Beijing vehicles to exceed four million: state media

Beijing will see more than four million vehicles registered on its roads this weekend, state media said Tuesday, with around 2,000 new cars sold daily in the increasingly affluent Chinese capital.

The number of cars currently in Beijing, famed for its traffic jams and high levels of pollution, hit 3.99 million as of Sunday, according to the municipal traffic management bureau, official news agency Xinhua reported.

Xinhua said the four million mark would be broken over the weekend, meaning that a quarter of the 16 million permanent residents in the city has a car.

The number of vehicles in Beijing increased by about 10,000 last week and the number of newly qualified drivers also increased 12,000 within a week, according to the bureau.

"Compared with other metropolises in the world, the growth of vehicles in Beijing is dramatic," Guo Jifu, researcher with the Beijing Municipal Communication Research Centre, told Xinhua.

It took Beijing 48 years for the number of vehicles on its streets to increase from 2,300 in 1949 to the first one million in 1997.

It took six and a half years to register the second million, Xinhua said, and the pace of growth has continued to accelerate.

Last year government vehicles and all private automobiles were banned from Beijing's roads for one day each week, depending on their licence plate number in measures aimed at easing congestion and curbing emissions.

Beijing's air is among the most polluted in the world, and the problem is getting worse amid high demand for private vehicles from its increasingly affluent residents.

China's total car sales outstripped those of the United States for the first time in January to make the Asian giant the world's biggest auto market, helped by government efforts to stimulate domestic consumption.