The Federal Government is putting Australian consumers at risk by allowing personal importation of new and near-new vehicles from 2018.

Already we are seeing advertisements from foreign car-sellers looking to steal a march on our local market, which will, as of 2018, no longer produce its own cars. We came across the accompanied used car advertisement, from Japan, aimed at Australian buyers.

Japan and the United Kingdom are, at this point, the only countries that meet Australian standards, but that doesn’t mean consumers will enjoy the same protection by buying from overseas sources as they do buying from Australian Dealers. Has the Government really thought this through?

Australia already has the most competitive car market in the world. We already sell more brands than any other nation. The Government thinks it is making things better for the consumer when what it is really doing is opening a can of worms regarding service, repair and maintenance.

Because such imported vehicles will, by definition, have been designed for other countries, they will not necessarily have the same specifications, parts and service requirements as those made specifically for Australian roads and sold by Australian Dealers. Who fulfils the warranty? Who is liable for repairs? What if parts are different? What if there is a recall?

In 2015, almost 90 million new cars were registered around the world. Only the United States and Canada had a greater percentage of new car buyers than Australia. Just under five per cent (4.78%) of Australians bought a new car last year, so it’s not like Australians are struggling to afford new vehicles. New Zealand allows personal imports and proponents argue that it brings prices down. Yetin 2015 New Zealanders bought new cars at a rate slightly more than half (2.84% of the population) that of Australians. Even Japan, which exports so many cars – both new and used – had a new car ownership rate of just 3.98% in 2015.

Those agitating to change the rules come from outside the franchise system, hoping to circumvent regulation. The fallacious argument seems to be that new cars are too expensive in this country, yet that is contradicted by the evidence that Australians buy more new cars per capita than any country other than the US and Canada.

Dealers are accused of self-interest when they argue against personal imports, but surely anyone looking objectively at the evidence must wonder what benefits will come from their introduction.
Dealers are the ones who have to face the wrath of consumers when they are unhappy. If a driver buys a Toyota privately from another country and it needs repairing, he or she will take it to an Australian Dealer and likely be annoyed when told it has the wrong specs or different parts are required.

Early in July, 15 cars at AP Eagers in Brisbane went underwater in a flood. Despite a lack of damage, those vehicles are now registered as write-offs. But what is to stop an English or Japanese Dealer from hiding that fact about cars of theirs? There is nothing forcing them to disclose such information. This has all sorts of ramifications for Australian consumers, from safety to financial – and none of them good.

Our politicians say they are doing this to provide Australian motorists with better deals. This is false. Australian motorists already have great deals. The most competitive marketplace in the world, the widest range of brands and, most importantly, they know what they are getting. That cannot be said of a car bought privately from an overseas source.

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