The auctioning off of the first 14 luxury cars returned by Lao leaders concluded at the National Convention Center on Tuesday. Though this is the first of many auctions that will occur, the first batch of cars withdrawn from government officials has raked in an unprecedented 11.6 billion kip.
The Laotian Times reported earlier last month that leaders of all state organisations would forgo their expensive luxury cars as part of austerity measures, including Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith himself.
The Prime Minister received the highest bid on his previously owned BMW Series 7/730 LI at an astonishing 1.33 billion kip (estimated US$162,000) and was won by a local businessman, Mr Thonglith Kingkeo-oudom. An authorized Lao dealership informs that a brand new BMW 730 LI, is valued at an estimated US$170,000.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Somdy Duangdy supervised the auction, which was attended by hundreds of officials and entrepreneurs.
More than 50 participants attended the event, including representatives of companies and banks, registered to bid for the 14 cars. The fleet of luxury cars were comprised of seven BMW 730 LI and seven Mercedes Benz S350, which have all been in use since 2012.
The BMWs, all driven by the country’s top leaders, were the coveted stars of the auction floor with cars previously owned by 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 mileage displayed on the odometer.
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, while the lowest offer was 850 million kip.
The highest bid for a Mercedes Benz was 780 million kip (more than US$96,000) and the lowest was 520 million kip (almost US$64,000).
A member of the committee in charge of the car withdrawal and auction, Mr Khamlavanh Chanthalavanh, announced that 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 accumulated distances ranging from over 2,000km to almost 21,000km, while the Mercedes recorded just over 1,000km to slightly over 19,000km.
The withdrawal of the luxury vehicles from government leaders, followed by the auction is a momentous and significant step by the current leadership.
The government has announced that Tuesday’s auction was the first, with many more to follow. Remaining luxury vehicles that were purchased for use in state affairs will be reclaimed along with extra cars that were provided to leading officials and will also be up for bidding.