Tomorrow, Friday, April 12 a hastily convened meeting to receive public input in what has been dubbed as “National Automotive Policy” will take place at the KICC, Nairobi.
Cofek was not formally invited for obvious reasons. The organisers are keen to reduce opportunities of resistance to a poorly thought out policy drawn by private sector and disguised as a government.
The gist of the 43-pages draft policy document purports to blame used cars, without basis, for a non-performing local manufacturing, non-desirable emissions as well as road accidents. But it is largely untrue and unrealistic.
The Government is struggling to find a justification to ban imports of second hand vehicles aged more than 5 years. They are even more keen to ban the 14-seaters - which are here to stay.
The easiest analogy to how difficult this rule can apply is to ask government to ban mitumba (second hand clothes) without capacity on the local textile manufacturing sector.
The Kenya Motor Industry (KMI) with the blessings of other influential multi-national dealers, their shareholders and agents have persuaded Government to fight their war – against the public interest.
This began when Toyota Kenya 'donated' a bus to the President as a gift to State House Girls. The second-hand car dealers have not been as close to government. In short, private sector shenanigans close to the seat of power want to fleece ‘Wanjiku’ in the guise of the supporting local manufacturing.
What Government should have been asking was if the second-hand car importers are paying all taxes or not. It shouldn't be about to make life difficult to reduce their annual sales from the current 85,000 units as compared to KMI’s 25,000 units.
Indeed there are many reasons why those fighting to reduce the number of years for car imports will wait longer than they can imagine.
First, this is a purely consumer issue. It is not even about the relationship between first-hand or second-hand car importers. Members of the KMI equally import vehicles – at a cheaper rate – only to sell them at exorbitant prices. The freedom of choice envisaged under the law is obvious. It cannot be limited without a reasonable cause.
Second, KMI needs to be innovative and solution-oriented. They don’t need to cry victims of their own. Like mobile network operators who make money on airtime and not sim-cards, KMI members ought to learn to make money from service and parts.
Third, it is foolhardy to blame second-hand vehicles for accidents – yet it is common knowledge that they have more numbers than the first-hand imported cars at the estimated ratio of 80:20. Hino buses from Toyota Kenya, begin first-hand imported vehicles, have more challenges on safety than the second-hand cars.
Fourth, there has been no perception or scientific research to inform the drop of the 8 year rule. Instead, government is disguising the reduction as if it will automatically facilitate the growth of local manufacturing.
Fifth, there is no evidence to demonstrate that Kenyans will buy more first-hand cars if the second-hand ones are driven out of the market. Instead, attempts to ban the 14-seater and other second hand PSVs will drastically push inflation higher thanks to high transport costs as well as overall cost of production.
Six, it is the Government of Kenya which is the major consumer of the first-hand imported vehicles. As a rule, therefore, the government is exporting jobs by attempting to kill second-hand car imports when it has no local manufacturing capacity.
Seven, it is the corruption from KMI members that has made the government to be purchasing first-hand car imports much higher than what private sector and individuals are offered. The extras always facilitate kickbacks.
Eight, we will still expect Kenya Bureau of Standards to form a technical committee, comprising consumers, to evaluate the push by KMI to reduce the 8 years import rule.