Car dealerships in Haikou, capital of South China's Hainan Province, saw a surge in sales on Tuesday, after regulators announced rules that suspended the registration and transfer of license plates as of midnight on that day.
"We sold more than 100 vehicles from 8:30 p.m. - soon after the suspension policy was issued - until midnight, and most of our inventory is gone," a sales consultant at a BAIC Motors showroom in Haikou surnamed Xie told the Global Times on Wednesday. Xie said it was the largest daily sales so far this year.
The situation was the same at the dealership for the Beijing Hyundai brand, where manager Liang Li told the Global Times on Wednesday that most of the cars were out of stock.
Liang said that sales volume picked up rapidly in early May when rumors of the restrictions on vehicle sales started circulating.
"As a result, I saw about 100 vehicles sold every day... that's quite surprising because May is a traditional period of slack sales and we don't have a high stock," Liang noted.
A 35-year-old Hainan resident surnamed Chen, who bought a Toyota late on Tuesday night, told the Global Times that Nanhai Avenue - where most dealerships are located - was crowded on Tuesday after the new rules were announced.
"The whole street was lit up overnight. Consumers didn't bother to ask for discounts, they just wanted to know if any vehicles were available for purchase," Chen said. He bought a Toyota car for 150,000 yuan, about 20,000 yuan above the sticker price.
On Wednesday, the Global Times saw few customers in the showrooms.
"Even if people want to order, we won't accept because of uncertainty over policies," Li said.
"We'll have to wait three months for the follow-up measures... those sales last night may be the last of my career," a sales employee who declined to be identified told the Global Times.
Starting from August 1, drivers can only qualify to buy gasoline-fueled cars in Hainan through a license plate-lottery or auction, as part of the move by Hainan authorities to encourage the development of new-energy vehicles (NEV).
Chen said, however, that the infrastructure in Hainan was not ready for a massive adoption of NEVs.
"Most Hainan residents don't want electric cars," he added.
Hainan has become a forefront of China's new opening measures, after the central government approved a guideline on April 14 to set up a pilot free trade zone in the island province.