San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Vehicle Imports Show Sharp Increase

IMPORTS of cars, buses, motorcyclesand trucks to Costa Rica more thanquadrupled during the first quarter of thisyear, compared to the same period lastyear.Between January and March of thisyear, 17,000 motor vehicles were importedinto Costa Rica, compared to 4,000during the same period in 2003, the dailyLa Nación reported.During all of 2003, the countryimported 52,000 vehicles at a cost of $323million.During the first quarter of this year,Costa Rican importers spent $114 million.During the three-month period, the governmentcollected ¢23.7 billion ($54.5million) in import taxes on the vehicles,according to the General CustomsAdministration.Approximately 71% of the vehiclesimported during the first quarter of 2004are cars, 12% motorcycles, 11% trucksand 6% buses. One third of the vehicles(5,468) were imported from Japan andone fifth (3,345) from South Korea.About 60% of the vehicles importedare used. On average, imported usedvehicles have ten years of being in circulation.According to the government, the countryhas more than 730,000 motor vehicles incirculation, up from 179,941 in 1978.Experts attribute the increase inimports to increased demand for vehiclesas a result of better available financingschemes. It is now possible to purchase anew car for as low as $50 a month with adown payment. In many cases, dealershipscharge no interest during the firstmonth.In related news, in the next couple ofweeks most car dealerships will beginoffering 2005 vehicles. This could alsolower the price of remaining 2004 vehicles,experts say.

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