Sales of new and used truck by US company Tyco dropped by 90 percent from 1999 to 2004 the company’s general manager John Stuart said.
The company sold 300 trucks in Zimbabwe in 1999 but this dropped to 24 in 2004.
The company did not sell a single truck in the first six months of 2004 because of new rules and tariffs.
Stuart said sales for parts had, however, increased three-fold as transport firms tried to lengthen the lifespan of their vehicles.
Stuart blamed the drop in sales on the exchange rate and tariffs introduced by central bank governor Gideon Gono.
Viewing cable 05HARARE295, TYCO TRUCK SALES OFF 90 PERCENT IN ZIMBABWE
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L HARARE 000295
AF/S FOR BNEULING
EB/IFD FOR FCHISHOLM
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVELLE, D. TEITELBAUM
TREASURY FOR OREN WYCHE-SHAW
DEPT PLEASE PASS TO ALL AFRICAN DIPLOMATIC POSTS
ALSO PASS TO USAID FOR MARJORIE COPSON
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2009
SUBJECT: TYCO TRUCK SALES OFF 90 PERCENT IN ZIMBABWE
Classified By: Ambassador Christopher Dell for reason 1.4 b/d
¶1. (C) Summary: The head of U.S. firm Tyco,s local
subsidiary told Econoff on February 10 that truck sales
plummeted 90 percent from 1999 to 2004. On a brighter note,
Tyco now sells three times as many parts as in 1999, since
transport firms are trying to lengthen the lifespan of each
vehicle. Still, the Tyco representative asserted that the
country’s aging truck fleet makes Zimbabwe’s roads
increasingly hazardous. End Summary.
Currency Auctions a “Joke;” Sales Plummet
¶2. (C) Tyco General Manager John Stuart told us his firm,s
local sales of new and used trucks in Zimbabwe peaked at 300
in 1999, then dropped in each of the subsequent four years.
Sales fell to a mere 24 in 2004. Stuart blamed the most
recent drop on the Reserve Bank (RBZ)’s currency auctions and
higher taxes. At the auctions, which RBZ Governor Gideon
Gono introduced in January 2004, Stuart said too many buyers
are chasing too little foreign exchange. Tyco’s potential
truck buyers came up empty repeatedly in a process Stuart
disparaged as a “joke.”
¶3. (C) Stuart said Gono’s decision to peg import duties to
the auction rather than the former official rate also
discouraged vehicle imports by raising the end-price of the
trucks, as duty on the trucks rose approximately 80-fold on
December 1, 2003. Finally, Gono tacked on a new 15-percent
value-added tax (VAT) to vehicle sales in January 2004. As
Tyco,s customers tried to come to terms with these new rules
and tariffs, the company did not sell a single truck during
2004’s first six months, according to Stuart.
¶4. (C) By July 2004, however, Stuart recalls that many of his
clients gave up on RBZ currency auctions and became
accustomed to acquiring foreign exchange through the parallel
market. Sales picked up and averaged six trucks per month
for 2004’s second half. Stuart said he knows of cases where
competing dealers that sell non-Tyco trucks have bribed
customs officials in order to escape payment of duty and VAT.
Dealers that resort to these measures often avoid long
delays for incoming new trucks at border stations, which in
Tyco’s case are often six weeks, Stuart said.
¶5. (C) While sales of imported new and used trucks have
suffered, Stuart noted that Tyco’s parts sales are booming.
The company turned over its parts stock three times in 1999,
but eight times in 2004. Stuart said transport firms are
apparently using older and older trucks, which is making
Zimbabwe’s roads more dangerous. Stuart said the country’s
Vehicle Inspection Department no longer spot-checks trucks
for safety compliance and only requires each transporter
bring its fleet to inspection points once each year. The
Tyco general manager knows of instances where truckers
swapped parts among vehicles to obtain annual certification
for the largest number of trucks.
¶6. (C) As Tyco’s case demonstrates, the RBZ,s managed and
overvalued exchange rate has not only hurt the country,s
exporters, who became less competitive during 2004, but also
importers, such as Tyco’s customers, who are unable to
purchase foreign exchange through official RBZ channels.
Moreover, when and if these importers brave the parallel
market, they pay a heavy premium and risk GO