The dealers are staring at a bleak future after the Kebs moved to enforce a tough restriction on the importation of used car parts meant to kick off in July.
In a notice sent out to pre-shipment cargo inspectors, the standards agency has specified 17 categories of second-hand spare parts that are banned from entry into the country in a policy shift intended to rid the market of the used car parts.
Kebs Corporate Communications Manager Phoebe Gituku has said the restriction applies only to used car parts.
"The used motor vehicle spare parts are not to be imported. This is outlined in the Standard and implementation began in March 2018. Kebs has only restricted the used spare parts, not new ones," said Kebs Corporate Communications Manager Phoebe Gituku.
Car parts like tyres, tie-rod-ends, bearings, spark plugs, clutch plates, brake pads, tubes, brake hose pipes, rubber bushes, filters, pressure plates, rack ends, ball joints, break and clutch cables among others will now be imported only as new as per Kebs standard KS2190:2013.
The move, however, will be a blow to the hundreds of thousands of motorists who heavily rely on used motor vehicle spares, which are relatively cheaper and sometimes of better quality than new imports that mainly come from China, Taiwan, India and Indonesia.
Tens of thousands of Kenyans are engaged in the used parts trade, mainly based in Nairobi’s Kirinyaga Road, Grogon and industrial areas with others scattered across major towns around the country.
The Kenya Used Motor Parts Importers Association (KUMPIA), a lobby group of used car parts dealers, said members stand to suffer huge losses from the proposed policy changes.
“It is not realistic to allow people to import used cars from Japan and then restrict imports of parts. We have invested a lot in this trade, we usually buy used cars in Japan before (extracting) parts from them, we don’t just buy parts as isolated materials the way some people may imagine," KUMPIA Secretary-General Eliud Riika told Business Daily.
The Kenya Auto Bazaar Association secretary-general, Charles Munyori, echoed Riika’s sentiment and said the proposal would unfairly punish users of second-hand spare parts.
"I don’t think they are being genuine and you can see the whole conspiracy from the new motor vehicle dealers to take over the spares market as well. The government is not likely to achieve much because even the salvage motor vehicles still generate a significant portion of the second-hand parts. Some of the so called new parts are fake and break down very fast," said Mr Munyori.
Kenyans spent upwards of Sh10.1 billion last year on importation of motor vehicle spare parts, most of which were second-hand, based on motorists’ preference, data from Economic Survey 2019 shows.
Kebs new policy is part of the government’s agenda to gradually phase out second-hand vehicles with the ultimate aim of creating substantial demand for new, locally-assembled vehicles.
In recent months, the Ministry of Industrialisation has been developing regulations under a controversial National Automotive Policy, that is yet to be agreed on by all stakeholders, intended to restrict import of used cars that are older than five years, arguing that this will boost local manufacturers and create high-quality jobs in the long run.
The government has continually blamed the importation of used motor vehicles and used spares for stifling the growth of the local vehicles assembly plants that are currently operating at an average of 16 percent, producing just about 5,000 vehicles against an installed capacity of 34,000 vehicles in a single shift.
"To address the challenges affecting the vehicle industry, including the lack of dedicated legal, institutional regulatory framework, importation of parts by franchise holders instead of procuring from local parts manufacturers, influx of used fully-built units, among others, the National Automotive Policy was developed," reads a February 2019 draft of the policy released by the Ministry of Trade and Industrialisation.
The law currently allows import of second-hand vehicles that are up to eight years old.