Total Number of Cars in China Hits 240M as Air Quality Reaches ‘Hazardous’ Levels image

In 2012 China added more cars than the total number of vehicles rolling on the country’s streets in 1999.

From the total of 240 million vehicles rolling on China’s streets last year, 120 million were passenger cars, according to the Ministry of Public Security. In 2012 the country added 15.1 million new cars, more than the total vehicle number in 1999. Analysts expect new vehicle sales to surpass 20 million in 2013 for the first time, as auto industry begins to rebound.

As the number of vehicles continues to increase, so does the danger related to the toxic smog which engulfed the capital over the past months. Today, February 1st, Beijing has implemented vehicle emission standards which match the strictest guidelines in Europe, in an attempt to reduce pollutants. On January 20th, the U.S. embassy readings were showing that Beijing’s air quality reached “hazardous” levels.

China Association of Automobile Manufacturers predicts that this year passenger-vehicle sales will increase 8.5% to 16.8 million units and the total number of vehicle’s sold will surpass 20 million for the first time. The fact that Beijing imposes tougher regulations means that several overseas automakers such as VW, GM and Hyundai might benefit from these changes as the new rules might spur customers to buy new vehicles manufactured according to the emissions standards, which are already put into effect in other markets.

“All foreign car and truck makers are capable of meeting very advanced emission standards and will have no problems,” said Ashvin Chotai, managing director of Intelligence Automotive Asia in London. “So it would put Chinese brands at a disadvantage.”