More Pandas, Nanos and Kwids are seeing slowly taking more space in already congested Sri Lankan roads as the policymakers have dashed the hopes of many who were aspiring to drive a quality Japanese or European car in style.
The latest vehicle registrations data shows that many who could earlier stretch their budgets to a Japanese-made car are now settling for much smaller, relatively lower quality cars of Indian, Malaysian or Chinese make, after the rulers made it harder to own a good personal vehicle with proper safety features.
Meanwhile, Lankans are also increasingly hopping onto two-wheelers, mostly Indian-made scooters, just to avoid the daily misery on public transport.
The two-wheeler registrations in July showed a marked increase of 2,673 units over the previous month to 30,226 units, while the three-wheeler registrations stood at 1,787 units, slightly down from 1,876 units in June.
Overall the total vehicle registrations in July flirted under 40,000 units, up significantly from 36,500 a month earlier.
The monthly vehicle registrations tracked by J B Securities, a leading stockbroker with a research house, said “the small car segment share improved from 92.6 percent to 93.8 percent” in July with significant increases recorded by the brand-new small car brands.
“Overall, brand-new motor cars have increased by 17 percent month-on-month. Micro observed growth in the ‘Panda’ car; Renault observed growth in the ‘Kwid’ and Tata observed the most significant growth in its ‘Nano Twist XTA’.” In July, small car registrations with the engine capacity less than 1,000cc recorded 1,147 units, up from around 880 units a month on average during the first seven months of the year.
The monthly registrations saw a clear acceleration in numbers as it has gradually picked up from 542 units it touched in March after the lower loan-to-value (LTV) ratios came into full effect.
Meanwhile, the pre-owed motor cars, which largely consist of Toyotas, Suzukis and Hondas between 1,000 and 1,600 cc capacity, also grew to 1,998 units in July from 1,757 units.
Sri Lankan politicians generally manipulate the vehicle market to gain popularity when elections come near but conveniently forget the need for a national transport policy.
It is in the grapevine that the forthcoming budget might slash some taxes on vehicle imports as a vote-buying mechanism ahead of polls but the implications of such an action could be far-reaching and irreversible.
Loose policies on vehicle imports have now led to numerous socio-economic issues, taking a massive toll on the daily lives and overall the productivity of the country’s workforce.
Temporary remedies to address traffic congestion, such as dedicated bus-lanes come and go from time to time but Sri Lanka seriously lacks political will to address the root cause of the problems in the transportation segment for good.