Nepali-made Bella auto rickshaw a dud, buyers sayAfter the rickshaws stopped working, all four buyers returned their vehicles to the showroom saying that they had been cheated.
Breadwinner Bed Prakash Jain is 60 years old and works in a tile shop. He gets a monthly salary of Rs15,000 which is barely enough to feed his family of six. So he thought he would earn some extra money by driving an auto rickshaw.
Jain took a loan and bought a three-wheeler to transport goods from Bella Motors, a Nepali electric vehicle manufacturer. But the vehicle was a disaster.
“The rickshaw I had bought with borrowed money for Rs643,000 did not run well for even a month,” said Jain.
He is not alone in his frustration. Deepak Bhattarai, Rashid Alam and Asamuddin Khan had also bought rickshaws from Bella Motors. They all had the same problem. Their three-wheelers sputtered to a stop after a few weeks.
Aarti Buddha Automobiles of Birtamod is a dealer for Bella Motor’s two- and three-wheelers.
After the rickshaws stopped working, all four buyers returned their vehicles to the showroom saying that they had been cheated.
“Before buying the vehicle, we were told that it was made in Nepal and had very promising features,” said Deepak Bhattarai of Buddha Shanti.
According to him, they had been told that the rickshaw would run for 35 km on a litre of petrol, and that it could carry a load of 1 tonne.
As for other features of the rickshaw, they had been told that it was fitted with a powerful 300 cc, 4-stroke engine, it had a maximum speed of 60 km per hour and a hydraulic boom cargo type carrier with big and strong wheels.
“They were all lies," Bhattarai said. He said that the vehicle did not give a mileage of even 10 km per litre.
“The rickshaw stops suddenly and anywhere. The engine gets overheated, and sometimes the vehicle starts by itself. Such problems started appearing within a week of buying the rickshaw,” he said.
Three-wheelers or auto rickshaws have emerged as an alternative for low-income people in the southern Tarai districts. Students and farmers have been the biggest beneficiaries of this vehicle which is relatively inexpensive.
Farmers can drive to the customers' door and transport their harvest to market, and students can reach school on time and without hustle and bustle. Three-wheelers have also emerged as an affordable and accessible means of transport for all.
But for Bhattarai, Khan and Jain, their rickshaws proved to be a nightmare.
“The company said it had a mileage of 35 km per litre. But the fuel dries out within a few moments,” Jain said. "After travelling for 1-2 km with cargo, the rickshaw breaks down,” he said.
Alam of Baharadashi said that he was forced to return the rickshaw to the showroom as he was not able to make instalment payments on the loan he had taken from a cooperative as it required daily repair.
Bella Motors produces three-wheeler rickshaws under the Bella brand at its factory in Hetauda.
Tika Odari, proprietor of Aarti Buddha Automobiles, Birtamod, said the rickshaws were returned as all the features stated in the advertisement were false.
"Those who bought the rickshaw are in trouble. Less than a week after customers took the rickshaws from the showroom, I started getting phone calls with almost everybody saying that the vehicles had broken down,” Odari said.
“We tried to repair them many times. Even the company's technicians came and fixed them, but they did not work,” he said.
After many complaints, the showroom stopped selling the rickshaw, Odari said.
Bella Motors has not responded. “I am repeatedly contacting them, but there is no response from them,” Odari said. "The buyers have taken back their money. We have yet to hear from the company.”
According to the Department of Customs, the country imported 3,024 auto rickshaws worth Rs497.78 million in the last fiscal year 2020-21 ended mid-July 2021. Nepal imports auto rickshaws from India.
The import growth of auto rickshaws has been phenomenal. According to the department, auto rickshaw imports in the first seven months ended mid-February totalled 3,460 units worth Rs599.2 million, almost a two-fold jump year on year.
Imports in the first seven months of the last fiscal year came to 1,225 units worth Rs193.69 million.