Foreign used cars benefit average man

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President of the Trinidad and Tobago Automobile Assocaition Visham Babwah, right, speaks to the media alongside vice president Rondell Feeles outside Nicholas Tower, Port of Spain, Tuesday. – Angelo Marcelle

President of the Automobile Dealers Association Visham Babwah and Vice President Rhondall Feeles have accused the government of trying to shut down the foreign used car industry to the benefit of showroom car dealers.

Babwah and Feeles delivered letters to the offices of the Ministry of Trade and the Ministry of Finance on Tuesday challenging the government’s policies on the importation and tax exemptions of electric vehicles into the country.

The letter states, “The foreign used car industry was created to provide a social balance and correct the social inequity of one person being able to afford a car while others are unable to.

“However, based on the policy that currently exists and regulates the foreign used car industry, it will be challenging for the lower- and middle-class consumer to obtain or purchase a vehicle within the range with which they are financially able to do so.

“Therefore, by extension, it will become challenging also for the small businessman to continue to invest, grow, and keep their staff employed.”

On Tuesday, Babwah and Feeles addressed the media in front Nicholas Tower in Port of Spain, where the ministry is located, after a motorcade of automobile dealers from Grand Bazaar to protest the government’s policies. Babwah and Feeles said over 100 dealers participated in the motorcade.

“The Minister of Finance (Colm Imbert) made a commitment,” said Feeles. “He said he was going to put a cap on used car dealers and cut our quota by 30 per cent. He did so. He promised to do that with the new car industry, and he has not done that.”

Babwah said the association was forced to take the letter to the ministers after several failed attempts to meet with them.

“Over 75 per cent of our dealers for the last year were unable to import our cars and this was because of the measures implemented by the Minister of Finance. He is fully aware of this.

“I believe he has a mandate, and he is now carrying out that mandate, to shut down the foreign used car business to the benefit of the new car industry. Everything that he has said he would do with the foreign used car industry, he did it expeditiously, but it was only a mamaguy for what he was going to do with the new car industry.”

The letter also asked for clarity from the minister on statements made on December 15, 2021, in Senate.

“Minister Imbert would have implied…that the concessions in place during the time period 2016-2020 on hybrid motor vehicles under the engine capacity 1599cc (1.5 litre engine) were still existent.” The association asked that the minister clarify if the exemptions are still in place.

Feeles said, “The minister needs to understand that the average man cannot get financing from any bank for over $60,000 to $100,000, so what is going to take place is…social disenchantment and social displacement where the rich will drive, and the poor will travel.”

Feeles also called for a joint select committee where the association can properly ventilate its issues.

He argued, contrary to what Imbert would have said in Senate, there are not 1.1 million vehicles on the nation’s roads. “We’ve been told the number of cars registered in our lifetime. There is no way there is 1.1 million cars on the road.

“They say we have traffic congestion. That is because we have not decentralised out of Port of Spain.”

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