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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Lower income group hard hit by NAP ruling on spare parts

I CANNOT agree more with Austin Candens in his article “Spare parts dilemma for owners of older cars” (The Star, Feb 8). His interviews with the owners of a 1970 Mercedes-Benz, a 1970 Volks, 1993 Sunny, a 1994 Iwara, is barely the tip of the iceberg.

Indeed, up to 1,000,000 or approximately 20% of cars on the Malaysian roads are over 15 years old and in terms of users, the number could be as many as five million if you count the father, mother and three children per family.

And who are these owners? Besides a small number of classic car owners, they are mainly from the lower income groups, found in our villages, kampongs, or the poorer parts of urban and suburban centres.

They are also the retirees, former civil servants (with small pensions who are still fighting for the restoration of full pensions), or those in the private sector who worked until they could not do so. These are people who cannot afford to change their cars every few years.

They are also the fishermen, padi planters, rubber tappers, oil palm workers, shop assistants, wet market workers, barbers, construction workers, hawkers, petty traders, gardeners, etc; people with little education and who work manually. They have no voice to be heard in the general scheme of things.

These people and the 5,000 dealers of used spare parts and their families are crying out in protest against the part of the NAP which disallows the import of used parts.

Without imported used parts, they will find it increasingly difficult to keep their cars running to pursue their occupations and earn some money to support their families.

They will find it almost impossible to trade in these old bangers for a new or newer car as values of these cars would fetch almost nothing, assuming that they can afford a newer car.

So, if it is the objective of the NAP to encourage local production of spare parts, it will not be met as the million old cars are of diverse makes and models; many manufacturers or distributors have disappeared. Additionally, the numbers will be too small to make economic sense.

Moreover, modern cars use a lot of electronics whereas the older cars don’t. Are there entrepreneurs who will invest in producing obsolete parts for the dying part of the industry?

While we laud the authorities for removing the ruling of the 15-year end of life for cars, they should take it to its logical conclusion by allowing the import of used spare parts. Let these cars die a natural death; do not commit euthanasia. Car owners themselves will know when their cars will need to be taken off the road.


Kuala Lumpur.

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