New Car Sales Seriously Slowed By Sluggish Economy
Who doesn't want a new car, right? With streets and roads in their present condition - even if you have a new one, a year later, we'd bet its not so new.
And that's why fantasy festival like the annual auto show exist - because on days such as those - to borrow from the old saying - all beggars can ride.
And that's just what we did when we visited at the Bowen and Bowen Green on Saturday. Here's how it went:..
Jules Vasquez reporting
There was plenty bling to go around at this year's auto show - and the new car dealers had to put on as good a face as they could - the car market like everything else is down, down down:
Israel Pi Marin, Belize Diesel and Equipment Company
"New car sales is a very good indicator of what's happening in the economy because people will only buy new cars when the economy is good. When its bad thats the first thing that gets cut. For example in 2008 Belize Diesel sold about 350 Toyotas, the overall market was about 850 cars - meaning all the news car dealers sold 850. From 2009-2010-2011 the market has contracted about 350 new cars overall. So the dealers are selling much less. It's a 60% contraction."
And for Belize Diesel - which has now subsumed JMA motors - and emerges as a super-dealership with 7 lines - exciting the market means lower prices, cheaper vehicles, namely cars - such as this Hyundai Accent or the Sonata:
Israel Pi Marin
"We know that there has been a rise in the used car market because people are looking at savings and we are introducing cars now for example this car here is $32,000.00, so we are introducing cars that are more affordable."
Indeed the 1-1o is more affordable - and gives 45 miles per gallon with a miniscule three cylinder 1.1 liter engine also available on motorbikes and large lawnmowers, it should.
The car so unassuming and nondescript, It couldn't even get a name, just I-10. At 32 grand duty paid we thought it would be a cardboard car - wobbly and anemic, so I took it for a drive to see how it would hold up. My first surprise that I could even fit in the car - but apart from being surprisingly roomy, it was almost comfortable.
The car had surprising pep - for such a small engine and performed capably on bad roads - while I thought it might fall to pieces - it held the road - where there was really no road - and while I couldn't drift.
Just one look at the tiny engine made me shake my head that I even accelerated the way I did.
"Boy, I am very pleasantly surprise."
This Harley Davidson motorbike had a larger and louder engine - and a far more fetching driver - and so it was, a mixed bag at this year's event where car dealers were trying to figure out what hook they can use to generate interest in a standoff-ish consumer market.
Toyota even offered the most interesting car in show the Prius Hybrid. With its space age console.
Israel Pi Marin
"It drives just like a car but because part of it is using electricity it gives you the gas mileage and the savings."
First of all when you start it - with the press of a button - the vehicle is on but there's no engine sound - it's fully electronic.
And then to put it in gear - I just adjusted this weird little knob, but had no idea I was in gear because there is no shift shock - and that's because there's really no gears, no transmission in any conventional sense, it's all electronics and sensors.
Out on the road it felt like a regular car, it had power - and that's because the engine kicked in and when I stepped into it as I did here - you can see the speedometer on the left - rapidly climbing.
At the end of my test drive, putting it in park, meant just pushing this button. Interesting, but affordable?
"How would you answer the criticism that the markup on the vehicle is too high. For example if I wanted to buy a new Rav 4 in the United States, maybe it be maxed out $25,000 US. By the time I get that here with shipping and duty I can land it maybe for $70,000.00 maybe less and to buy a new one from you it would probably be in the low 90s. How do you answer that criticism?"
Israel Pi Marin
"Every business has to have a markup really and the cost of money for example while consumer lending might be at 11% corporate is still is at 15%-15.5%. We have to invest in parts, in training, in service, in facilities, in staff. For example Belize Diesel has a staff of 80 persons. So all that wage, all that back-end work has to come from somewhere. So the mark-ups are high because the import duties are high."
And now they are asking government to lower taxes on new cars as an incentive:
Israel Pi Marin
"It's time for government to say 'listen guys for you to survive, I'll give you something.' because if the industry survives and progress, government gets more of the action. Right now we are all suffering; even government is not getting the revenues that it should be getting from an industry like this. In 2008 government got about 25 million dollars from this industry. Last year and this year if they got 10 million that's a lot."
Whether government, which pays no duty on its fancy rides, will blink is left to be seen.
We note that not all the major dealers participated in this year's event.