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Car Rentals Accelerate

Since the start of the month, Shanghai’s leading auto rental firms have been getting at least 50 calls a day, roughly five times the usual number. The callers want to reserve cars for the weeklong International Labor Day holiday that begins on next Tuesday.

So far, according to major car rental operators including Qiangsheng, Dazhong and Jinjiang, at least 60 percent of their fleet has been booked - some cars even four weeks ago - for the holiday.

Li Huizhong, vice general manager of Shanghai Angel Car Rental Co, the city’s largest, said, “Even with a fleet of more than 1,000 cars, we are trying to find more cars for the Labor Day holiday.”

He is anticipating a boom similar to last year’s Labor Day, when the company’s fleet - then more than 700 cars - was 95 percent rented.

Labor Day, like Spring Festival and National Day, are peak business periods for the auto rental businesses in Shanghai.

And they depend on customers like Gu Wenjin, a sales manager for an auto parts firm, who got his driver’s license in 1998.

“I enjoy the feeling of being behind the wheel as several friends and I cruise the highway, singing and joking,” Gu said.

He plans to rent a car for the holiday so that he and his buddies can travel to neighboring cities, possibly Suzhou and Hangzhou.

“Renting a car means we don’t have to sit on a crowded bus or train, and we have more freedom in arranging our trip,” Gu said.

Li, the car rental manager, said most of his clients are professionals who have a driver’s license but don’t own a car.

“By renting, it’s easy for them to have a convenient trip out of town,” he said.

But, Zhuang Mingjie, 28, who got her driver’s license three years ago, said that the rental procedure is really inconvenient. “In addition to handing over a deposit of 5,000 yuan (US$602), I have to show dozens of documents," she said.

She has to produce proof of employment - evidence that she has a steady income - and even bring a friend as a guarantor, Zhuang said.

“It’s irritating. It takes nearly an hour. The whole process makes you feel you are not trusted at all,” she said.

Liu Yali, an official with the city taxi administration office, which also oversees car rentals, said the red tape is necessary to prevent cars from being stolen.

According to city taxi administration officials, there are now 16 car rental agencies here with a combined fleet of 2,000 cars.

In 1994, there were only seven car rental companies with 450 cars.

(eastday.com 04/25/2001)

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