Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 43, Tuesday, November 02, 2010


Cover story

the auto dream

When can a person be considered a success? The answer will vary according to who you are, and your set of values. Some might say it is when a person is happily married and the parent of happy and healthy children. Others might say real success comes only when the children have been educated and have grown up to be well-rounded individuals. For purely materialistic purposes, however, it can be agreed that the first step towards a commercially successful life is the acquisition of a car with one's own resources.

It's been a sort of tradition in this country to see the buying of the first car as a landmark event in one's life. The perennial complaint with the ever-worsening traffic notwithstanding, it can happily be reported that with a growing executive class, more people are thinking of buying their first car at a younger age than before.

“A large part of our clientele consists of the young executives buying their first vehicles,” said Ishtiaque Ahmed Fahmid, owner of showroom Falcon Autos in Kakrail. According to him, the typical age at which young executive takes the leap into auto ownership is thirty, which is not to say that there haven't been younger buyers. Generally, there is a certain process through which the buyer goes to acquire a car.

“Usually what happens is that employees in the corporate world get loans from their companies, or the companies assist their employees and facilitate the granting of loans from banks by supplying the relevant paperwork,” explained Fahmid. “It is rare that these executives are loaned the full amount. What often happens is that they get a loan for, say 10 lakh and make up the rest from their own resources.”

The car of choice will not be a surprise to any Dhaka resident. Toyota enjoys huge popularity among the city's motorists, and young executives are no different. Fahmid puts it down to the availability of spare parts, and the relatively low cost of maintenance. “The Toyota Corolla is very popular. The clientele you are talking of, young executives buying their first cars, want a vehicle that is going to have low maintenance costs. They usually get an allowance from their office for maintenance, and they would want a good car that they will be able to maintain within that budget.

“Also, the resale value has to be good, and because of the availability of spare parts and good service shops for these cars, cars like Corolla X and Probox are very popular among first-time buyers.”

The budget for first time buyers is usually within Tk.15 lakh. All the cars are reconditioned models and cars like the Toyota Corolla and Probox can be gotten within Tk.13-15 lakh. There are cheaper options in Chinese cars like GWM and Geely that have recently enjoyed some popularity in the Dhaka market.

“Brand new models of cars such as Geely and GWM can be bought at Tk.10 lakh, but they do not enjoy as much popularity as the reconditioned Toyota cars because of the latter's ease of maintenance and high resale value,” said Fahmid.

Acquiring cars the corporate way is not the only path to take for aspiring car buyers. The acquisition and restoration of old cars have been taking place for a long time in our country. Some make a hobby out of it, buying antique cars and restoring them to their former glory. But for the first-time buyers, the focus is on value for money - getting a car cheap, and restoring it into an efficient mode of transport.

Many of the criteria when choosing cars from a showroom are relevant when choosing an old, derelict car. Spare parts have to be readily available; all the more important when choosing old cars since, depending on the state of the car, a lot of the parts have to be changed and installed anew. Unlike reconditioned cars in showrooms though, the all-important decision is the present state of the car.

Taslim Ahmed, currently the owner of a Volkswagon Beetle that he has restored to drivable shape, and who previously drove a restored '74 model Toyota, explains the importance of making the right choice when buying old cars.

“The most important thing to look for is if the body is in good shape. By the body, I mean the alignment of the chassis and the suspension. If the chassis isn't aligned and the body is in too bad a shape, it is not worthwhile to restore the car, as reworking the whole body and the alignment is going to be difficult and very expensive. Also, if the suspension is shot, the cost of installing a new one will be too high and will make the exercise impractical,” Ahmed said.

It would be unwise to rely on your untrained eyes to decide whether the car is in good shape or not. According to Ahmed, it is advisable to take along a trusted mechanic. Some might say that finding a trusted mechanic is as difficult as selecting a good old car, but that's another story. At any rate, a mechanic who has had a long association with one's family or a friend's family should be there to help in the all-important decision. “A good mechanic can spot a faulty alignment that you won't even notice. It makes all the difference. Buy a car that is fundamentally flawed and you will spend a fortune on its maintenance,” added Ahmed.

The cost of the car to be bought will vary according to the state it is in and also the year it was made. “If you buy a car that was made before 1980, it will cost around fifty thousand, and later models like 80s and 90s models will cost around of 2.5 - 3 lakhs. Five years ago I bought a '74 model Toyota for Tk.30,000, and spent around 2 lakhs to fully restore it. Providing the chassis and suspension is in good shape, restoring a car takes around 2 lakh.”

Here again, the Toyota is most popular, and for the same reasons. “The best car for this purpose at the moment is the Toyota EE90. All the parts are readily available, and there are many servicing shops and body shops that service this type of car at low costs,” said Ahmed.

Restoring old cars is a good path to take, especially as there are so many decrepit cars lying around. But such excursions have to be entered into carefully as a wrong decision can end up costing one dearly. There is also an emotional aspect to it; with people often saying that restoring a car and seeing it emerge anew creates a sort of bond between man and machine.

Whether buying it from a showroom or restoring it from a broken down state, buying a first car is a big step in one's life. The world is the young executives' proverbial oyster, and Dhaka fortunately has many options to satisfy their wants.

Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed




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