A Vinfast electric car is seen on a street of Hanoi, Vietnam, 17 August 2023. EFE-EPA/LUONG THAI LINH/FILE

Vietnam auctions lucky license plate numbers for up to $1 million

By Eric San Juan

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Sep 19 (EFE).- Vietnam has held its first public auctions of lucky numbers for vehicle license plates, raising $3.4 million for 11 license plates, with a price over $1 million for the ones most sought after, due to superstitious beliefs and the importance of status.

In the auction held Friday via the Internet, the most sought after code was 51K-888.88, from Ho Chi Minh City sold after 400 bids for VND323.4 billion ($1.32 million) for the near-magical character many Vietnamese people attribute to the number eight, a symbol of good fortune.

According to the Tuoi Tre newspaper, two Hanoi license plates were left behind, 31K-555.55 and 30K-567.89, for around $500,000 each.

With the sum of the eight remaining license plates, sold at more modest prices (the cheapest for $26,000), the state collected $3.4 million thanks to this first batch of the pilot project of putting more than 153,000 license plates up for auction for all types of motor vehicles in coming months.

In a 2016 academic article on Hanoi’s car market, researcher Arve Hansen said “getting a good license plate brings luck and represents significant status” in the Vietnamese capital.

“Although opinions vary on the importance of lucky numbers; even those who see this custom as a ‘silly superstition’ would normally prefer to have good numbers on their license plates,” he notes in his work ‘Hanoi on wheels, the emerging mobility in the country of motorcycles’.

Among the reasons given by buyers, Hansen said they provide a certain immunity from possible police sanctions, since if the agents see “an expensive car with a flashy license plate, they are usually not going to stop it” because “the driver probably has very powerful political connections.”

In addition to these reasons, some buyers invest in lucky numbers just like a real estate speculator buys homes: with the idea of reselling them in the future at a higher price.

The rules of this first public auction stipulate that the buyer must register their own vehicle with the purchased number and maintain it for at least twelve months, after which period they can circumvent legal restrictions and find a way to resell it.

A Hanoi resident who bought two of the 11 issues auctioned for more than VNS3 billion told the Tuoi Tre newspaper that he considered it a good investment after “studying the market well.”

Although the law does not allow the direct sale of license plates, speculators circumvent the law by selling the vehicle that bears the precious number.

“If in the future someone offers a good price I will resell it,” he said. EFE