A dealership that sells Toyota Vigo Champ pickups is facing a moral dilemma over its business operations in Laos.
Purchasers of the Japanese brand vehicle have questioned why Toyota Motor Thailand Co, Ltd is operating double standards by making the vehicle available to customers willing to pay a higher price under the pretense that there is a shortage of supply.
At present, people can buy the pickup at Toyota Laothani for US$40,000, while those who can't afford this amount can buy the same vehicle at Lao Toyota Service for US$37,000 on the condition that they wait for at least four months before taking delivery.
Lao Toyota Service has told customers that supply of the pickup is very slow after the floods in Thailand led to the closure of manufacturing plants, so they must be patient. But Toyota Laothani has informed customers they do not have to wait for such a long time if they can pay US$40,000.
Customers have questioned why Toyota Thailand Company is supplying the vehicles to Toyota Laothani seemingly without restriction, making it possible for the company to deliver them to customers immediately, while not supplying the pickup to Lao Toyota Service.
Many suspect that Toyota Thailand Company is limiting supply to only Toyota Laothani as it asks a higher price, while others suggest that the Thai distributor is trying to hoard vehicles so as to raise prices and make a profit.
In trying to convince the public that the price is acceptable, sales staff have told customers that the increase is down to the insufficient supply of Toyota vehicles.
However, this reasoning appears flawed as people can buy the pickup immediately if they are happy to pay more.
Lao trade officials said they have not investigated the irregular increase in price because vehicles are not included in the list of price-controlled goods, so sellers do not need to seek permission from the government before upping the price.
Trade officials are now discussing how to deal with the issue, but it is understood that some still consider the situation to be acceptable on account of the shortage of vehicles.
According to lawyers, despite the trade officials having no authority to tell the car dealer what price they can sell the vehicle for, they can investigate whether the distributors and dealer are hoarding the goods to get a higher price.
It is illegal for traders to hoard goods for the purpose of gain as it can cause inflation and adversely affect the purchasing public.