CROSSROADS

Car importers in panic as Kebs sticks to eight-year rule

All 2013 vehicles must arrive by December 31 as per the eight-year rule.

In Summary

•Importers are seeking an extension for clearance of 2013 units until March 2021 citing cargo scarcity for delays.

•Says more than 30,000 units risk being locked out.

Imported vehicles parked at a yard in Mombasa
Imported vehicles parked at a yard in Mombasa
Image: JOHN CHESOLI

A major showdown is looming between importers and the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs), as the standards body maintains its stand on the eight-year rule for used cars.

In a pubic notice issued on Monday, Kebs  maintained that all 2013 registered vehicles must arrive in the country by December 31.

This is under the age limit rule where Kenya only allows importation of used cars of a maximum eight years since the first date of registration.

Any 2013 vehicle registered in 2013 arriving after December 31 will be deemed not to comply with the standards and shall be rejected at the importers expense,” Kebs managing director Bernard Njiraini said.

This comes even as importers maintain its call on the government to extend the clearance period for 2013 units to March next year, noting that over 30,000 second-hand cars could delay arriving into the country beyond December 31, occasioned by a vessel scarcity being experienced abroad due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Car Importers Association of Kenya(CIAK) yesterday said some units ordered as back as September and October were yet to arrive.

This is due to vessel scarcity in key import sources of Japan (which accounts for 80 per cent of second–hand units coming into the country), Europe and other key markets of United Arab Emirates,Singapore and South Africa.

Apart from occasioning loss of millions to dealers and individual car importers, the Kenya Revenue Authority(KRA) risks loosing up to Sh30 billion in excise duty.

On average, it collects Sh250,000 or higher, per unit of a second-hand car that lands at the Port of Mombasa.

“We will be reaching out to kebs to find a way forward. I hope they will do the right thing because it is a genuine case. If they don't do this, then Kenyans will loose. I don't think they will find it acceptable that so many Kenyans lose this much especially during this hard times,” CIAK Mombasa chapter chairman Mustafa Ramadhan told the Star yesterday. 

The Kenyan National Chamber of Commerce (KNCC) has also called on the government to support businesses during “this unprecedented time.”

This are extra ordinary times with a lot of disruptions. It is only right if importers are listed to and cushioned,” KNCCI Mombasa chapter CEO James Kitavi said, noting KPA and shippers have done the same to free storage period and days for containers coming and leaving the port.

Imports have 16 days to have all 2013 units arrive and cleared at the Port of Mombasa.

Industrialisation, Trade and Enterprise Development CS Betty Maina last month remained firm on import regulations.

All importers were advised to ensure vehicles get in before December 2020. They were advised in September to ensure goods arrived by December,” CS Betty told the Star.

The last time the eight-year rule caught up with importers was in 2014 when more than 2,000 used motor vehicles registered in 2006 were locked out of the country, leading losses of millions of shillings by dealers and individual importers.

Second-hand cars dominate the local market accounting for 85 per cent of Kenya's car purchases, with an annual import of above 86,000 units.

The government has been seeking to reduce the age limit to five years to promote local assembling and address emission concerns blamed on combustion in old cars.

Last week, President Uhuru Kenyatta affirmed his support for growth of local industries, encouraging local motor vehicle assembling as opposed to imported used cars which he said have flooded the country.

He commissioned the local assembly of the Malaysian Proton Saga saloon cars at the Associated Vehicle Assemblers (AVA) in Miritini, Mombasa County.

We want to revive the automotive industry in Kenya. It used to be at one stage that the majority of vehicles that used to traverse our roads were actually assembled by our own young Kenyans,” the President pointed out.