Dark side of grey imports
AS mentioned last week, New Zealand’s a nice place to visit, a fact attested by the 640,000plus New Zealanders who choose to live in Australia.
You are, of course, welcome. What is it you say? Kia ora?
On the other hand New Zealand’s much vaunted practice of mass importing used cars — so-called grey imports — is a custom best kept east of the Tasman. In view of the response to last week’s column, this is an issue worth clarifying.
When New Zealanders had the most wretched fleet of vehicles outside the third world, getting about in Anglias and Zephyrs, grey imports were a means of making motoring affordable. New Zealand’s automotive conditions are not ours. Here, where according to Roy Morgan the average worker earns 26.3 per cent more than the equivalent Kiwi, new car ownership has never been more affordable.
Our government imposes tariffs and luxury vehicle tax, yet cars — even prestige cars — sell at a record rate. In the most popular segment, you can get a Hyundai i30, Mazda3 or Ford Focus for less than $21,000 with full factory warranty, cappedprice servicing and legal recourse in the event of failure. You have some surety of retained value. Most incoming cars are tyred and tuned for local conditions.
What would you get with a grey import of uncertain history flogged by a dealer who is not accountable to the brand whose wares fill his forecourt? Next to none of the above.
Many missives I’ve received boast of New Zealand’s sixmonthly certificate of road worthiness. None grasp its necessity. D’you reckon it might have something to do with the NZ vehicle fleet being the oldest of any Westernised country?
Here there are more than 60 brands to keep competition acute and standards of quality and equipment high. Market pressure does not exist on this scale or concentration elsewhere.
New Zealand needed used imports for the very reasons Australia does not. Yet the Productivity Commission blithely advocates a practice that will diminish the quality of cars on the road, erode security of ownership and destroy Australian-owned businesses. At issue is not importers of specialist vehicles who do niche numbers for enthusiasts. It’s countless grey Corollas which do not match even the basic specification of factory-imported cars.
Despite 54,000 New Zealanders leaving for Australia in 2012 alone, economists tell us the joint’s experiencing an upturn. Great. A country whose fairest city is destroyed by natural disaster deserves all good fortune.
I don’t occupy an economist’s lofty perch. If I did, I wouldn’t be blind to a post grey import Australia in which tens of thousands of substandard cars blight the streets — nor to unemployment figures swelled by tens of thousands “liberated” from jobs in car retail.
New Zealand, by all means send us your best and brightest. And Russell Crowe if you must. But hold your counsel on this issue. As anyone using their grey matter can see, the scenario for used imports is all black for Australia.
Used and abused: Kiwi export Russell Crowe doesn’t drive a grey import