Another hammer blow for motorists in South Africa

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The imposition of provisional higher excise duties on tires imported from China to South Africa is a major blow to road safety in the country and should be reversed immediately, the Automobile Association (AA) says.

The group said it expects consumers already in conflict to shy away from paying higher prices for tires and, unfortunately, continue to use tires that are in poor condition because they can’t afford the new prices.

Earlier this month, the government announced the addition of a 38.33% duty on tires imported from China. This is in addition to the existing excise duties between 25% and 30%. Locally sold tires are now subject to an excise duty of between 63.33% and 68.33%.

The increase in excise duties comes after the South African Tire Manufacturers Conference (SATMC) argued against the International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC) that tires were being imported into South Africa at “unreasonably low prices”. This, SATMC said, is detrimental to the local tire industry.

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However, the Tire Importers Association of South Africa (TIASA) says that even local manufacturers import up to 80% of the variety of tire models they do sell and question the rationale behind the increased tax.

The AA said that while the bickering over the reasons for the increased excise taxes continues, already financially overburdened consumers will ultimately bear the brunt of the decision.

“Raising fuel prices have increased food prices and increased private and public transport costs. Those with private transport will now have to pay more for tires – essential safety equipment on vehicles – something we don’t believe will happen.

“Public transport providers such as buses and taxis will not pay the new prices or simply pass the increases on to their passengers. Both options are unacceptable,” the association said.

According to official statistics from the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), 12,541 people died on the country’s roads in 2021.

Human error, environmental conditions (e.g. poor visibility, sharp turns, wet/slippery surfaces and stray/wild animals), and vehicle factors such as burst or slippery tires, poor brakes and defective headlights contributed to these deaths. Bursting and slippery tires contributed to 49% of deaths in this category, by far the largest element in terms of vehicle factors causing road deaths.

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“Tires are vital parts of safety equipment and we always advise drivers to have them checked regularly and replaced if necessary. Of course, we also recommend that drivers budget these costs as part of their overall vehicle ownership. But the reality is that the new prices will significantly increase tire replacement costs, forcing many motorists to run on tires they shouldn’t. We believe that the number of punctures will increase significantly as a result,” said the AA.

It said public transport users are also at risk. “Operators who do not want to spend the extra money on new tires will continue to drive with tires in poor condition or use inferior ‘remanufactured’ tires, endangering the lives of their passengers and other road users. The increased prices of tires will, simply put, cause major road safety problems in the future.”

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The association says it supports calls from organizations such as TIASA to reverse the decision to add the extra excise taxes.

“The government’s approach should focus on job creation and a sustainable economy, supported by stronger measures to curb corruption and ensure the proper allocation of resources. In our view, the issues surrounding tire prices are systemic to deeper issues within the governance of the country’s economy, and consumers are now once again being asked to shoulder the burden.

“The government should immediately reverse the introduction of the extra tax and find a better, more sustainable solution to the problem in the tire sector that does not negatively affect consumers,” it said.


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