By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
Bahamian auto body repairers yesterday said the Government’s decision to ban wrecked vehicle imports was already having “a domino effect” across the industry, with hundreds of thousands of dollars being ‘held up’ as a result.
Dwayne Scavella, the Bahamas Auto Repair Association’s president, told Tribune Business that it was seeking a meeting with Prime Minister Perry Christie over the ban, which takes effect from September 1.
Arguing that greater clarification was needed,” he told Tribune Business: “Right now people are stuck. They don’t know what to do.
“People are really concerned. It appears as if the Government is ignoring us. Unlike the gambling opinion poll, our voices will not be silenced on this issue. People are concerned about their employment, their survival, how they are going to pay their bills, take care of their families and send their kids to school.”
Mr Scavella added: “This is becoming more and more frustrating. You have small auto dealers who are unable to actually receive funds from consumers for purchases because they don’t know what the situation is going to be. They don’t want to go ahead and purchase vehicles for consumers and then they can’t bring them into the country.”
The Government and new auto dealers believe the wrecked vehicle import ban will help reduce the ever-increasing number of auto thefts in the Bahamas.
They argue that crime is being facilitated by the ability of thieves to switch vehicle identification numbers (VINs) with imported wrecks. And they believe it will have environmental and health and safety benefits, protecting Bahamian consumers from purchasing ‘restored’ wrecks that still have significant defects.
But the Bahamas Auto Repair Association and others who benefit from importing and repairing wrecked vehicles strongly oppose a blanket ban on wrecked vehicle imports.
They have called for greater clarification on the issue, arguing that the new policy would force consumers into buying higher-priced vehicles from dealers who have dominated the industry for years.
“There should be some clarification on what they are doing,” Mr Scavella said of the Government. “Many people are concerned that they will never be able to purchase a vehicle again.
“Based on the Japan direct imports, people were able to bring cars in under the cost of $10,000. Right now, it’s going to to be out of their reach and the banks certainly aren’t working with them.”
Mr Scavella added: “The employment aspect has not been taken into consideration at all in this process. No one ever said this was an industry. Not from our side. Customers may call it that but it’s really not an industry; it’s just an avenue within the automotive industry that people have found to purchase affordable vehicles.
“We’re not knocking the dealers for wanting to see more sales in their sector, but we also don’t want them to knock us down. We want this thing to come to a head on more reasonable terms where all the players can be satisfied with something. We don’t want them to continue to ignore us.
“Hundreds of thousands of dollars are being held out of circulation in the economy, circulating in the hands of people who want to play school fees, buy school clothes, groceries and travel. This thing is already taking a domino effect. The work is just not there for auto body repair shops right now. Somewhere between 60-80 per cent of their business depends on this segment of the industry.”