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'New car sales up'

By Carla Bridgla

New car sales are on the rise, Toyota Trinidad managing director Andre Baptiste said yesterday.

Speaking on Thursday evening at the unveiling of the new RAV4 sport utility vehicle at the company's Barataria showroom, Baptiste said the industry has seen an upward trend in the market year on year.

This year, the sector is already seeing significant activity, with 1,300 new vehicle sales recorded for January.

In its Summary Economic Indicators Report released last month, the Central Bank noted new motor vehicle sales had increased by 13.3 per cent in the period January to September 2012, compared to the same period in 2011.

The brand, he said, which is the number two selling brand in the country, is now showing signs of returning to the top spot.

"We have sold 313 new vehicles in January; (our nearest competitor, Nissan) has sold 257," he said.

He acknowledged that this number probably also included late December figures carried forward to January.

Nevertheless, he attributed the demand to customers preferring the reliability and value of new vehicles over used. "Customers have decided it's a better investment. They get three-year warranties, service and parts, and in the case of Toyota, they get optimum resale value," he said.

He said while the economy may not be booming, high liquidity levels have caused banks to lower interest rates, making it easier for consumers to meet requirements to access loans.

He added that for the environmentally conscious, the company did have its well-known hybrid vehicle, the Prius, available for a test drive, and had delivered a fleet to the Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs.

He said the company was in discussions with the ministry about duty exemptions for importing these specific vehicles. "Other countries like Jamaica and Barbados have exemptions, making it cheaper to bring these cars in. We don't have them here, and that's why the price is so high-and may be why consumers aren't so eager to buy," he said.

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