Vancouverites see them on the city streets all the time: a car costing many hundreds of thousands of dollars; and it’s no surprise that such expensive vehicles seem such a common sight -- the number in the city has risen sharply in recent years.
Last calendar year, vehicles that retailed for over $150,000 accounted for approximately 2,500 cars registered in metropolitan Vancouver. The same figure in 2009, according to figures supplied by the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, was 1,300.
And behind the wheel? Often a “fuerdai,” -- a Mandarin term that translates as “rich second generation” but approximates more closely to “trust-fund kid.”
With amenable immigration procedures and a favourable rate of exchange to offer, Canada has become popular with China’s richest. Government figures spanning 2005 to 2015 reveal that more than 37,000 Chinese millionaires became permanent residents of British Columbia by way of the since-abandoned immigrant investor program.
Certainly the population of ethnic-Chinese residents in the metropolitan area has swollen – from less than 7 per cent in 1981 to more than 18 per cent in 2011.
And they are fond of their status symbols.
“A large number of luxury car dealerships here employ Chinese staff,” according to the NY Times, “a testament to the spending power of the city’s newest residents.”
Certainly, the Vancouver Dynamic Auto Club, which requires a car worth six figures to join, has more than 400 members, almost all of whom are from China, according to David Dai, the group’s 27-year-old founder.
“They don’t work,” Dai was quoted as saying of Vancouver’s fuerdai. “They just spend their parents’ money.”
It’s not a trend without critics – particularly among the residents who see the deluge of foreign capital as responsible for a crisis in affordable housing in the coastal city. According to a survey conducting by consultants Demographia, Vancouver is the city with the priciest real estate in the nations according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, a detached house in greater Vancouver retails for approximately $1.6 million.