By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A leading dealer yesterday backed a Cabinet Minister’s suggestion to ban the importation of vehicles without proper titles, disclosing that the Government was looking to prohibit both wrecked autos and introduce an ‘environmental/disposal fee’ for older cars.
Fred Albury, the Bahamas Motor Dealers Association’s (BMDA) president, told Tribune Business he “totally agreed” with the call by Bernard Nottage, minister of national security, for vehicles without proper, or clean, titles to be banned from entering the Bahamas.
Mr Albury said this would “clean up a lot of havoc in our society”, and prevent the “gouging” of innocent consumers, reduce high levels of vehicle theft and boost government revenues generated by the auto industry.
The BMDA president also renewed calls for the Bahamas to follow the Caribbean regional lead and impose a ‘five year-old’ age restriction on all vehicles imported to this nation.
Apart from the consumer and revenue benefits, Mr Albury told Tribune Business this would also help the environment by reducing the number of derelict vehicles littering the Bahamian landscape.
Asked about Mr Nottage’s call for a ban on vehicles without clean title, Mr Albury responded: “Totally agree. I welcome that. It’s the right step for the country.
“The consumer would be protected, and it would clean up a lot of havoc in our society with regard to crime and gouging of unsuspecting consumers, particularly women.
“I totally agree with the approach the Government is taking with regard to banning wrecked vehicles.”
No official announcement has been made of such a move, but Mr Albury said there had been numerous “rumblings” that such a ban would be imposed.
“These wrecked vehicles are contributing to the theft of vehicles in this country,” he added.
Tribune Business has previously reported how criminals are importing wrecked vehicles, and then switching their Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs) to ‘good’ autos that they have stolen.
They then use the ‘Customs duty paid’ certification slip, obtained when the wreck is imported, to have the stolen vehicle - complete with new identity -licensed and inspected by the Road Traffic Department.
Acknowledging that the Royal Bahamas Police Force were facing “an uphill battle” in combating this, Mr Albury also called on the authorities to ensure that someone importing ‘parts’ was doing just that - importing parts, and not a ‘wrecked’ vehicle that would be stripped down into parts.
The BMDA president added that too many flood damaged and ‘theft recovery’ vehicles were coming into the Bahamas, and disclosed other techniques being employed by Bahamians to evade due taxes.
Mr Albury said persons were buying cars abroad, stripping parts off and claiming the vehicle was a ‘theft recovery’.
This ensured they paid a much lower Excise Tax tariff, and the ‘stripped vehicle’ and parts were imported via two different vessels, only to be reassembled once in the Bahamas with due taxes evaded.
“What I think the Government should consider doing is what Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad, and a number of other Caribbean countries have done to combat crime and enhance revenue,” Mr Albury told Tribune Business.
“That is to put an age limit on vehicles coming into the country of four-five years. That has enhanced the revenue base considerably, and you don’t have 10-12 year-old vehicles coming in and being derelict in short order.”
Mr Albury added that he “understood an environmental tax, a disposal fee is coming in” that will require owners of aged vehicles to pay for their proper disposal.
“If you don’t want to put an age restriction in, pay a disposal fee on vehicles five years and older,” the BMDA president said. “My understanding is that is being looked at also.”
Mr Albury again reiterated how a proper Bahamian vehicle titling system was required. This would again protect consumers from unscrupulous sellers, and also disclose liens that financial institutions, such as banks, were holding on vehicles as loan collateral.
“I’m glad they’re looking at a lot of things, and hopefully they will want to do the right thing,” he added of the Government. “Some of the things are positive to the industry, and which we have talked about for a number of years.”
And Mr Albury also called for ‘a level playing field’ to be established in the garage/mechanic industry, particularly when it came to the disposal of oil, anti-freeze and lubricants - all harmful to the environment.
“We have to dispose of waste oil in a responsible manner, and have hired Bahamas Waste to dispose of it,” he told Tribune Business.
“But, with these fly by night garages, under the dilly tree, they just dispose of oil on the ground. The issuing of garage licences and policing of garages needs to be looked at from an environmental perspective. The playing field needs to be levelled for everyone involved.”