Let’s not take the Kiwi route

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Welcome - PAUL POT­TINGER CARS­GUIDE EDI­TOR paul.pot­tinger@cars­guide.com.au

IT’S easy to make fun of New Zealand but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.

Take Auck­land. Bit like the Gold Coast in the 1970s. Nice enough place but you wouldn’t want to live there. Not re­ally. Nor in­deed do great num­bers of its na­tive-born.

Like hun­dreds of thou­sands of their com­pa­tri­ots they live here and ex­press grat­i­tude to their host coun­try by don­ning black jer­seys and paint­ing veg­e­ta­tion on their faces come the Bledis­loe Cup.

No, you re­ally wouldn’t want to live there. Nor would you want to drive what they drive.

I re­fer to grey im­ports, the used crap­pers of du­bi­ous prove­nance that foul the streets of its largest set­tle­ment. There a few weeks ago I was able to pass a long drive by spot­ting, say, the an­cient Toy­ota-badged Lexus or Juras­sic Nis­san — de­vices deemed un­wor­thy of of­fi­cial im­port but which are bought in used and cheaply by im­porters out to make a quick buck (or head of live­stock or bun­dle of blan­kets — what­ever barter Ki­wis are re­duced to).

Are you happy to put your fam­ily in a car whose his­tory can­not be proven, for which there is no man­u­fac­turer sup­port, that might have been re­assem­bled af­ter a smash and may not con­form to the lat­est safety and emis­sion stan­dards? Knock yourself out. Just don’t drive near me or mine.

This is not to im­pugn rep­utable grey im­port deal­ers who bring in niche vol­umes of other­wise un­ob­tain­able cars for dis­cern­ing buy­ers. No, this is to de­plore the no­tion of our coun­try be­com­ing a dump­ing ground for clunkers by the un­scrupu­lous — a sce­nario that the Pro­duc­tiv­ity Com­mis­sion’s eco­nom­i­cally fun­da­men­tal­ist pro­posal to lift grey im­port curbs makes all too pos­si­ble.

This prac­tice flies in New Zealand be­cause — and there’s no gen­tle way of say­ing this — the joint’s closer to the third world than the first.

Pos­si­bly the Pro­duc­tiv­ity Com­mis­sion does not wish to hear the per­spec­tive of an ex­pert like Paul Gover who re­mem­bers the era be­fore reg­u­la­tions were tight­ened and says: “There’ll be noth­ing to stop any­one bring­ing in 20 knack­ered HiLuxes, set­ting up a tent be­hind a Toy­ota dealer and flog­ging them cheap. Do we re­ally need to lose more jobs?”

Much bad noise has been made by a David Vin­sen, who re­joices in the ti­tle “chief ex­ec­u­tive of New Zealand’s Im­ported Mo­tor Ve­hi­cle In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion”.

Ig­nor­ing this gen­tle­man’s claim that mass grey im­port­ing would cre­ate jobs (in the re­birthing in­dus­try per­haps?), he states cars in his coun­try have be­come more af­ford­able and “safer”.

Un­men­tioned is the aver­age age of NZ’s lo­cal car fleet — more than 13 years com­pared with10 in 1992.

Al­most half the cars Ki­wis im­ported from Ja­pan last year were used. By con­trast, new cars in this coun­try are al­ready among the world’s most af­ford­able and safe. For sec­ond­hand buy­ers, this is par­adise.

Don’t let’s be­come the butt of our own Kiwi joke.

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