Haze in China has been increasing in frequency of occurrence as well as the area of the affected region. Here, we report on a new mechanism of haze formation, in which coexistence with NOx can reduce the environmental capacity for SO2, leading to rapid conversion of SO2 to sulfate because NO2 and SO2 have a synergistic effect when they react on the surface of mineral dust. Monitoring data from five severe haze episodes in January of 2013 in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei regions agreed very well with the laboratory simulation. The combined air pollution of motor vehicle exhaust and coal-fired flue gases greatly reduced the atmospheric environmental capacity for SO2, and the formation of sulfate was found to be a main reason for the growth of fine particles, which led to the occurrence of haze. These results indicate that the impact of motor vehicle exhaust on the atmospheric environment might be underestimated.