The Chinese military’s long love affair with luxury cars could come to an end.
China has banned the use of military license plates for luxury cars beginning May 1 under a new registration system.
Cars banned include Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lincoln, Cadillac, Volkswagen Phaeton, Bentley, Jaguar, Porsche and some SUVs such as Land Rover, Porsche Cayenne and Audi Q7.
In addition, any sedans (not SUVs) priced at more than 450,000 yuan ($73,000) and with engine capacity of 3.0 liters are also banned.
The Central Military Commission indicated that having military license on luxury cars “is at odds with our army’s glorious tradition and not conducive to building the military’s morals.”
Some observers think this ban will be short-lived. Chen Jierong, a law professor at Sichuan University in Chengdu, indicated that the new regulations would likely reduce the number of luxury cars with military plates on the streets for a short while. “I am sure many expensive cars with military plates will re-emerge soon. They have been banned five times over the last few decades, but more emerged after each ban. This time will be the same,” he tells The South China Morning Post.
Apparently, there is a secondary economy for military-owned cars with official plates. These cars are sometimes leased to businessmen for non-military use.
“It is a common practice in Beijing for an Audi A8, with a real [military] plate, real paperwork and a real driver in a military uniform, to be leased out by a senior military officer to a businessman,” he said. “The businessman pays 800,000 yuan a year but gets many benefits in return, such as giving others the impression that he has strong ties to the military. It happens not only in Beijing, but in every city.”
image credit: christian junker