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three-wheel (3-w) and four-wheel (4-w) vehicles manufactured by domestic Chinese companies for use in small cities and rural areas. With virtually no governmental financial support, the production of these CRVs first exceeded 3 million per year in 1999 and reached an estimated 20 to 22 million in 2001 (China Automotive Technology and Research Center, 2000; Chinese Government Website, 2003a). The implications of these vehicles are huge—in terms of safety, energy use, air pollution, noise pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and rural development. The English language literature provides very little information about CRVs (indeed, there is no accepted English name for them), and even in Chinese, information is sparse.


The CRV industry arose as a result of early efforts by the Communist government to boost rural development. The small enterprises that emerged and flourished were largely independent of national and provincial governments. Although they were at a disadvantage because they received little (if any) financial support from government at any level, they benefited from being subject to few regulations and little intervention. The sales history of the CRV industry is shown in Figure 1.

FIGURE 1 CRV production (in thousands), 1984–2002. Sources: Data through 1998 are from GM (1999); data for 1999–2000 are from Chinese Automotive Technology and Research Center (2000); data for 2001–2002 are from China Machinery Economic Information (2003).

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