Mexico City: Out of register

Program to register vehicles goes awry

Mexico's scandal-riddled vehicle registration program appears to be nearing its end.

The program, called Renave, began last year. It was designed to combat car theft in Mexico. Consumers were required to register their vehicles with the government, but high fees and public outcry over how the program was handled caused chaos.

As if that was not enough, the man in charge was a former Argentine military officer wanted on charges of genocide and terrorism. Ricardo Miguel Cavallo remains in custody pending a ruling on his appeal of a decision by Mexican authorities to extradite him to Spain.

The Mexican Trade Ministry tried to avoid embarrassment by offering refunds to those who registered vehicles. In August, the newly named Mexican Economy Ministry began returning payments. As many as 220,514 motorists are eligible for about $2.5 million.

The Economic Ministry also recommended replacing the program with one that makes registration of used cars voluntary. Mexico's Automotive Industry Association supports that. Economy Ministry spokesman Salvador Musalem says an opinion poll found Mexicans want a car registration program.

As many as 2 million used vehicles are thought to have been imported illegally. Most are thought to come from the United States.

You can reach Amy Wilson at awilson@crain.com

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