Saturday, March 12, 2011

Tamper Tantrum - The Imported Car

In October 2010, I went to the auto bazaar at Jamhuri Park. I saw the car below being sold for Kshs. 2.4 million.


It is a 2003 Toyota Harrier MCU35. The vehicle was very clean. The mileage on the odometer was just under 40,000 km.

I then did what I think any person about to invest in a car should do: I noted the chassis number and JEVIC sticker number and went to check on the details of the car. Imagine my surprise to find that the car, as clean as it looked, was not a 40,000 km car at all but was actually a 176,000km car (as at the time it was shipped from Japan). The car had arrived here and it's odometer had been tampered with. (The check can be done on the JEVIC website if you have the vehicle VIN/chassis number and inspection sticker number, both of which should be displayed on the JEVIC sticker which is normally on the left hand side of the windscreen for all ex-UK and ex-Japan cars - see example of sticker from a different vehicle below; you can put in the details and see a copy of the JEVIC certificate for the vehicle).



Now I say "imagine my surprise" but the truth is, I was not surprised at all. I expected the car mileage to be doctored. This is because the vast majority of newly imported cars sold in this market are doctored. If I were to guess I would say something like 80-90%.

As a vehicle importer (who for the record has never and will never change a mileage on any car I import), this phenomenon greatly disturbs and angers me. It distorts the market and it gives all vehicle importers a bad name (including the few who do not engage in this practice). However today, I am focused more on the car buyer point of view.

As a car buyer (or a buyer of any item at all), it would offend me to feel that somebody was trying to cheat me. However most car buyers in Kenya are very blase about this form of getting conned that occurs everyday. We have now reached a situation where many car buyers automatically go looking for cars expecting that the mileage has been "adjusted" (Yes! That is the euphemism I have heard used most...so innocent and nice sounding) - yet confusingly insist on buying cars that are "low mileage".

It is usually very simple to do due diligence on any car from UK or Japan. You can simply ask to see a copy of the JEVIC certificate. As most cars are tampered with locally, the JEVIC certificate should have the actual mileage at the time of export. You can also take the chassis/VIN number and the JEVIC sticker number and check online. Usually when mileage is tampered, the mileage section on the sticker is rubbed out and sometimes it fades with time. But the sticker number (typed) never fades. Thus even if the mileage part has faded/been rubbed off, it is fairly simple to check sticker number, check VIN number and do the online check.

Taking, the example of the Harrier above, I estimate the car came in for about 1.7  - 1.9 million. It is being sold for 2.4 million. A genuine 40,000 km Harrier in the same colour, at the same time would probably be here for 2 - 2.1 million. You do the math.

Now as a customer, having the information about the genuine mileage of the car could be useful in one of two ways:
 - I could be totally outraged, pass on buying the car and tell all my friends that the seller is not honest OR
 - I may be a pragmatic deal-maker (which I believe most of us fancy ourselves as) and use that information as a bargaining chip to get a better deal.

Either way, I see no downside to having the true car information.

Do you?

65 comments:

  1. Thank you very much for this information... very insightful. I can't wait to see the look on a potential seller trying to pass-off a vehicle as of a lower mileage.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good information. When I bought a car a while back, I never bothered to check that detail although at the back of my mind I suspected that the mileage had been adjusted. As they say information is power, and I wish I had this information then. Good stuff you are doing on this blog!

    ReplyDelete
  3. It's at times very difficult for me to sell a car like the Harrier you have put there. A normal Nairobian will clock 50km in day. That is for the usual home to work. Totals to 250km from Monday to Friday. Assume he does this for 56 weeks ie an year, comes to 14000km. How many kilometers will it have clocked in 7 years? Am not saying that it is not possible to get something below eighty or 50k, all am asking is for buyers to be realistic when they reject a car that has 120k but in good condition and go for one with 40k with worn out safety belts, and steering wheel.

    Very good post this is.

    ReplyDelete
  4. @Schunga
    Thanks. Go for it. You may be disappointed though. Many are unabashedly shameless about the practice and will just resort to telling you how clean the car is and convincing you that the adjustment is factored in selling price. In a funny way, Kenyans (both buyers and sellers) have so widely accepted this practice that they no longer see it as outrightly wrong. Thus rather than conning or stealing or thieving or cheating, it is now termed "adjusting". The euphemism to me betrays how accepted it has become.

    @OtienoHongo
    Thanks. I am glad to offer information that may be useful. Even if not for today, at least for tomorrow.

    @SupremeGREAM
    Thank you. It is tough. I think car sellers have such a bad rep now that even when we spell out a very logical case with plenty of evidence, some will still see it as just another b.s sales spiel and still compare what you offer to what is evidently not genuine.

    It can be discouraging sometimes especially when people dismiss facts out of hand without making any effort to ascertain truth or otherwise of what you may be saying but on the other hand when you do come across those who want legit cars, they tend to keep coming back and also recommending others.

    Another factor often overlooked when one buys an adjusted car is; it is often the case that the doctored mileage cars while seeming cheap are quite over-priced i.e. if one went and bought a legit 170,000 km car, they would pay less than they do when they buy a car that they know is adjusted thinking that they have factored in any adjustment into price.

    ReplyDelete
  5. very nice post this. . will be using the JVEC resource from now. .

    ReplyDelete
  6. This is very informative, thanks

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks! This will really assist in doing "due diligence"!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hello form Japan!
    Sure you are right,we do also same thing to check each single car before actual export and it shows that sometimes cars even in Japan are tempered however in time of JEVIC inspection REAL mileage is written in.
    In case if you have any request or looking for trustworthy partner in japan mail me anytime at fedorov@hanakou-motors.co.jp I am sure can get any car of your choice and deliver it to Mombasa at normal reasonable prices...

    ReplyDelete
  9. im searching for a car... and was surprised that most cars had mileage of just 50000km or thereabouts.... thereby having a high price tag.. is this genuine? as ive heard the same cars are orignally bought having mileage of well over 120000km!

    ReplyDelete
  10. @Nita
    From my personal experience most 2004 cars on the local market with mileage under 50,000 km are not genuine.

    I advise anyone buying a car to do all due diligence. Insist on seeing a copy of the original JEVIC certificate, ensure you verify it's details with JEVIC (you might need to call or email JEVIC Japan).

    As at now, JEVIC is probably the best method of checking on mileage veracity.

    ReplyDelete
  11. company is one of the reputable and well-known used cars exporting company in automotive world.
    SBT Japan

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks for the info. I once busted a dealer presenting to me an extrail with 46000. I did not go to jevic site, but instead I goggled for the chassis number and there popped up the same car, same photos the dealer had used, from a yard in japan, and it read 146000. A whooping 100000km slash. I then imported for myself a genuine 104000km. Goolgling as above is a chance event as not all dealer in japan list the full chassis number.

    ReplyDelete
  13. :D Good stuff and very good article to enlighten the less suspecting buyers just willing to flash and spend their cash unknowingly. Keep it up boss

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  14. And that's the good part of owning a Toyota car. I'm impressed with the mileage of this car. That's quite reliable and efficient.

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