Anyone who has observed the car market in Pakistan before the 90s should be well aware of the variety of car buying options available for a buyer. Although car leasing was non-existent back then, which means the number of cars sold in a year was less than what is sold today, the car buying options were way more than what was made available after the 90s.
During the early 90s car imports were tightened in order to get the local auto industry on its feet. By 1991 Suzuki started operating their Bin Qasim plant while a couple of years later Indus Motors started to produce the local assembled Corolla in 1993 while Atlas Honda rolled out their first locally assembled Civic in 1994.
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Since then not only the number of options was restricted, but the ability for a buyer to choose among different trim levels was gone. For example during the 80s, if one was to buy a 1000cc hatchback he was able to choose between Suzuki Swift, Daihatsu Charade, Toyota Starlet, Nissan Pulsar etc.
Not only this but each vehicle was available in multiple trim levels, the Daihatsu Charade for instance was available in CF, CX, CS, GTTi, GTXX trims in 2-door/ 4-door, petrol/ diesel/ turbo, high roof/ low roof, and was available in different color coded interiors. Compare this to the only 1000cc hatchback of the 90s, the Suzuki Khyber which was available in only 1 trim, one engine, one transmission, single color interior, no metallic color (except Limited Edition) and lacked features which were common in the cars from previous decades such as matching bumpers, retract side mirrors, adjustable head rests etc.
It was again during the previous decade when the used car imports were allowed in Pakistan and that showed literally a day n night difference between what was produced in Pakistan versus that available elsewhere. Initially even 10 year old vehicles were allowed under different import schemes and opened the doors to all sorts of used Japanese cars including sedans, hatchbacks as well as compact SUVs.
A 10 year imported used car offered so much more than the locally available options that people rushed to buy these cars in large numbers. Mitsubishi Mini Pajero and Toyota Vitz were among the hot favorite imports. Other popular car emerged during the previous decade were the Toyota Premio/ Allion, the JDM Corolla, Belta, the JDM Suzuki Alto, Daihatsu Mira as well as the Accord CL7/9 and Mark-X among the luxury options.
In 2006, a local assembled brand new Cultus VXL used to cost around PKR 6.3 lac while the Hyundai Santro Exec by Dewan was available at around PKR 6.8 lac, however a good condition Toyota Vitz in 2006 was available in just under PKR 5.5 lac while the 2-door versions were even cheaper. The locally available options (Cultus, Santro) despite being expensive didn’t even offered half of what was available in a Vitz, moreover the comparative quality of locally produced vehicles was too inferior.
In recent years the age limit of used cars was restricted because these imports were badly affecting the local automobile sales but the fact remains that even today an imported [used] vehicle offers more value for money and safety equipment that’s on par compared to high-priced local assembled vehicles.
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Other than the available features, the build quality between the local assembled cars versus the ones being imported has a significant difference. Even after all these years, the quality of local assembled cars is yet unable to meet the export standards.
It’s not just the features and the build quality of imported cars; it’s the use of modern technology that makes a huge difference. The imported vehicles are equipped with sophisticated technology that allows car buyers to enjoy an unmatched ownership experience as well as unparalleled fuel economy. Technology such as regenerative braking, auto-idling, push-start, smart entry system etc can only be found in imported cars, these are the features which are present as standard even in smaller cars across the globe. On the contrary the vehicles assembled and sold in Pakistan largely remind us of the history.
Another key advantage of buying an imported car is the delivery period, which in case of local assembled cars can go as long as 7 months. On top of that paying an extra amount which is commonly known as Own/ Premium adds to the dilemma of buying a local assembled car. Going for an imported car means you can get your vehicle much quicker while there is no need to pay premium.
However, the main drawback in opting for a used imported vehicle is expensive maintenance; parts of most vehicles (Suzuki Hustler, Mitsubishi Mirage etc) aren’t frequently available in the market. However if you go for popular models such as the Toyota Vitz or Daihatsu Mira, the spares are relatively easier to get, but are costly compared to those of local assembled cars.
The other drawback is the presence of accidental imports in the market, since looking at their (JDMs) success most importers are bringing in accidental vehicles in large numbers. In most cases these vehicles have went through severe damage and are repaired in Pakistan before being sold in the market.
It’s always good to buy an imported vehicle with trusted sellers having genuine auction sheets. If you are able to get your hands on such a vehicle there is nothing like to have a JDM vehicle in your garage, off course if you are able to afford one. But if by chance you get your hands on a lemon, life can become miserable for you.
The auto policy has opened up doors for more manufacturers to open their shops in our country, but the used imports remain a big hurdle even for the newcomers willing to operate their business in Pakistan. However it stands true that as long as local assembled cars are substandard in terms of quality and lacks value for money and safety equipment, used JDM cars will always remain popular among potential buyers.
What is your preference when it comes to buying a car in Pakistan? Cast your vote below and let us know in the comment section.
A 3d animation professional with over 20 years of industry experience having served in leading organizations & production facilities of Pakistan, an avid car enthusiast and petrolhead with an affection to deliver writings to help shape opinions. Formerly written for PakWheels as well as major publications including Dawn. Founder of CarSpiritPK.com