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VACC slams proposal to allow overseas online car purchases

VACC has slammed a Government proposal to allow overseas online car purchases, a move that would see the deregulation of the Australian car market.

THE GOVERNMENT PROPOSAL, released yesterday, has today been slammed by the Victorian Automotive Chamber of Commerce executive director, David Purchase, who released a statement today saying: “As Australia prepares for the closure of automotive production in 2017, the entire automotive industry needs time to adjust and discuss with the Federal Government strategies to take the industry forward. Instead, we are hit with one pointless hair-brained idea after another, from politicians, the Productivity Commission and other social commentators”.

The announcement came yesterday as figures revealed the decline in new car sales (August) of 5.4% when compared with August 2013.
The plan to allow Australians import their own used cars would require the abolition of Australian-specific design rules, and the adoption of UN standards in an attempt to remove red tape and compliance costs to manufacturers.

A discussion paper released by the Government yesterday called for a review of the 25-year-old Motor Vehicle Standards Act to keep pace with changes to the global automotive sector and the end of local car manufacturing in 2017. The Motor Vehicle Standards Act was last reviewed 14 years ago.

“At the moment there are certain schemes for importation, but it is very difficult and complicated and very bureaucratic,” Assistant Infrastructure Minister Jamie Briggs told The Australian.

“Why shouldn’t consumers have the option to do that if there is no good safety reason why they can’t? There would be an element of buyer beware that people will need to be conscious of; it is a big purchase to buy something sight unseen.”

However, Briggs reiterated the Coalition did not support the idea, which confirmed remarks made by Industry Minister Ian MacFarlane last week after the Productivity Commission issued its report suggesting the easing on restriction of imported used-cars.

Mr Briggs said the government had been convinced by the “horrific” New Zealand experience that the easing of restrictions should not extend to used cars. “If it is new, you can assure yourself reasonably easily that it is meeting the standards, but if it is used, there is a whole series of other issues that arise,” he said.

“The judgment … is that (importing used cars) would not have the price effect people think because there are a series of compliance costs (to) be introduced.”

The proposal would give consumers access to vehicles at the lowest possible cost, including luxury vehicles, and would be from markets with right-hand drive vehicles like Britain, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand and India.

“Recent calls to flood Australia with used car imports and enable consumers to directly purchase new cars from overseas were made in the name of red tape reduction and increased consumer choice. The reality is it would bring the exact opposite, with so many problems that motorists and businesses would become bogged down in paperwork and consumer detriment would escalate.

“It is frustrating because many of these ideas are generated by people, with little or no automotive industry experience and the Government appears to be reluctant to speak directly to the automotive industry itself.  Mixed messages also cause confusion and some consumers might delay the purchase of their new cars in light of this public debate.

“For example, yesterday, our national body, the Australian Motor Industry Federation (AMIF), corrected many misunderstandings caused by misinformed reports about new imports in an already overcrowded market. If AMIF had been consulted in the first place, it would have been clear that any thought of enabling consumers to buy overseas vehicles directly, with no regulatory regime in place, with no safety, security or consumer rights considerations, with no thought to guarantees or warranties, and with no indication of how or when the Australian Design Rules will be amalgamated or overtaken by international standards, not to mention service, repair and component parts issues, you really wonder what our politicians and so called automotive industry experts are doing.

“Why would you not consult with the automotive industry prior to releasing documents to the media? With three out of four people, approximately 320,000, involved in the automotive industry employed in the RS&R sector, surely it makes sense to talk to this group of experienced, knowledgeable and seasoned professionals for insight and input.

“VACC members and our sector are robust, dynamic and not afraid of change or competition. However, we are concerned about lurching from one baseless idea to another, groping in the dark for a solution, when the answer is staring everyone in the face: come and talk with the automotive industry first,” Purchase said.

What do you think, would you buy a car online from overseas if it met all the safety expectations? See you in the comments.

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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober