There is growing concerns that come 2021, many persons may not be able to afford a foreign used car far less a new one, because of the removal of allowances on vehicles announced in the 2020-2021 Budget.
Coupled with possible increases in gas prices in the new year, many are in a quandary as to how much it would cost them to get to and from to work, in order to get monies to pay taxes, rent, mortgages and other expenses.
There may a small flicker of light at the end of the tunnel. Motorcycles under 300cc were spared additional taxes and should remain affordable.
Guardian Media spoke with Damien Richards, who works with Hero Motorcycles, a Port of Spain dealer in new motorcycles, as well as Rafeez Mohammed of RAF Motorsports of Couva, who deals in foreign used motorcycles.
Rafeez Mohammed said the main downfall in importing bikes is the shortage of foreign exchange.
“The price of fuel is always escalating and consumers had a break when it came to Hybrids and Electric vehicles,” he points out. “But these vehicles are now over $100,000 and in an unstable economic climate, to dish out that amount of cash or take a loan would be unwise.”
Mohammed believes there may be an uptick in those who may consider purchasing a motorcycle.
“The cheapest foreign used motorcycle can start in the upper $20,000 range and go higher, depending on what the consumer wants,” he explains. “I deal in Japanese motorcycles since these are the best and parts are easy to source. A 250cc motorcycle would use considerably less gas than a car. The downside is the rain and bad roads.”
He adds: “I do see many people who live within a few kilometres of their place of work turning to motorcycles and motor-scooters. While these bikes have a limited passenger carrying capacity, they are easy to park and easy to repair. And bikes made in Japan and India are more durable.”
Damien Richards told Guardian Media that Hero Motorcycles came on the market in 2018 in T&T and after initially slow sales, business picked up last year.
“Hero scooters start at around $12,000 and the company offers a lay away plan,” Richards said. “I think we may sell more bikes in 2021 as times get harder.”
Richards said the motor cycle is one of the major forms of transport in developing countries where people have adapted to it as the major form of transport, especially in Asia.
Both Mohammed and Richards noted that the Police Service was giving free riding lessons at VMCOTT in Port of Spain on Saturdays, through its Law Enforcement Bikers Riding School.
“In addition, we at Hero have partnered with the Police Service to ensure riders stay safe,” Richards added.
However, Visham Babwah, the head of the T&T Automotive Dealers Association (TTADA) said he does not expect any large sales of motorcycles in the short term.
“T&T has a car culture,” he said. “People want cars. Unless the price of gas becomes so exorbitant, then motorists would seek out motorbikes.”
He added: “There is so much to consider when purchasing a motorbike—the roads are in a poor state, and there are a number of reckless drivers who speed and operate without due care and attention and fail to look out for motorbike riders.”
Babwah said TTADA was awaiting word from the Minister of Finance to discuss the importation of electric and hybrid cars through to December 2020.