Kathmandu, September 19
The government has threatened to auction all the vehicles that automobile importers have failed to collect from the Birgunj customs office. Importers have not claimed more than 350 vehicles from the customs office.
According to the Department of Customs, automobile dealers have not collected their vehicles from the customs office since the last two months. “We don’t know why importers have not collected their vehicles. These vehicles have been occupying parking space and also creating traffic problems because some are parked on the road,” said Shishir Ghimire, director at the DoC.
According to Ghimire, the department has already directed vehicle importers to collect their vehicles, as it is affecting import of other vehicles as well. “If the situation continues, we will auction the vehicles.”
He said vehicles that had not been collected included 35 electric vehicles.
Ghimire added that most of the vehicles were parked at the customs office with only a few at the Integrated Check Post and Dry Port in Birgunj.
Birgunj customs is considered an easy trade point for import of vehicles. According to traders, Birgunj is suitable due to its close proximity to Kolkata port in India.
Dealers generally park imported vehicles in the parking yard of Birgunj customs office as the parking fee there is relatively cheaper. They only collect vehicles when customers start making purchase orders. As a result, importers do not have to incur high charges levied by warehouses.
Apparently, the line of new vehicles parked on the road has stretched to over 1.5 kilometres, even extending across the border to Raxaul in India.
Auto dealers, on the other hand, say they are not in a position to clear these vehicles as customers who had booked them do not have the capacity to buy them since banks and financial institutions have tightened auto loans.
“Since automobile sale is down in India, when Nepali traders booked vehicles, automakers instantly supplied them, creating logjam,” said Krishna Prasad Dulal, vice-president of NADA Automobiles Association of Nepal.
“Moreover the government has tightened customs reference value for vehicles and spare parts. We plan to hold discussions with the government on this issue as vehicles have become more expensive and it has affected our business,” he said. “Clearing the customs has also become problematic.”
Dulal added that customs officers were not referring to their purchase invoices and charging double the tax in the name of customs reference value.
During the NADA auto show last month there was quite a large number of bookings following which dealers had placed orders, he told THT. “Clearing the customs, however, will depend on when customers actually purchase them.”
Meanwhile, bankers say they are ready to provide auto loans to customers. Anil Shah, immediate past president of Nepal Bankers’ Association and CEO of Nabil Bank, said banks were ready to provide auto loans to customers, but customers were not keen on buying vehicles. “We have not received many requests for auto loans,” he said, adding perhaps it was because the government had recently applied more taxes under different tax headings.
A version of this article appears in print on September 20, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.