The number of Beijing cars finally broke the five-million mark last week. The slight glimmer of good news is that due to the license plate lottery that was put into effect early last year Beijing only added 173,000 cars to the road in 2011 (a drop from more than 700,000 in 2010), dramatically postponing the proposed date for hitting five million by nearly a year.
The last million mark was achieved back in December 2009 when registered cars in the city reached four million. The jump from three to four took just two years, doubling the time it had taken to go from two to three million. Based on these numbers, officials suggested that Beijing would see five million cars by March 2011.
The 11-month delay for the five-million milestone was due to registration restrictions that the city implemented in January 2011. License plates were put on a lottery system that capped the number of new registrations to 17,600 a month. Not everyone was happy over the new law which resulted in a buying frenzy in the month before it went into effect. At the moment applicants have a three percent chance of winning a license each month. As long as this license lottery is kept in place, Beijing won’t see six million cars for another four years, a dramatic slowdown that will hopefully allow the city to catch up with all the roads and subways it has planned to build.
While restrictions keep Beijing’s car numbers from skyrocketing too fast, the rest of the country is a different story. China purchased 18 million cars last year and the annual number is expected to get much bigger, and soon. Analysts say China could be buying 35 million cars a year by 2018.