Australians could import new cars direct under new laws
PROPOSED changes to federal law would allow Australians to personally import new cars from other right hand drive countries such as Japan and the UK from 2018 - the year after all local car manufacturing ends.
The planned changes to the Motor Vehicle Act 1989 could mean savings for new car buyers willing to personally import a car instead of using a local car dealer, and would give buyers access to specific models not available on our shores, such as the Renault Twingo, Mitsubishi Delica or Nissan GT-R NISMO; or a specific model variant (such as a diesel or manual gearbox version) not currently available in Australia.
The changes state the imported vehicle must be a motorcycle or right hand drive passenger vehicle, be no more than 12 months old and have no more than 500km on the odometer.
The vehicle must be imported from another country with comparable standards to Australia's - currently only Japan and the UK - and you can only buy one car every two years.
Restrictions on parallel imports of second-hand cars would remain however, preventing consumers from importing newer second-hand cars from overseas markets.
The new rule would however allow a vehicle which is at least 25 years old to be imported under concessional arrangements; currently the rule states it had to be manufactured before January 1 1989 to qualify for concessional rates.
The $12,000 special duty levied on imported used vehicles would also be removed.
"Over one million new vehicles are sold in Australia today; over 90 per cent are imported and within two years all cars will be imported once Ford, General Motors and Toyota cease local manufacture," Minister for Major Projects Paul Fletcher said.
The Minister said he expected around 30,000 vehicles a year to be personally imported with the new arrangements in place, a small percentage of the total new vehicle sales in Australia.
The news has been welcomed by consumer advocacy group CHOICE, saying the changes would increase consumer choice.
"Expanding our access to markets empowers consumers to seek out the best deal, both in price and in product," said Matt Levey, CHOICE Director of Campaigns and Communications.
The Australian Automobile Association (AAA) also called the importation changes a positive for consumers.
AAA Chief Executive Michael Bradley said: "This is a big win for consumers and a decision that will open up choice, help put downward pressure on prices, and increase competition within the Australian car market."
The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) however said it was "extremely disappointed" with the Australian Governmnet's announcement.
"The FCAI has repeatedly called on the Government to carefully consider the facts before making a policy decision that will mislead everyday consumers," FCAI Chief Executive Tony Weber said.
"Not only is the Government taking a 'buyer beware' sentiment that would see many Australians caught in high-risk situations with their vehicles being outside established service networks; the Government is misleading consumers by telling them a used vehicle with 500kms or one that is twelve-months old, is new."
Mr Weber suggested a better way to give greater range of choice in new cars and motorcycles was to remove taxes - such as the controversial Luxury Car Tax - and other government charges that "make up around 20% of the price of new cars in Australia."
The proposed changes will have to be approved by Parliament and Senate before going into force in 2018.