THE federal government’s plan to allow private buyers to import new and used cars may be gathering momentum, but it’s time to hit the brakes.
The government wants to ensure a steady supply of affordable cars once Australia’s car makers shut their factories.
But the reason they are closing is because Australia is already the most competitive market in the developed world.
More than 65 brands compete for 1.1 million annual sales versus 38 brands in a market of 15.5 million in the US; Commsec data shows new-car affordability is at a 37-year high, with prices at 20-year lows.
We are in favour of price competition but not at the risk of exposing unwitting customers to rogue importers with vehicles that may have been stolen and given a new bogus identity, were written off and then repaired illegally, or lack the safety features of equivalent models sold here.
The government has apparently told industry leaders “buyer beware” will save customers. Really?
This rule change, without exaggeration, could cost lives. Newer, safer cars are the driving force behind last year’s 89-year low in the road toll.
Enthusiast buyers can already import the specialist cars they desire. Do we really want to relax the rules to let any car in without proper checks?
Buyers trying to save a dollar may pay a higher price by being stuck with a lemon. What happens to unwitting buyers who can’t tell the difference between a car originally sold here (with historical parts and service support) and a privately imported car that could be dearer to insure, service and repair — and lack vital safety equipment?
The old saying “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is” applies to the Federal Government’s “cheaper cars” mantra. We should proceed with extreme caution.