certificates could be purchased from legal vehicle manufacturers.
The support of local supervisory departments has been another contributor to the booming market, the report said.
During an investigation by the broadcaster in Hebei province some years ago, a journalist set up a camera at a market that had workshops making the illegal vehicles, then took another camera on an interview to the local industrial and commerce bureau.
After the reporter asked bureau officials to go on camera to discuss the problem of illegally pieced- together vehicles, the camera at the market picked up a voice warning workers to cease production because the media was coming.
Ma Guangyuan, a commentator with a PhD in economics, said loose regulations were to blame for the thriving market of illegally made vehicles.
If violators faced jail time or large fines, he said, the problem would be less widespread.
The profit chain involves the buyer, the illegal factories, the legal manufacturers and the watchdog, but public safety was the only thing that had not benefited from the market, Ma said.
Chen Jianbin, founder of Qctsw, a website devoted to complaints from car owners, said the owner of an illegally pieced-together vehicle had nowhere to turn to if he had an accident in it.
'Factories assume you know the risks of buying such vehicles beforehand and you have to assume all the liability yourself when something bad happens,' he said, adding that the illegally made vehicles are mostly trucks and purchasers are mostly farmers who need them to transport goods.
Estimated annual value, in US dollars, of counterfeit car parts sold by China last year, according to Automotive News China