Oz Auto Industry Wary of Relaxed Car-Import Policy

Easing new-car import rules will give Australians greater choice, says consumer watchdog Roger Featherston, who dismisses claims buyers may end up with a vehicle that neither meets their needs nor can handle local driving conditions.

Alan Harman, Correspondent

April 26, 2016

2 Min Read
Feds to limit individual imports to cars from UK Japan
Feds to limit individual imports to cars from U.K., Japan.

The Australian auto industry accuses the country’s competition watchdog of creating policy confusion around parallel car imports by contradicting previous announcements from the federal government.

Under the changes proposed in February by the federal government, import restrictions will be eased in 2018 following the end of local auto production to allow individuals, but not companies, to import vehicles from the U.K. or Japan. The vehicle must have fewer than 312 miles (500 km) on its odometer and a consumer may not import more than one vehicle every two years.

But Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries CEO Tony Weber says statements made by competition commission chief Roger Featherston to an Australian Auto Aftermarket conference are completely at odds with the government position.

Featherston says it is difficult to be precise about how consumer guarantees will apply to protect consumers from defective vehicles, but suggests this could be done by allowing private companies to import the cars.

“For instance, if the scheme permits Australian businesses to import vehicles for individual consumers, protections may be more readily available than if individual consumers are required to purchase their vehicle directly from an overseas entity that may have no connection with Australia,” he says.

Making Choices or Taking Chances?

Relaxing regulations on new-car imports will give consumers greater choice and create new business opportunities, says Featherston, who dismisses claims consumers may end up with vehicles that do not meet their needs or operate properly in Australian driving conditions.

“Consumers will only be able to import cars from the U.K. and Japan,” Featherston says in a commission news release. “These are markets that sell right-hand-drive cars and have similar safety standards to Australia. Also, the climatic conditions in Europe and Japan can be as extreme, if not more extreme, than conditions in Australia.”

Featherston says the basic issue is one of choice: “Consumers should be entitled to weigh up all the relevant considerations and decide whether personally importing a car is right for them, or whether sticking to the established system of dealerships suits them better.”

The FCAI’s Weber scoffs at the competition commission’s claims.

“We doubt the technical expertise of the ACCC to declare that cars engineered and built for other markets are suitable for Australian conditions,” he says in a statement.

Weber says the Australian car market already is one of the most competitive in the world, with more than 67 brands and more than 400 models.

“The industry is working closely with government on striving for world’s best standards and practice on safety, emissions and autonomous vehicle technology,” he says. “How does it make any sense to step backwards based around assertions (such) as these?”

About the Author(s)

Alan Harman

Correspondent, WardsAuto

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