LAST year was a boon for some auto buyers because the government issued tax-exempt
certificates to select government and military officials. Estimates of the number
of certificates in circulation last year range from 200-400.
The certificates gave a significant boost to sales, particularly for highly taxed
prestige vehicles like Toyota Land Cruisers and Mercedes-Benzes.
The tax-exempt certificates increased Toyota's sales in the tax-free segment by 50-60
percent in 1996, estimates Tomonori Ume-hara, President of TTHK Co Ltd, a subsidiary
of Toyota Tsusho Corp. The most popular model, "Land Cruiser", costs $35,000-$43,000
with full options before taxes. Automobiles are usually purchased in cash, as most
distributors do not offer financing.
Sales in 1996 were "quite successful" for Mercedes primarily due to the
tax-exempt certificates, according Ung Chiv of Mercedes-Benz distributor Hung Hiep
(Cambodia). "If the government issued more [certificates], it would be good
for Mercedes," he says.
Although intended for select government and military officials, many certificates
were traded on the market. The beginning of 1996 saw a certificate selling for roughly
$5000. By the end of the year, the price reached $15,000, observers say.