Four e-taxi drivers switch cars, one sues dealer

Save for one, Thunder Motors has taken back all second hand electric-taxis 

Transport: Almost two months after they executed a legal agreement, four electric car drivers have returned their cars to the vehicle dealer, Thunder Motors while one has filed a case at the Thimphu district court.

The lone e-taxi driver, Yeshi Tshering said he went to court on September 29 because Thunder Motors breached the agreement they had earlier agreed to abide by.

On July 23, the drivers and the vehicle dealer signed an agreement, which stated that the drivers could keep their cars and along with it, the dealer would compensate each of them with Nu 200,000 each.

In the agreement, it was also agreed that with this settlement, Thunder Motors would then not have anything to do with issues of the e-taxi drivers. Conditions on using the quick charger were also stated in the agreement.

The cheques issued were dated September 24, to be withdrawn a month later.

On August 26, the chief executive officer of Thunder Motors, (Dr) Tashi Wangchuk, referring to the mutual agreement, wrote to the five e-taxi drivers stating that they were all issued the cheque as requested, yet complaints continued.

“To our disappointment, we are still getting incessant complaints and harassment on a daily basis, which badly hampers our business,” the letter stated. “As such, the management of Thunder Motors has taken the ultimate decision to buy back all the cars.”

The drivers were requested to bring back the cars and negotiate the price with depreciation depending on the duration of the use and the condition of the car.  “We would like to remind you that the cheques which we issued shall remain blocked till we resolve the matter amicably once and for all, and the above agreement shall be null and void,” the letter stated.

In response to the letter, the e-taxi drivers on September 3 wrote to Thunder Motors saying they will stand by their agreement and if not, will go to court.  “They weren’t wiling to take the cars back when we first suggested and now they want to take it back,” Yeshi Tshering said.

The five had agreed to settle for a compensation of Nu 200,000 and the car, he said, since they found that the monetary compensation suitable for the 80km mileage the second hand e-taxis were giving.

Meanwhile, towards the last week of September, three e-taxi drivers, Kencho Tshering, the first cabbie to go electric, Tandin Gyeltshen and Chen Tshering, who drives the taxi in Punakha, returned their cars to Thunder Motors.

According to Kencho Tshering, Thunder Motors had offered to take back the cars, waive off the 10 percent depreciation costs, the five percent ownership transfer cost, clear the remaining loans the drivers had availed to buy the e-cars and refund the money they had paid in cash to buy the e-cars.

“I was refunded the Nu 400,000 that I paid initially and other costs were also waived off, which was a good deal for me,” he said. “The offer was convenient.”

Kencho Tshering added that since the e-car is a 2011 model with a lifespan of five years, he said he would not be allowed to drive the car after four years.

It was for these reasons that he and other drivers decided to return the cars.

Dorji Wangdi, another e-taxi driver was the last one to return the car to Thunder Motors. He said he was paid Nu 200,000.

“I was reluctant to accept their offer initially and had agreed to go to court,” Dorji Wangdi said. “After we were told that there was a government order to buy back the cars, I decided to return it.”

No government order was shown to him but he said it was time he brought an end to the issue.

Yeshi Tshering however alleges that the amount that was refunded to the drivers varied and that according to him, his refund amount should be Nu 600,000 for the Nu 300,000 he paid and not Nu 400,000 as the dealer had offered.

He said he asked to be compensated with Nu 600,000 or be allowed to keep the car with the Nu 200,000 that was given initially agreed as compensation.

Yeshi Tshering said the opposition party also only used them to raise the issue in the Parliament and that they have received no further queries on how the issue has evolved.

“Although I don’t understand why they are buying back the cars despite the loss, I’ve decided to go ahead with the case,” he said.

Meanwhile, the drivers who returned the cars have placed their orders for new petrol cars and said that Thunder Motors has agreed to also get their taxi registration done given the existing restrictions for new taxis in Thimphu and Phuentsholing.

Thunder Motors’ CEO (Dr) Tashi Wangchuk said he has no comments to make since the case is subjudice.

Sonam Pelden

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