The war of attrition between the established Car Dealers and those who bring in used vehicles from Japan and the Far-east Asian countries has intensified in Grenada.
Well-placed sources told THE NEW TODAY newspaper that the Car Dealers comprising the top vehicle-importing firms like Steele’s Auto Supplies, Hubbard’s, and Geo. F Huggins met Tuesday with Economic Development Minister, Oliver Joseph to discuss a number of complaints against the importers of foreign used vehicles.
The source said the Car Dealers had initially requested a meeting with Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell to discuss their concerns but were told to meet first with the Economic Development Minister.
He spoke of the nation’s big businessmen in the motor vehicle trade informing the senior Government Minister that they have concerns about the importers of foreign used cars submitting “phony invoices” to the Customs Department in bringing in their vehicles into the country.
According to the source, Minister Joseph requested the Car Dealers to supply him with hard data in order for him to take to Cabinet to make out a strong case on their behalf.
He said that the Car Dealers informed the Minister that figures from the Inland Revenue Department of the Ministry of Finance showed that the used car dealers were outselling the traditional car dealers by a ratio of 3 to 1.
He stated that figures were presented during the meeting showing that 970 used vehicles were put on the streets in Grenada between January and July this year as opposed to only 304 by the new Car Dealers.
The source pointed out that Minister Joseph suggested that the established Car Dealers submit data as regards the CIF Value of their imported vehicles as compared to those submitted by the used vehicle dealers to Customs to clear their vehicles.
He said the charge levelled by the Car Dealers is that in cases where government should be collecting $5000.00 in revenue from the used car importers they were only getting $1000.00 due to the so-called “phony invoices”.
Another issue that was raised by the Car Dealers was the need for government to curb the importation of used vehicles on the grounds of their age, which raises questions of environmental hazards.
The source charged that the Car Dealers advanced the argument that many of the foreign used importers were bringing in vehicles, selling them to the public but not stocking spare parts to service the vehicles.
“People are buying these vehicles (foreign used), driving them for two and three years and when they break down and can’t get the spare parts to fix them, they just park them up all over the place and just buy another one (used vehicle)”, he said.
These vehicles, he stated are now posing health hazards in the country as they are serving as breeding grounds for mosquitoes, rats and other insects.
Another source told THE NEW TODAY that the thorny issue of the recent importation of a fleet of vehicles for use by the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) was raised by the established Car Dealers with Minister Joseph.
He said the car dealers expressed concerns that they were never given a chance by government to make a bid to supply the vehicles for the police.
He indicated that the established Car Dealers are upset since the Keith Mitchell-led government has been rather tight-lipped on who sourced the vehicles for the police force.
He described the issue as “a slap in the face” for the Car Dealers who have been running legitimate operations in Grenada over the years as against those who often submit “phony invoices” and robbing the State of much-needed revenue.
The Car Dealers have also been accusing those who are engaged in the foreign used vehicle trade of finding “creative ways” to circumvent the law which defines an importer of vehicle.
The source said: “Some of those bringing in Sketels (used vehicles) will bring in their quota of vehicles and pay the fees due to Inland Revenue as a small-scale dealer. They will then bring in more vehicles but use the name of other persons like family members and others in order not to pay the additional fees due to the State”.
Most of the Car Dealers in the country are known to be associated with the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Mitchell.
One of the biggest dealers is Steele’s Auto Supplies whose son is the current Minister of Health and Member of Parliament for the Town of St. George, Nickolas Steele.
Speculation is rife that the family-owned and operated company was a significant financial contributor to the NNP in its 15-0 routing of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) in the 2013 general elections.
The Car Dealers and Minister Joseph have scheduled a second round of talks for next week.