Beijing Olympic Games drives up car rental prices
By Li Fangfang From:China DailyAugust 08, 2008
Sunny Lo has never felt such regret. When he came to Beijing on August 3, he was told there were no cars available for him to rent on his stay during the Olympics.
"I tried to call different car rental firms, but the answers were the same - I can only rent a Mercedes-Benz S-Class after this month. It's far beyond my budget," said the Dutch Chinese representative of a European health food provider.
He arrived in Beijing from Amsterdam five days before the Games' opening, to help arrange his manager's accommodation and more importantly, to rent a car for them during the competition.
"I ought to have booked it two months earlier. That way, we could drive by ourselves freely rather than taking taxis," said Lo.
Beijing is to welcome more than 2 million visitors to the city to watch the Games. The sheer number of people combined with the new restrictions that came into effect on July 20 with the aim of easing congestion and pollution in the city, has meant that Beijing's more than 200 rental firms have been preparing for the opportunities. But some cars such as luxury vehicles are still short in supply, despite the fact that prices have doubled and even risen to four times the norm.
Cars parked at rental firm Hualei Bangde Car Lease in Beijing
Car rental firms said the price increase was due to the robust market demand and the alternating, even-odd license plate ban.
"Most of our cars have been booked. There are not many choices left. The luxury sedans are rented out for a long time, the prices have even doubled from August 1," said a member of staff surnamed Zheng from the public relations department at Beijing Today's New Conception car renting chain store, one of the biggest groups in the capital.
He said there were a few economic cars available. But added, "I am afraid they will be booked over tomorrow."
According to Zheng, car hire has doubled in price as a result of the even-odd license plate limit. Cars are hired out for 48 hours.
"So the rent in my company actually has not risen so much."
The price to rent a manual Jetta from Zheng's has increased from 230 yuan per day to 479 yuan for 48 hours in August. The rental of a Buick GL8, the most popular executive wagon in the Chinese market, has gone up to 1,640 yuan for two days from a normal 780 yuan a day.
Customers are paying 2,100 yuan to lease an Audi A6 for 48-hours, more than double the previous price.
"Our almost 200 luxury sedans, including Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz were booked out far earlier, even during September. I am not sure if we have cars available for the golden-week National Day holiday this October," said a member of staff from the call center of First Automobile Leasing Company, the branch company of Bejing BeiQi Kowloon Taxi Co Ltd.
"We only have two Buick GL8 wagons left today," said the employee on July 31. "We cannot even provide the economic cars, such as Jetta and Santana during the Olympics."
According to the employee, the cost to rent a Mercedes-Benz S350 has risen to 12,000 yuan per day, four times the regular rate. Furthermore, customers must rent the car for a minimum of five days now.
The VIP fleet only providing luxury cars with Capital Car Rental Co Ltd has booked out its 80 Audi sedans as well as some Chinese premier Hongqi Q3 cars last month.
"We cannot provide even one sedan in the first half of August. And people who want to rent a luxury sedan for the closing ceremony of the Olympic should call us as quickly as possible after August 10 to make sure we have available cars," said a member of staff from the booking department with the fleet.
The rental for a Mercedes-Benz S350 from the fleet is 6,000 yuan per day, and can be rented for 24-hours.
Car rental firms say most people hiring luxury cars in Beijing are corporate clients.
Besides over 11,000 athletes from 205 countries and regions, nearly 100 national leaders and almost 30,000 journalists from every corner of the globe coming to Beijing, it is reported that some of the top business executives also plan a Beijing Olympic trip.
It is estimated that the number of CEOs coming to Beijing will be equal to a Davos World Economic Forum gathering.
Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, H Lee Scott Jr, president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Greg Brown, CEO of Motorola, are reportedly coming to Beijing to join the Olympic gala.
As official partner and supplier of the Beijing Olympics, the executives of McDonald's, Volkswagen and General Electric will also be present here.
Fred Zheng, PR manager of Schneider Electric told China Daily that executives from their company headquarters in France would come, and said the company is also inviting more than a thousand VIP customers to watch the Games. "Transportation is a serious problem, so we hired a tourism agency to help arrange the trip," he said.
Li Liangdong from the Nike PR department said many of his colleagues would be arriving in China, like in every other Olympic Games.
"I know from my colleagues we have booked a lot of sedans from leasing companies, however, we still need more."
According to the Beijing tourism administration, Beijing will welcome more than 500,000 inbound tourists during the Olympics.
However, the foreigners driving daily in their home countries have to try to ride the newly expanded subway system or take taxis, public buses or shuttle buses to the sports venues.
While there are not enough vehicles to rent, the requirement of owning a Chinese mainland driving license also limits foreigners from driving in Beijing.
The Chinese government has implemented a short-term traffic rule effective from July 20 through September 20, with vehicles with even and odd plate number running on alternate days in the metropolis, which has 3.29 million vehicles.
According to the Transportation Bureau of Beijing, more than 4 million people will switch from driving to taking the public transport during these two months.
Few of them will choose renting a car during the days they cannot drive their own.
"The rent is too high for me to accept. I have bought a bicycle to ride the eight kilometers between my home and office," said Tad Wu, a white-collar worker in Beijing.
"Originally I planned to rent a car to replace my SUV. However, after I inquired the rental fee, I threw away the idea," said Nancy Wei, a white collar worker in the CBD.