During Chinese New Year, the world’s largest annual migration impacts cars and transportation in fascinating ways – from overflowing highways to festive decorations. Automakers align marketing with the Zodiac, rentals and rides increase, and transport enhances service for the mass movement.

Chinese New Year is the most important festival in Chinese culture, sparking the largest annual human migration globally. This mass movement of people to celebrate the Lunar New Year uniquely impacts the automotive industry in some fascinating ways. In 2024 it’s going to be the Year of the Dragon. Here are 5 things you probably didn’t know about how Chinese New Year relates to cars and transportation:

Mass Migration Overwhelms Roads and Highways

China experiences an astonishing phenomenon called ‘Chunyun’ as the Lunar New Year approaches. It is also known as the ‘Spring Festival travel rush.’ During this time, millions of people travel back to their hometowns to reunite with family and loved ones. The impact on traffic is remarkable.

Image: A traffic jam during the festive period

China’s already busy roads and highways became some of the busiest in the world during the ‘Chunyun’ period. It starts about 15 days before the Lunar New Year and lasts for around 40 days. The migration’s scale and magnitude are unparalleled, causing significant disruptions and challenges for commuters and travelers.

Vehicle Owners Decorate Cars for Good Fortune

Chinese New Year not only fills the streets with people but also transforms cars into festive rolling displays of tradition and culture. It’s a time when vehicle owners take the opportunity to decorate their cars with a unique flair that reflects the spirit of the celebration.

Image: the festive car decorations that are used

One common practice is the use of stickers featuring auspicious words and phrases in gold characters against vibrant red backgrounds. These stickers often express wishes for wealth, longevity, and good fortune in the upcoming year. Additionally, the zodiac animal of the year has become a popular motif in car decorations, believed to attract good luck and embody the positive characteristics associated with the celestial animal.

Automakers Align Marketing with Zodiac Years

Major automotive companies such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Tesla incorporate the cultural significance of the Chinese Zodiac into their marketing strategies. They align product launches and campaigns with the Zodiac animal of the year. They showcase these elements in their designs, features, and promotions.

Image: An example of BMW’s marketing material for the festive period

For example, Tesla recently launched a special Chinese New Year Over-The-Air (OTA) update in recognition of the Year of the Dragon in 2024. This update takes the festive season into account and enhances the overall driving experience. It includes optimization of intelligent interaction for a more responsive drive, improvements in charging efficiency for longer travels, and upgrades in entertainment features to create a more festive ambiance within the vehicle.

Increased Need for Rentals and Ride-Sharing

The Chinese New Year creates a high demand for vehicle rental and shared mobility services in China and other regions with large Chinese populations. Many people who work in major cities travel back to their smaller hometowns and villages to celebrate the lunar new year with their families. 

Image: An example of the discounts offered by car rental companies

They rely on rental cars, chartered buses, ride-hailing services, car-sharing platforms, and other transportation options because they don’t own personal vehicles or prefer not to drive long distances. Rental car companies and transportation providers report being fully booked, sometimes even weeks or months in advance, as the festival approaches.

Enhanced Trains, Buses to Transport Millions

To accommodate the massive movement of people during the Chinese New Year, there’s often a significant enhancement in public transportation services. This includes increased train services, additional bus routes, and sometimes even fare discounts, which indirectly affects the automotive sector by providing alternative travel options.

Image: An example of a discount offered by AirAsia for flights

For example, AirAsia is offering fixed price promo tickets for Chinese New Year as low as RM 298 one way to make air travel more affordable and accessible for those returning home for the holidays.


Wishing you and your loved ones a Happy Lunar New Year!