The number of imported used vehicles continued to decline, partly due to restriction of movements of movements and also due to the tax collector’s increased vigilance on grey imports.
According to Statistics Botswana’s recent Transport and Infrastructure report for the second quarter of 2020, only 5,281 motor vehicles were registered between April and June, the lowest record in more than 12 years. On a quarterly comparison, new vehicle registration fell by almost half from the10,326 automobiles registered in the first quarter of the year, and the decline was even much steeper, falling nearly times from the 17,299 registrations in the second quarter of 2019.
The significant drop in new registrations coincided with the nationwide lockdown that was implemented in April and was in place for 48 days, severely restricting movements of people and goods. Only essential services were allowed to operate during the lockdown period.
As has been the trend since 2005, the import of used cars dominated the nation’s total stock of vehicles. From the newly registered 5,281 vehicles in the second quarter, about 76 percent were used cars, while 24 percent were new, and 0.1 percent were rebuilt. Japan, makers of popular brands like Toyota and Honda, accounted for 65 percent of newly registered vehicles, with almost of them used. South Africa was the second biggest supplier, representing 22 percent of imports, and was also responsible for 80 percent supply of brand-new cars to Botswana.
Even in hard times, Toyota proved to be the most popular brand in Botswana, continuing the trend since the country gained independence, registering 39.1 percent of total first registrations in the second quarter of 2020. Despite being in the lead, sales of Toyota cars were down by 47 percent between the first two quarters of the year. Honda motor vehicles were the second preferred brand, representing 9.7 percent of imports and Mazda was the third favourite make, registering 8.7 percent of total first registrations. Volkswagen and Nissan made up 8.3 and 6.4 percent respectively.
Though the significant decline in registrations can be attributed to Covid-19 containment measures during the second quarter, the fall in new registrations began in late 2019 when Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) cracked on used cars dealers, accusing them of evading tax and has since increased their vigilance on imported cars, impounding some suspicious invoices that might undercut the taxman. New vehicle registrations declined by 45 percent in the first quarter of 2019 from the previous quarter following BURS’ crackdown.
The affordability of used cars has turned Botswana into a lucrative market, with the country’s national stock more than doubling from 33,413 in 2008 to 67,434 in 2019.