During the National Day holiday this month in China, a pickup on a highway in the central Hunan province made it to the front page of newspapers and websites.
It was no ordinary pickup, but one camouflaged as a sedan. To smooth up traffic during holidays, traffic regulators in China allow sedan drivers to use highways toll free. The police eventually discovered the pickup and fined its driver.
The incident highlighted the kind of policy treatment that has stymied pickup sales in China. When Beijing implemented its Road Traffic Law in 2003, it granted city governments the liberty to decide whether to permit pickups to drive in their cities. A loophole in the law allowed traffic regulators in most Chinese cities to simply classify pickups as commercial vehicles and bar them from entering their cities.
The practice has stifled pickup sales in China. Fewer than 255,000 were sold in China in the first seven months of this year, accounting for less than 2 percent of total vehicle sales, according to picacn.com, a Chinese website that covers domestic pickups.
And pickups are losing market share. Through July, pickup sales dropped 4 percent as China's overall light-vehicle sales increased 8 percent.