Local car dealers will have to wait as long as three more months for foreign used vehicles and parts to arrive in T&T from Japan following the deadly earthquake which rocked the East Asian island yesterday.
And customers may have to brace themselves for increased freight costs as the price of shipping is expected to skyrocket. Popular car dealer and former president of the Pre-Owned Car Dealers Association Inshan Ishmael, however, assured there was no need to panic. Interviewed yesterday, Ishmael said correspondence he received via e-mail from Japanese car dealers suggested that most of the damage was done to the outskirts of the island and not to the zones where the majority of the foreign-used cars were stored.
"I received six e-mails from the car dealers in Japan who assured that the zones, called "open yards" where the cars were stored were mostly safe, very little damage was done to those areas," Ishmael said. However, he said, because the ports of Japan were being converted into areas to provide disaster relief "nothing could be sent out of the country." "Getting the cars out of Japan is the problem because nothing can leave since the ports are being used for other purposes. "Local dealers would have to wait some six to eight weeks or even a little longer to get their cars and parts out of Japan because at the moment the country's ground transportation is crippled," Ishmael said. He said most of the local dealers had stocks to rally them through that period, maintaining that T&T should not go into "panic mode."
Vehicles also coming from Singapore would be delayed since they were sent to the Japanese ports for transshipment to the Caribbean region.
Warning that some dealers may try to capitalise on Japan's catastrophe, Ishmael said this may result in customers having to absorb additional freight costs which would definitely increase. "There would definitely be some financial impact and as some dealers would want to capitalise on the tragedy and sell at very high prices. "There would be other dealers who could absorb that cost and still maintain their prices at a reasonable level," Ishmael said. He said the legal quota of used cars being imported into T&T was 13,000 annually. But following the massive devastation, that figure was expected to significantly decrease during the coming months. "There is nothing no one in the local foreign used car industry could do except wait until some level of normalcy is brought to Japan. "We already have a market where foreign used cars and parts are easily available and we have to now rely on that for now," Ishmael added.