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Consumer warning over city's dangerous minicar trend

By Zhang Zihan (Global Times)

10:12, March 14, 2013

Two minicars are parked at a residential compound in Hujialou, Chaoyang district Wednesday. Photo: Zhang Zihan/GT

China Consumers Association (CCA) warned Tuesday that minicars popular with senior citizens are highly risky because of their poor quality and because their target drivers often have no driving licenses.

According to local police, these vehicles are already banned.

The number of minicars has risen in many cities in China, though an accurate figure is not given.

"These three- or four- wheeled vehicles are powered by electricity or gas, and have brakes, accelerators and gears just like in real cars, not to mention their top speed is around 50 kilometers per hour, which is almost the same speed as real cars," the press release said.

"These vehicles are low to the ground, but have a high starting speed, which can easily cause accidents. They also use band brakes, which requires drivers to step firmly on the pedal to stop. This is a risk for older people as their reactions can be slow," said the CCA.

On Wednesday, these vehicles were still on for sale on online retailer Taobao, with average prices around 10,000 yuan ($1,609).

A retailer surnamed He said he had heard nothing about the CCA warning. He assured he could guarantee the quality of the vehicles he sold.

"I've been selling these vehicles for a long time and so far no one has complained about their quality," he said.

An anonymous police officer who patrols along Guandongdian Beijie, Chaoyang district, said these minicars have been banned in Beijing and people should not purchase them.

"The shell of these vehicles is very fragile and they have no extra safety facilities like airbags, so if there's an accident drivers have nothing to rely on," said the officer.

"Many seniors have no licenses, and they drive these dangerous vehicles on the road with real automobiles which also adds risks to themselves and other people," he said.

Due to these concerns, these vehicles were banned last year, the officer said.

"Now even if you buy one, you are not allowed to drive them on the street," he said.

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