The Shanghai Express – Your SCM Blogger Checks in From Asia
|Written by Alex Martin-Banzer|
|Monday, 23 July 2012 15:11|
Never-ending honking. Cars driving like they are playing a continuous game of chicken. The sound of locusts. Unbearable humidity. People using the few words of English they know only to bargain with you. Being offered squid on a stick. Dog soup on the menu. Being the minority for once. New and old architecture. The Martin family of six has traveled to Shanghai for a week. And no, not for any car event –just for a holiday. How weird is that for us?
We jammed our week full of typical tourist sites like the Shanghai museum and Old Town in the Bund. Thanks to my dad’s interest in all things peculiar and local, we also found ourselves in not-so-normal situations like the Insect and Bird Market, where you can buy anything from a miniature turtle to a pet squirrel. (The only thing we walked away with was a “lucky” cricket that we are going to set free on our last day here.)
Even though we were here for nothing related to cars, I found myself exploring how their automotive industry works. With a population near 26 million, Shanghai is fender-to-fender automobiles. According to our guide, to help reduce the number of cars, the government requires a special license plate to drive in the city center. This license plate goes for around $10,000.
This explains why there is a constant stream of scooters going by at all times – no special license required . There is only one rule for scooter riders. If you can fit three people onto a scooter, you do it. They have their own lanes and swarm the streets in a take- no-prisoner attitude when the light turns green (if they even wait for that).
What I was able to notice when trying to not to get run over is that there are no old cars. None. Zip. Nada. Rumor has it that there may be a few, but it’s kind of like a bigfoot sighting: no one is going to believe you, if even do see one. We learned that the government has a law that after a car turns the big one-five—that is 15 years old—it either gets exported or destroyed. Their version of the Northwest classic rally would consist of ’97 oddlings.
I understand from an environmental point of view the value of recycling old cars, in order to fight smog and pollution. On the other hand, having grown up with cars that were always decades older than I was, it makes me cringe to think of parking the Alfa in the garage and saying goodbye.
Which brings me to thinking of home and the future of our old cars here. Will we be forbidden to drive them because they pollute so much? Because they won’t fit in on increasingly crowded highways? Honestly, there is no right answer to old cars and our evolving cultures. All we can do is put that question aside for now and drive our cars like there is no tomorrow.