(This letter was published in the Australian Financial Review on Wednesday, 9 December 2015)
I'm disappointed with the article "Why does a $23,000 Audi in Auckland cost $35,000 in Sydney?" (December 4) which neglected to highlight the serious safety and other consumer protection issues associated with allowing second-hand imports into Australia.
The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries welcomed the government's decision, in its response to the Harper Review, that it will not proceed with reducing parallel import restrictions on second‐hand cars. Currently, consumers are offered the highest possible level of consumer protection when it comes to purchasing a new motor vehicle through an Australian dealership. Brands selling in this country make substantial investments in Australia by way of dealerships, workshops, technology and training to support and service their products. This means consumers can be certain their vehicles can be serviced and repaired appropriately, and that recalls are captured so consumers are informed if something needs to be fixed. This system is also underpinned by Australian Consumer Law.
Australians who personally import a vehicle made for another country may end up with a vehicle that does not meet their needs or operate as required in Australian driving conditions. Vehicles made for the Australian market are engineered for Australian conditions and safety specifications, so they will cope with the Australian climate, roads, fuel quality and lifestyle.
Articles that debate the second-hand imports decision, but do not present the serious safety, environmental and economical facts, are misleading for consumers. It is widely known, and publicised by the New Zealand Ministry of Transport, that the average fleet age in New Zealand has increased to almost 14 years since second-hand car imports were introduced into the country in the mid-1990s. In the same period, with continuing growth in new car sales, the Australian fleet average age has dropped to under 10 years.
Contrary to the belief that introducing newer second-hand cars into Australia from overseas will encourage consumers out of even older cars, the evidence from New Zealand demonstrates that it will severely impact on the new car market. Another major concern that must be considered is that allowing parallel imports dramatically increases the likelihood that Australia could become a hot-bed for criminal elements to use second-hand imports for rebirthing stolen cars.
As to the specific example raised in your article, most in the automotive industry are aware that you will always find isolated examples. This is not, as evidenced by the extensive independent research conducted by Glass's Information Services, reflective of overall pricing.
Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries