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Dealers disagree on limit to lifespan of cars in Malaysia, cite other safety factors than just age

November 20, 2013

Used car dealers have disagreed with the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research’s (Miros) findings that cars more than 12 years old are unsafe and should be taken off the roads under a proposal being studied by Putrajaya.

The proposal has sparked outrage among car owners in Malaysia, most of whom take hire-purchase loans of up to nine years to buy vehicles which are costly due to high excise duties. Despite the heavy taxes, some 600,000 vehicles are bought every year.

W. H. Wong, who operates a used car dealership in Damansara Perdana, said the performance and safety of a car depended a lot on the person using the vehicle and whether the car was well-maintained.

"There are elements of danger, that is true. But it is premature to say that cars more than 12 years old are unsafe to be on the road as Miros has not taken the owner factor into consideration," he told The Malaysian Insider.

Wong said those who maintain their cars with regular servicing and replacing parts on time can still use their vehicles beyond 12 years.

"However, if a user pushed his vehicle to the brink all the time without replacing parts and servicing the vehicle, it would be a danger on the road even after a year, let alone 12 years," he added.

Last week, Miros director-general Professor Dr Wong Shaw Voon said that cars more than 12 years old were not safe to be on the road.

Other dealers have responded in similar fashion to the proposal being studied by acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein to cap a car's lifespan at 12.

W. S. Wong said there were standards which the road transport authorities in Australia, Hong Kong and Taiwan abided by but which Malaysia did not.

"Cars are sent regularly for checks in foreign countries and the owner can only renew the road tax and insurance if the vehicle has been certified roadworthy by the relevant authorities.

"However, it is not the same in Malaysia as Puspakom checks are only compulsory in certain circumstances. It is not compulsory to send your vehicle to Puspakom before renewing your road tax," he said, referring to the privatised national car inspection centre.

Wong, who operates a used car dealership in Cheras, said authorities in Malaysia also had to play their role properly instead of coming up with suggestions such as banning old vehicles from the road.

"Removing vehicles which are more than 12 years old from the road might reduce road accidents but it is not the main cause of accidents," he said.

The used car dealers said in the short term they might suffer losses if the ban on cars exceeding 12 years was implemented as their inventory of vehicles included old cars.

"However, in the middle to long term, used car dealers will not be affected and might actually see a boom in business as not everyone can afford to purchase a brand new vehicle."

Wong said on average, each Malaysian household had between three and four vehicles. If a vehicle had to be changed due to its age, not everyone had the purchasing power for a brand new vehicle.

"Hence, used car dealers have reacted to Hishammuddin's proposal with mixed feelings and we look forward to seeing what the government decides," he said.

Hishammuddin said on Tuesday that Putrajaya was considering imposing a vehicle end-of-life policy but disclosed that the finer details of the proposal had yet to be worked out.

Opposition lawmaker Rafizi Ramli objected to Hishammuddin's proposal, arguing that it would aggravate the public's finances and increase household debt.

Hishammuddin conceded that Rafizi had a point and said there were many ways to overcome the problem without elaborating further.

Putrajaya has revealed that there are more than 22 million vehicles on the road in Malaysia with more than five million older than 10 years.

But the government will have to tread carefully on this issue as obtaining financial loans from banks and financial institutions is no longer as easy as it once was.

In July, Bank Negara tightened regulations on personal and housing loans as part of measures to avoid excessive household indebtedness and reinforce responsible lending practices.

Among the measures implemented were a maximum 10-year tenure for personal loans, 35 years for housing and commercial property loans, and prohibiting pre-approved personal financing products.

 – The Malaysian Insider