Stranger dan­ger

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Carsguide Confidential - Twit­ter: @JoshuaDowl­ing

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.

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