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Tue 9 Jun 2009 07:34 AM

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Saudi slaps import ban on older cars

Importers fear job losses after decision to ban vehicles that are more than five years old.

Saudi Arabia's Customs Department has started to stop the import of cars older than five years into the kingdom.

Importers have been given a six-month grace period in which to implement the new order, officials said, adding that the ban did not cover spare parts for older cars.

“The ban is on used cars, buses and other light goods vehicles more than five years old. Heavy vehicles more than 10 years old are also not allowed to be imported,” Suleiman Al-Tuwaijeri, director of the Customs Department at the Jeddah Islamic Port, said in comments published by Arab News on Tuesday.

But car importer Mustafa Baqsha told the paper that he thought the ban would be a disaster for workers in the used car market, adding that up to 80 percent could lose their jobs.

More than 140,000 used cars valued at SR17.5 billion ($4.6bn) were imported last year, accounting for 24 percent of total cars imported during the year.

Expressing his concern about the future of the market, Baqsha added: “I don’t know what I am going to do next as the ban is a blow to my business of 24 years.

“I hope the authorities would review or at least relax the decision to make the ban applicable to cars manufactured before 2000.”

Saleh Abdullah, another trader, told the paper that he was hit so hard that he has dismissed some of his workers and was moving to a cheaper building.

A meeting of the Automobile Committee of the Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce and Industry urged the authorities to relax the rule and ban cars older than eight years.

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