Dealer calls for Regulation of Used Vehicle Imports
Used vehicle importer Kerry Daniel is as concerned as the next commuter that traffic congestion in Saint Lucia seems daily to grow worse. He blames it on the unreliable and inconvenient transport system, but most of all on the ease of buying vehicles. Daniel believes he has the solution: improvement of the island’s back roads, the transport system and limiting the number of vehicles per household.
What Daniel considers the greater priority, however, is the need for regulation of the importing of used vehicles. He says that this industry as is, causes more harm than good, with some importers exploiting consumers. His first concern in that regard centres on the quality of vehicles imported. Before a vehicle is imported from Japan, it is auctioned, he says. Each vehicle is given a quality rating: S, 6, 5, 4.5, 4, 3.5, 3, and 2. ‘S’ marks a vehicle in perfect condition, the near equivalent of a new car, whereas a grade of ‘2’ indicates that the vehicle is in very bad condition. Grade 3.5 is typically a vehicle with high mileage and in need of repairs; likewise grade 3, only in more urgent need of repair.
“When you import a ridiculous grade vehicle, say grade 3, or 3.5, well, that’s what Caribbean people purchase.”
The biggest problem, he warned, is the practice of changing the manufacture year of the vehicles. This allows the importer to charge more.
“Say the vehicle was manufactured in 2010, unscrupulous importers will register it as a 2011 vehicle. There’s a big difference in cost between a 2010 and a 2011. For instance, for a 2010 vehicle you’d pay $10,000. For a 2011 one you’d pay $15,000. And I’m just talking to order that vehicle. So, automatically it makes duties more, everything more.”
Another way some importers take advantage of consumers, according to Daniel, is by adjusting the mileage. “The buyer discovers he’s been conned when sections of his vehicle start to fall apart after a certain mileage. Each part on a vehicle has its specific recommended change after a certain amount of miles. If you get a vehicle with almost 200,000 km on it, after say six months on Saint Lucia’s roads, you’ll find yourself in some kind of problem.” The lower the mileage on the vehicle, the more profitable for the importer.
But Daniel is not totally a doomsday prophet: “Used vehicles, I would say, are very good. Honestly, it doesn’t even make sense to buy a new vehicle because of the quality of the good, used ones and the cost; not everybody can afford a new vehicle. I just think we need to regulate their importation.
“There needs to be a body to oversee these imports. The body should be in place to make sure we set a quality standard. If you bring in a vehicle in such state that you have big problems after two years, well . . . we already have too much garbage on our roads.”
When it comes to Saint Lucia’s transport sector, one importer says that traffic should be the least of our concerns.