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February 19, 2012

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License plate prices approach record high

LICENSE plate prices in Shanghai rose again this month as the lowest price surged to a record high at yesterday's auction, causing some bidders to complain about the "insane" cost.

The cost of a car plate is more expensive than some cars including a 40,000-yuan (US$6,351) Chery QQ subcompact, a Chang'an CX20 and a Geely Free Cruiser sedan.

The lowest bid for a private car plate rose to 55,400 yuan, up 2,600 yuan from January, auction organizer Shanghai Commodity International Co said.

The average price increased 2,437 yuan to 55,632 yuan in February, the second highest price on record. The all-time high of 56,042 yuan was set in December 2007.

The plate supply quota was set at 8,000 this month, the same as last month. The number of bidders was 23,391, down from 24,354 in January.

"It's insane," said a bidder, Wang Yi, who failed in her third attempt to get a license plate. She said she bid 55,000 yuan but didn't have enough time to raise the offer as prices jumped too quickly.

"The price level is inconceivably high," Wang told Shanghai Daily. "I will have to buy a car plate on the second-hand market for more money or my new Honda CR-V will remain parked at home."

Though vehicle sales slowed last year, car plate prices in Shanghai have remained above 50,000 yuan since July. But Volkswagen dealer Li Wei said vehicle demand in Shanghai remained solid, especially before the Spring Festival in January, which means demand for license plates will likely remain strong.

He also said it's getting more difficult for local car owners to get a cheaper out-of-town plate. "There are many car owners who have lost in previous attempts to get a plate. How can the price not go higher?" Li said.

Shanghai is the only city nationwide that issues car plates through a monthly auction. The move was designed to keep the vehicle population from increasing too fast and help ease traffic congestion.

On the second-hand market, license plates sell for around 55,000 yuan. Li estimated the price will rise to as much as 58,000 yuan after this month's auction.


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