New showrooms race ahead as old car dealers go bust

New import laws in Burma have led to a drop in car prices that has made cars affordable for ordinary people.

One of the most noticeable changes in the country over the past two years is the staggering number of new cars to hit the streets as the country undergoes political and economic reforms.

More than 150,000 vehicles have been imported since the government launched a car exchange scheme allowing people to trade in their old cars.

Car showrooms have opened up all over Rangoon, and new models appear on the street every day.

Sales Director at KIA Motors, Kyaw Thura, said nowadays the average person can afford to buy their own car.

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“At first the government let people change their old cars for new cars. Then later, they changed the policy so that every adult who has a national registration card was allowed to import cars. Things are really improving,” said Kyaw Thura.

The rusty rundown vehicles that filled the streets for decades have at last been abandoned for scrap to make way for tens of thousands of new cars imported in the last two years.

But the drop in car prices is putting former car dealers out of business.

Ba Htay, a former car salesman, invested thousands of dollars to bypass import laws and bought cars at hugely inflated prices. But when the government made it easier to import cars, prices fell dramatically.

“Of course I lost money,” said Ba Htay. “Just before the government allowed people to substitute their old cars. I had just bought a car and when I sold it I lost US$7000. That was the last time I did this.”

And several former car salesmen have taken to driving or renting their cars as taxis because it brings in more reliable earnings than the risk of selling them.

“Before I could live for a month on the profit.  Now if I buy and re-sell a car I will lose money,” said Ba Htay.

 

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