Vehicle dealers were already suffering due to reduced demand as Financial Institutions had reduced the loan components for vehicles, but the situation got worse after COVID-19 as the sale of vehicles dropped down drastically in the past two months. Some had zero sales since the lockdown in India and many came to cancel their booking.
Chief Executive Officer of State Trading Corporation of Bhutan Limited (STCBL), Kuenga Namgay, shared the corporation was greatly impacted as they could not meet their target to sell 26 Toyota vehicles, 20 Tata vehicles and 16 Eicher Trucks. April saw no sales.
He said, “People who have booked vehicles before COVID-19 are now coming to cancel their bookings. At this point of time, we have decided to approve their cancellation without any penalty.”
Sales has come down, he said adding that the services are still being given but if the auto spare parts runs out of stock, it would be an issue. And due to lock down in India, the stock cannot be replenished. “For now, we are surviving on spare parts and services,” he added.
Various vehicles are stuck in different places. “Whatever stock we have in transition, we have stocked in Singapore,” he said. STCBL does not intend to bring in the stocked vehicles, as it could pose as a risk to the people and country at this point of time.
“Vehicles are not essential goods,” he said. They have some vehicles in stock and they are trying to market those for now.
“We have put in place some strategies if the situation prolongs. Just now, we are helping the government with stocking up on the essential goods,” he said.
An official from Ugen Auto said the company sold a minimum of 10 trucks per month before the COVID-19 pandemic. “After the lock down, we are failing to deliver orders, and are getting harassment from customers.”
Those in the boulder business bought the trucks. But due to the border closure, the trucks worth Nu 130 million have no buyers, The official said, “Earlier tour operator and public transport owner had booked buses, but due to COVID-19, they have canceled all their bookings.” The company has also laid off a large portion of its staff over time.
Senior General Manager of Bhutan Hyundai Motors, Pema Lodey, said that though they are not affected like hoteliers and tour operators, COVID-19 has somehow impacted their vehicle sales, which is down by 60 percent, and even the spare parts sales are down.
“Our buyers are mostly tour operators and guides but due to the pandemic, we have lost them. We had a few booking but they are now cancelling. Around 60 vehicles are stuck in different places across the border,” he added.
We have to place order every month and since last month our order has gone down, he said.
“People are now postponing their order and prioritizing on the essentials. We are able to sell a few vehicles to the government as they are in need of additional vehicles during such times,” he added.
If the lock down in India goes on for a while, he said that they might have to survive by selling the spare parts which they have in stock and with the services they provide. He said, “If the situation worsens then we may have to look for other alternatives.”
An official from Bhutan Isuzu Motors said that they were able to sell 25 to 30 vehicles in a month before COVID-19, but now the sales has gone down by 50 percent.
“Though we are able to sell a few vehicles, we have zero sales of equipment. We are lucky that government and thromde are buying a few of the stocked up vehicles. Otherwise, we would suffer,” he said.
The company is paying the staff for now and they said they lucky that the house owner has waived of 50 percent of the rent.