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PANKAJ RAYAMAJHI and TRISHNA GURUNG



ALL PICS: MIN BARJRACHAYRA

So what if there is no gas? Car prices are coming down, and sales have never been better.

It's a buyer's market out there and there is stiff competition between the 25 or so brands out there. And it's not just Kathmandu, car dealerships are opening up in Pokhara, Biratnagar, Birganj and Butwal. Profit margins may have gone down but car taxes contribute nearly 20 percent to the government's revenue. Car dealers weathered a long conflict, petrol shortages and a recently concluded discount scheme for scrapping old cars.

"It is a challenge to sell in a limited market," admits Aakash Golchha, director of Hansraj Hulaschand, "ultimately, customer satisfaction counts and that happens when services are better."

The biggest change has been in people's attitudes towards cars. Upwardly mobile urbanites are graduating from motorcycles to cars in greater numbers. With better paying jobs and higher disposable incomes, they are not prepared to wait for the good life. Thanks to generous finance schemes, they don't have to.

Anup Baral of Sipradi Trading, the agent for Tata in Nepal, says: "Nepalis are working harder and are willing to invest in cars. The fuel situation is worrisome and the market is unpredictable, but we are seeing higher sales than in 2006."

The business of selling cars is not divorced from politics and continued unrest in the tarai has put a slight dip on sales. Dipak Dutta, director of Nakasu Motors, a Mitsubishi dealer says: "The current political scenario is not the best, but things have improved compared to last year."

The good news is that competition is prompting dealers to ensure good after-sales service and many are upgrading their maintenance facilities.


NEW CAR PICKS
Here are three of the best new buys this season

The Kia Cerato is back with a bang, and some welcome additions. A "facelift" is how the helpful sales manager described it as he pointed out chrome details and the new reflective lights. We liked the more muscular body contours, dynamic handling and fresh new interiors, which include moulded seats, improved boot space, and a cute cubby-hole for your designer sunnies.

Its new look is complemented by a smooth, sporty driving experience. The only thing that might take a little getting used to is the European-style reverse gear.

With the 1.6-litre Cerato, Kia has produced a classy competitor in the much coveted C-segment. It may be a few inches shorter than other C-class saloons, but that's all the better for cornering, reversing and parking in the urban jungle. Created especially for city use, the Cerato's MacPherson strut suspension system and the 160mm ground clearance will let you sail over the worst roads.

Price: Rs 2,375,000




If anything can put the joy back into city driving it's a car that packs a powerful punch without losing the fun. Check out the all new Chevrolet Spark, so new in fact that the paint has barely dried on this one-litre, four-cylinder, S-Tec powered marvel, which was launched in Nepal in August 2007.

This baby is great to manoeuvre through the city and will always stand out in its five fresh colours. The five-speed gearbox is light to use and the car cruises almost silently at all speeds.

What also sets the Spark apart is the ground-breaking interior design, especially of the dashboard, which is a semi-circular display of control and the warning lights. The digital and analogue speedometer and instruments are strikingly positioned in the centre, visible to all. We liked the other add-ons like hooks for hanging shopping bags and the hidden trays, which could save you a lot of grief if you are smart enough to stash your goodies there.

Price: Rs 1,425,000



In a world full of choices, most of them expensive, the Hyundai Atos is the perfect first car that offers economy without compromising on style or substance. Billed as the "small car, big delight", the Atos borrows from the design of its more popular cousin, the Hyundai Santro.

It has a contemporary look with sleek lines and handles confidently, serviced by a one-litre, four-cylinder, 12-valve fuel-injected engine. It has a smooth pick-up as it slides into top gear and the tall-boy design is a plus for Nepalis of all sizes.

The Atos doesn't have a fancy dashboard or quirky extras but who needs that when you can still pick from eight exciting colours, including the cheerful Tweety Yellow?

Price: Rs 1,115,000



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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