Many vehicles are 'recycled' from scrap yards, according to insiders
Despite government crackdowns and rigorous penalties for rogue cabs, industry insiders say the illegal vehicles are still thriving in Beijing.
Thanks to the quick money earned through the illicit business, which is easy to start, an increasing number of drivers are eyeing the market, experts say.
"All you need is a vehicle and you're in business," said Yi Shenghua, an attorney at Yingke Law Firm. "It's an easy crime to get away with."
At taxi stands at airports, railway stations, hotels, tourist attractions and shopping areas, illegal taxis are scooping up passengers.
Despite many illegal cabs looking like regular taxis, sometimes with the logo of a real taxi firm on the door and a light box on its roof, many vehicles are actually illegally "recycled" from scrap yards, according to insiders.
Taxis in the capital should be scrapped after running on the roads for eight years, according to safety regulations.
A worker surnamed Ren at a scrap company in Beijing's Fengtai district said the average price his company spends to buy an old taxi from taxi companies is 600 yuan ($90).
He said the company does not resell scrapped taxis, nor has he heard of it happening.
Ren said his company has strict procedures. However, an insider said many cars sent to scrap yards are escaping dismantling and are arriving on the roads again.
According to the insider, who used to work at a scrap yard in the suburbs of Beijing but did not want to be named, a used taxi can fetch up to 20,000 yuan, which includes the cost of the expired license plate.
"This is pretty quick money for them as they don't have to pay monthly rent to a taxi company," said Wan Weidong, a veteran Beijing cabbie. "In three months they can earn back the cost of the taxi and stay rent-free forever.
"You can't afford any traffic accidents as a taxi driver because the rent is already too high. One rear-end accident, and that's a month's salary gone."
Compared with illicit cabbies, regular taxi drivers have a harder time making money, he said.
Thanks to the easy money and small risk, many are joining the emerging industry through the introduction of friends.
"Only bold drivers would give it a try in the past, but now more are giving the illicit business a go," he said.
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