Historic auction earns 11.6 billion kip; PM's car draws highest bid
A historic auction of 14 luxury cars withdrawn from government leaders has earned 11.6 billion kip with the BMW driven by Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith attracting the highest bid at the public sale held at the National Convention Centre yesterday.
More than 50 people including representatives of companies and banks registered to bid for the 14 cars, comprising seven BMW 730 LI and seven Mercedes Benz S350, which have all been in use since 2012.
The spotlight was on the BMWs as they were previously driven by the country's top leaders including President Bounnhang Vorachit, Vice President Phankham Viphavanh, Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith and President of the National Assembly Ms Pany Yathotou.
A starting price was set at 830 million kip for each of the BMWs and 500 million kip for each of the Mercedes Benz regardless of the distance they had been driven.
Among the seven BMWs, the car previously driven by Prime Minister Thongloun attracted the biggest offers with the bids climbing to 1.33 billion kip (more than US$162,000) - almost the same price as that charged for a brand new BMW 730 LI, which goes for US$170,000 in a Lao showroom.
A local businessman, Mr Thonglith Kingkeo-oudom, won the bid for the current prime minister's car.
The BMWs driven by Mr Phankham Viphavanh and Ms Pany Yathotou attracted the second and third highest bids of 1.3 billion kip and 970 million kip respectively. The lowest offer for a BMW was 850 million kip.
The highest price offered for a Mercedes Benz was 780 million kip (more than US$96,000) and the lowest was 520 million kip (almost US$64,000). The cost of a full-option brand new Mercedes Benz in Lao showrooms is about US$155,000.
Speaking at the event, a member of the committee in charge of the car withdrawal and auction, Mr Khamlavanh Chanthalavanh, said the auction was a historic occasion and the first of its kind by giving members of the public the chance to bid for a vehicle previously driven by a top government official.
The BMWs had clocked up distances ranging from just over 2,000km to almost 21,000km, while the Mercedes registered just over 1,000km to a little more than 19,000km.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Somdy Duangdy supervised the auction, which was attended by hundreds of officials and businesspeople.
The withdrawal of the cars from government leaders followed by the auction is a momentous and significant step by the current leadership, which announced that leaders of all state organisations would no longer drive expensive luxury cars as part of austerity measures.
Yesterday's auction was the first, with more to follow. Additional luxury vehicles that were purchased for use in state affairs will be taken back along with extra cars that were provided to leading officials and will also be sold at auction, the government has announced.
In total, 36 Mercedes-Benz comprising 15 S-Class and 21 E-Class cars were purchased for use in state affairs by central and local departments, such as for receiving foreign guests, while some were assigned to high-ranking officials. This figure includes the cars that were auctioned yesterday.
By Souksakhone Vaenkeo
(Latest Update March 01, 2017)