From Korea to Idlib, Car dealers in Idlib complain recession, high costs

Cars for sale in Sarmada, northern Idlib – January 29, 2024 (Enab Baladi/Anas al-Khouli)

Cars for sale in Sarmada, northern Idlib – January 29, 2024 (Enab Baladi/Anas al-Khouli)


Idlib – Anas al-Khouli

Car dealers in Idlib, northwest Syria, are complaining of financial losses due to the increased shipping costs and taxes imposed on car imports during their journey from the country of origin to Idlib, in addition to market speculation and the flooding of local markets with cars.

Mohammed Youssef al-Khal, owner of “Al-Hoot” car trading company, told Enab Baladi that the car market in Idlib has become very bad in recent weeks, with sales dropping by 75%, and traders are sometimes forced to sell cars at a loss to dispose of the stock they have.

The trader attributed the decline in market activity to the closure of trade routes to the eastern areas that traders relied on to distribute their goods, and some traders in Idlib importing quantities exceeding the market’s needs, leading to a supply and demand imbalance, as well as changes in shipping methods and the need for maintenance of imported cars after they arrive.

The cars come from Korea to Iskenderun in Turkey and then to the Bab al-Hawa border crossing in Idlib, where they are offered for sale in a public auction in the free zone in Sarmada, and the car is sold at the best price within the auction.

Trader al-Khal added that the excess supply in the public auction reduced car prices by a range between 25 and 30%, which means a loss for the trader of about $50 per car (each dollar is equal to 30.5 Turkish lira), indicating that traders rely on the profit margins of some modern cars to cover the losses.

Modern cars with conditions

Turkey allows car traders in Idlib to import used European cars and cross through its territory only for models issued up to ten years ago. Cars produced after this date require special permission to enter through Turkish territory to Idlib.

Mustafa Ahmad al-Qud, a resident of Sarmada and a customs clearance agent for cars, told Enab Baladi that Turkey allows the import of used European cars up to the 2013 model, while newer cars require special entry permission, which costs up to $2,000.

As for the trader Mohamed Salim, owner of “Trans” car trading company, he said he buys cars from Korea at a price ranging between $1,000 and $2,000 approximately, for cars of models from 2005 to 2008.

After buying the cars in Korea, the trader ships the cars to Turkey under the name of one of the Turkish companies and informs the Turkish company about the cars he shipped, which in turn receives the cars as indicated in the bill of lading, and then ships them to Syria.

According to Salim, the cost of shipping a single car from Korea to Turkey amounts to $1,300, with an additional $550 as customs fees in Turkey, $550 shipping costs from Turkey to Idlib, $235 customs fees at the Bab al-Hawa crossing, and $60 for car plates installation, and all these amounts are added to the original price of the car before selling it so that the trader does not incur any losses.

Damage from shipping method

European cars are shipped by sea from Korea to Turkey, and shipping companies used to transfer cars via dedicated carriers, where cars would park next to each other on the maritime carrier. Today, cars are disassembled in Korea then placed in shipping containers, and shipped to Turkey to be reassembled, resulting in damage to the cars during transport.

Mohammed Youssef al-Khal, owner of “Al-Hoot” company, said that previously, traders imported cars on a dedicated maritime carrier known as “RoRo” which accommodates 2,000 cars, but transport companies decided to stop using the “RoRo” and ship cars in containers instead.

Al-Khal added that traders today are forced to dismantle the cars and cram four of them into a shipping container to reduce the burden of shipping, leading to severe damages to the cars, especially the rear and front windows, which often break.

Traders ship high-priced cars ensuring only two per container to maintain them, according to the trader.

Bassam Hakura, who works in car maintenance, told Enab Baladi that he contracts with car traders to repair them as soon as they arrive before displaying them in the market, noting that cars previously arrived from the port in good condition and might sustain minor damages.

Today, however, cars come out of the transport containers in bad shape, especially the front and rear end (the bonnet), requiring maintenance that lasts three days to a week depending on the damage, as well as replacing the glass due to breakage from the impacts during transportation, according to the maintenance worker.

A long journey

The tension in the Red Sea (targeting British and American ships by the Houthis) has affected most sea shipping companies, forcing them to change their shipping route from the Red Sea to circling around the African continent, leading to increased shipping costs for traders and prolonging the delivery time for the goods to reach the markets.

Osama Raslan, of the “Al-Rashed and Raslan” car trading company in Sarmada, said to Enab Baladi that the shipping journey 40 days ago used to take a full month, but today it is expected to take three months, noting that his cargo he has shipped has not arrived for a month and a half.

Raslan added that changing sea transport routes and the length of the journey have negatively affected car prices, with an increase of $400 to $800 per car due to the doubling of shipping costs, pointing out that the cost of shipping a container rose from $3,000 to $6,000.

Most traders have stopped importing currently, due to the higher shipping costs and the length of the sea voyage, and losses suffered by traders due to the excess supply and lack of demand, which has led them to rely on their current stock and take their time selling it until the situation stabilizes.

Modern cars of various types are widespread in areas of northwest Syria, and they are popular with residents of the region due to their competitive prices compared to other control areas.

The average price of a car of the “Tucson 2008” model ranges from $3,200 to $3,600, and the “Santa Fe 2005” model is priced between $2,900 and $3,400.


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