The BS-III Chapter finally ended arbitrarily. All roads led to two-wheeler dealers, for the last two days of March. Dealers were flooded with inquiries, so much that they had to hire additional staff to answer prospective customers. Crowded showrooms, frantic sales associates struggling to handle three to four customers at a time… total chaos.
If you’re wondering what this ruckus was all about, welcome to the great Indian bazaar. In this country, when the apex court banned sale of a specific generation of two-wheelers in the interest of public health, the repercussion became euphoric, contrary to the expectations. Immediately, there was a mad scramble to buy precisely the same vehicle which had been banned from sale, leaving economists and environmentalists scratching their balding pates! This can happen only in India!
The Supreme Court banned the sale and registration of all vehicles that are not compliant with the Bharat Stage (BS) – IV emission norms with effect from 1st April, 2017. Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta announced the judgement on 30th March 2017. The automobile industry was taken aback. They had an unsold inventory of more than eight lakh vehicles, mostly two-wheelers. With just two days to dispose the unsold stock, the dealers’ network went into a tizzy. Sales teams churned out flash discounts from Rs 10,000/- to 50,000/-, depending upon the model, to lure customers. One dealer in Mumbai was even compelled to call in the cops to manage the frenzy! What a brazen example of our love for discounts and freebies!
The crux of the issue was that BS-III vehicles use a mechanical fuel pump. This contraption generates polluting gasses owing to inefficient fuel utilisation. Toxic gasses spewed out by these vintage mechanisms include carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide and many more particulate emissions, which are highly detrimental to public health.
The automobile lobby submitted to the Supreme Court that the ban was not justified as the manufacturers had not been restricted from making BS-III vehicles up to 31st March 2017. Hence, banning the sale and registration abruptly from 1st April 2017 would lead to huge unsold inventories. The lobby pleaded for time to clear their stocks in the market, which was promptly denied by the Supreme Court.
The learned Amicus Curiae (an impartial advisor to a court of law) highlighted the deeply damaging impact on public health as a result of the rising pollution levels in the country.
It is not that the decision came as a bolt from the blue for the automobile industry. It was already declared, as far as in 2010, that the ban on BS-III vehicles shall apply from April 2017. The Government of India assured the Supreme Court that the required quality of fuel for BS-IV compliant vehicles shall be made available across the country from 1st April 2017. Owing to this assurance, the Supreme Court had decided to place public health on top of its priority list and enforce the ban on vehicles not compliant with BS-IV norms as predetermined from 1st April 2017 onward. The Court further ordered the vehicle registration authorities to decline registration of vehicles that are not compliant with BS-IV emission standards. The only leeway given in this regard is that if sufficient proof is provided to the authorities that the vehicle was purchased on or before 31st March 2017, then the registration of the said vehicle shall be permitted.
Now this throws up another question. What happens to used BS-III vehicles re-sold after 31st March 2017?
This question can be answered by considering another significant potential milestone. The Government plans to implement BS-VI with effect from 1st April 2020. This means BS-V norms would be bypassed and BS-VI would be directly enforced from the current BS-IV. So, the vehicles you plan to buy in this mega sale window may not be more than the junk value in 2020. At the same time, the Government also plans to introduce a policy for scrapping obsolete vehicles. If this policy comes into force, there would be an exit route for disposing the redundant vehicles.
Meanwhile, first off the block in this race to completely shift production to BS-IV compliant vehicles was our desi Maruti Udyog. The Company proactively switched over to BS-IV standards much earlier. As a consequence, MUL faces the least heat owing to the above fatwa. The others are in a race to liquidate their inventories. Hence the gala sale craze that was unleashed in the last few days of March.
If you have been procrastinating to buy a two-wheeler for ages, you could buy a BS-III compliant two-wheeler at heavily discounted prices in this Sale Mela. But Caveat Emptor principle prevails – beware of ending up with a lemon. Verify the manufacturer’s invoice for the date of sale. It has to be on or before 31st March 2017.
Driving/ riding a BS-III vehicle will not pose any issues. Fuel available for BS-IV vehicles is also compatible for BS-III vehicles. Besides, there is no restriction as of now on mobility.
Once you’ve got tired of the vehicle, you can also sell it within the state in which you bought it. Transfer of name is possible without having to re-register the vehicle. However, if you move to a state different from the one in which you bought the vehicle, you will not be able to get it registered in the new state. In short, resale of the vehicle will be restricted to the state in which it was bought.
So pause and think. Do you really need that two-wheeler desperately? Are you willing to buy a safer and more fuel efficient vehicle in a few days or months? Are you sincerely concerned about the poisonous air you and all of us breathe? Are the discounts so attractive that you are blinded by the offers?
Your answers will determine your decision.