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More plates to boost auto market

SHANGHAI will offer an extra 500 car plates at this month's auction, the most so far this year, in an effort to revive the local automobile market.

A total of 6,500 private car plates will go under the hammer in the monthly car plate auction on April 18, compared with 6,000 in March and 5,200 for January and February, the Shanghai International Commodity Auction Co said in a statement today.

Bidders can register for the Saturday auction at five outlets across the city from April 11 to 17.

The larger quota is to stimulate the city's automobile consumption, Mayor Han Zheng said at a working conference yesterday.

Because of the world economic slowdown, automobile sales in China last year suffered the lowest growth rate in a decade, with a year-on-year gain of 6.7 percent gain. In 2007, China sold 8.79 million automobiles, a 21.84 percent growth over the previous year.

But the future of the automobile market in Shanghai is unclear and bidders may choose to wait after rumors spread saying that the car plate auction system may soon be phased out.

Huang Rong, director of Shanghai Urban Construction and Transportation Commission, has admitted in previous reports that the system might be abolished.

Shanghai is the only city on the Chinese mainland to issue plates by auction, a system set up in 2000. The aim was to restrict the rapidly expanding number of vehicles and, in the process, ease traffic congestion and reduce energy consumption. Some 3 billion yuan (US$450 million) of the income from the auction is spent annually on public transport construction, according to the government.


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