Nepali Times
Maybe you can drive my car

Nepali Times offers a beginner\'s guide to buying your first car.

Suddenly, in Kathmandu\'s car market small is beautiful Consumers have discovered the compacts that come in a bewildering variety of models, price tags and financing options to choose from.

The city\'s narrow streets are getting more crowded every day. An average ride from Lazimpat to Patan now takes at least 45 minutes at rush hour, but motor cars are selling like hot momos.

Not so long ago dealers of papular brands would have booking lists, with new car buyers waiting up to three months for the right model or colour. But that is changing, there is a high turnover of stock, and customers are lifting cars right off the showrooms. "From September there will be no waiting time for Marutis. "

says Arun K, Chaudhary, Managing Director of the Chaudhary Group, country dealer for Maruti.

Maruti has the highest passenger car sales in the country, with 60 percent of the market share. This is because it pushed the hardest, says Chaudhary, "We introduced consumer financing, and we have good after-sales service, even trade-ins. "

The smart cars, some even smaller than the Safa tempos, can weave through Kathmandu\'s tight traffic and the narrow alleys without much effort. And, with the capital\'s roads in a state of permanent disrepair, their manoeuvrability is also a plus point for those planning a car.Dealers nor only offer cars but also financing.

Otherwise, they can point you to "sister" concerns waiting with the cash. Banks are also in the financing business and offer lower interests then finance companies, but that, of course, depends on your ability to convince on you intend to pay back the loan.

The list of compacts to choose from is getting longer. This is mainly due to the range that is being produced in India, and also because market has been trailed by a growing urban class that can afford family cars. So far, the indomitable Maruti 800 rules the road, almost outnumbering all competitors put together. Its low-cost maintenance has also made it the chosen vehicle for taxi operators; in this category Maruti has no competition, except for its own Omni vans.

Maruti Zen is positioned to hook buyers looking for cars that stand apart from the taxis on the Kathmandu roads. But it is facing tough competition from other brands.

Among them are Hyundai\'s Santro, Daewoo\'s Matiz and Fiat\'s Uno, all of whom already have a sizeable presence in Kathmandu. Waiting on the sidelines is Malaysia\'s Kancil by Perdua, which is expected to hit the Kathmandu roads in a big way by August-end.

Both Santro and Matiz come with designer exteriors that appeal to those looking for a hip look. They also offer a power steering option. Fiat offers another extra; diesel engines that comply with Euro-2 standards.

The right choice

The price of a car depends on how much you are willing to spend: the deeper you dig into your pocket the more bells and whistles you get. The key to deciding on a car is to know exactly what you are looking for. For example, if you plan to make your first car to be your last, then a better buy would be one in the higher price category. Doing without various options can save you a pile. A Zen without AC sells at Rs 76, 000 less then one with AC. Similarly, a standard version of Santro comes at Rs 888, 000 while the same car with potions added can cost as much as Rs 1, 020, 000. No car in the market can match the price of a standard Maruti 800 at Rs 656, 000. Maruti\'s Omni, which can double both as delivery van and family transport, comes at Rs 662, 000. At these prices the Maruti 800 and the Omnis have almost no competitor to worry about.

The market beyond the Maruti 800 and Omni range is a bit crowded. This is where the Santro the Matiz, the Fiat, the Kancil and the Zen are fighting for a share of the pie. The list of options they offer is endless-rear windscreen wiper, power window, music system, matching body and bumper colours, vanity mirrors, gear locks, central locking, power steering, and so on. Two new brands are entering this segment soon-Daihatsu\'s 1000cc Cuore and Tata\'s Indica 1400cc. Cuore is expected in the market within a few months, and the Indica will arrive by the end of. September.

There is a higher level in the small car business. This is where the competition is among Toyota\'s Echo, Nissan\'s March and Daihatsu\'s Sirion, all Japanese makes.

Given the size of the market, sales in this category are not so bad either. Toyota sells about eight Echos each month. This car comes in 1000cc and 1300cc models, and cost between Rs 1. 6-1. 8 million and Rs 2-2. 2 million, depending on the options you choose. March, which was selling at about Rs 1. 4 million, is now planing to get an "improved" version that could cost slightly higher.

"It is difficult to compere with cheaper Indian cars, " says Kailash Rajbhandary. Senior Deputy Director at United Traders Syndicate, the Toyota dealer. "But what also counts is after-sales service and resale value.

About 2000 Vehicles are sold every year in the country. That is still a small market to play in, but it is one that is definitely growing. Maruti has already begun expansion plans with showrooms in Pokhara and Butwal. With more brands entering with cheaper Indian cars, " says Kailash Rajbhandary. Senior Deputy Director at United Traders Syndicate, the Toyota dealer. "But what also counts is after-sales service and resale value. "The competition it can only mean good news to the customer.

COP controversy

Small car imports into Nepal ground to a halt as soon as the government\'s new emission standards were announce last year. (The Nepali standard is the same as Euro-1,) This resulted from the confusion over Type Approval and the Conformity of Production (COP) that importers need to comply with.

COP tests are used to ascertain it the emission levels at cars an the road are within permissible limits. In India the tests are done after 5000 cars are produced 01 six months after a model is out in the market, But the COP requirement; poses a problem to manufacturers coming out with new models or that produce a smaller number of cars of any particular model.

"Asking for COP is like asking for a birth certificate before the baby is born. \' says Sampurna Kansakar. General Manager, Bhsjuratna Agency Pvt Ltd, the sellers of Fiat Uno \'it is impossible to produce that for new models, you cannot discriminate against some in a free market?"

Kansakar\'s reference was to a later government decision to COP requirement for Japanese and Korean-made cars and allow imports on the basis of manufacturer certification only. When asked to explain the rational behind this move, Govinda Raj Bhatta. Secretary at the Ministry of Population and Environment, said, "The waiver for Japanese cars was made after we were assured by the Japan government that its manufacturers, did their own testing and certification. But we are already working to make the requirement uniform. "

Older car sellers are equally angry about the government\'s inability to control the the quality of petrol. "Euro-1 is good for the country. It will help keep the environment clean. 'says Lokmanya Golcha, vice-chairman of Galchha Organisation, this Daihatsu dealer. \'But It you don\'t control what goes into cars, it ii like asking someone la gnaw healthy by eating rotten food."

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)