Shanghai residents buy number plate before car!

Beijing, Jan 21 (IANS) Car lovers in China's Shanghai city rush to buy a number plate even before purchasing their car. It happens due to increasingly expensive and hard-to-get license plates.

One such motorist, surnamed Qian, made a successful bid for a plate Saturday during the municipality's first monthly auction this year. But Qian, who wanted that only her surname be used, said buying the plate first makes sense, China Daily reported.

"The first thing I realised is I need a plate before I buy the car. I know it's usually the other way around. But I didn't want the risk. Also, the car, not the plate, is always there in the dealership," said Qian, who spent 75,300 yuan (about $12,100) for the plate.

In the seventh consecutive month of record high prices, the cost of a Shanghai car license plate had a record winning bid of 75,000 yuan, which is the price of an economy family car in the country.

The percentage of motorists with successful bids fell from 51 percent in December to 43 percent in January as 20,857 people bid for only 9,000 car number plates. It was the lowest number in nine months.

According to Shanghai Commodity International Auction Co, in January the average number plate's price was 75,332 yuan, almost 6,000 yuan higher than last month.

"Thanks to the new regulations, now customers have peace of mind after getting the number plate - there's a concern that you might be fined if there's no plate on your new car," said Zhou Wenchao, a salesman at a Shanghai car dealership.

It seems nothing can stop Shanghai's plate price from setting new records because of the fear and expectation of price hikes in near future, the salesman added.

Meanwhile, a new regulation introduced to rein in price speculation in July did not work as well as expected.

The rule, which extends the period that motorists must keep a license plate from one year to three years, was expected to deter scalpers from reselling. But the average price of Shanghai's car plate has increased more than 28 percent since the rule was introduced.

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