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April 21, 2013

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9-month streak at auction over as car plate prices drop

CAR plate prices in Shanghai declined for the first time in ten months at yesterday's auction after the city government hiked the quota and unveiled cooling down measures.

Snapping a nine-month rising streak, the average successful bid for a Shanghai car plate fell to 84,100 yuan (US$13,564), down 7,798 yuan from March, according to the Shanghai International Commodity Auction Co.

The lowest price fell 6,900 yuan to 83,900 yuan. The government increased the supply of car plates by 2,000 to 11,000 this month given the potential increase in demand around the Shanghai auto show starting this weekend and the upcoming May Day holiday travel period.

The number of bidders rose to 26,174 - the highest so far this year - as motorists speculated that the government's latest moves would rein in soaring plate prices.

Dubbed "the most expensive metal plate on earth," Shanghai car plate prices have surged 32.5 percent in the first three months this year - more than for the whole of last year - and exceeded the 90,000-yuan benchmark in March.

In order to tame the prices, the city government, for the first time, set a price ceiling at this month's auction and bids of more than 83,600 yuan were rejected by the online auction system in the first round.

"I finally decided to have one last try after the new rules were announced," said Jimmy Yang, who won a car plate yesterday for 84,000 yuan.

Yang was planning to buy a car plate in neighboring Jiangsu Province after failing in his bid at city auctions for three months despite his best efforts. "Now I even feel lucky for losing last month's auction, which has saved me several thousand yuan," he said.

The upper price limit was the weighted average price of the average successful bids in January, February and March. The government will evaluate the results of the April trial and further optimize the auction process, city officials said earlier this month.

The policy of reserving new car plates for new cars also took effect yesterday. The measure is aimed at tightening enforcement of a minimum holding period before car plate resale in an effort to push scalpers out of the game.

And in a bid to control plate prices in the second-hand car market as well, the government has banned the resale of used cars with Shanghai license plates within one year after the first transfer. This follows the policy introduced in March prohibiting second-hand car plates being sold for more than the latest average price for a new one.

Shanghai Vice Mayor Jiang Ping said last month that the government would also consider organizing separate auctions for individual and corporate participants.


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