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'NO Need To Worry'

Walker seeks to calm used-car jitters

BY BRIAN BONITTO
Associate Editor —
Auto & Entertainment
bonittob@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, May 18, 2018

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TRADE Board chairman Danville Walker is hailing the three-month-old pre-shipment inspection policy on imported pre-owned motor vehicles as a win for consumers, as well as restoring credibility to the used-car sector.

He was responding to recent statements by Jamaica Used-Car Dealers' Association president Lynvalle Hamilton that the policy is poised to drive up prices out of the reach of consumers, and export jobs to Japan.

“This is not a fly-by-night initiative ... It is long overdue and should have been done a long time ago,” Walker told the Jamaica Observer's Auto magazine earlier this week. “Despite the teething pains, I consider this programme a resounding success. I believe, for the first time in a number of years, all the cars you'll find on those (used car) lots, you'll be able to feel comfortable knowing what you see is what you're going to get.”

Implemented on February 1, the pre-shipment inspection regime aims to provide a transparent motor vehicle importation policy that safeguards consumers. The move, according to the Government, was necessary, given reports of motor vehicle odometer tampering to reflect lower mileages, and other irregularities. Japanese company Auto Terminal Japan Limited has been contracted to examine all used vehicles shipped to Jamaica.

According to the Trade Board boss, used-car buyers have been denied financing from banks due to model-year discrepancies and have found it challenging to get any redress.

“It is critical we protect the consumer from fraud. We put Jamaican consumers first,” said Walker, who is chairman of Customs as well as managing director of the Jamaica Observer. “Buying a vehicle is a big-ticket item for most Jamaicans and if the information you're given is false, then you as the consumer would have been taken advantage of... So under the pre-shipment inspection, it stops the fraud before it gets here.”

Walker said pre-owned vehicles with structural damage and front-end issues would not be able to reach Jamaican ports as they would pose a safety risk on the island's roadways.

“So importers will have to bring in better-quality cars... I have also heard talks that there'll be a shortage of cars. But we have over 300 used-car dealers and have a free market system in Jamaica. The market will take care of itself; we have enough depth. You may see a better car for la lower price.”

The Trade Board boss said in December 2017, 6,000 used cars were imported. He said on average the figure would be a third of that.

With regard to Hamilton's claim that vehicles were being rejected for missing hub caps and dents, and that repair jobs were being sent back to Japan, the chairman said those were not the state agency's instructions. He said he intended to visit in the summer to see the operations first-hand.

“The inspectors may have been overzealous. We have written to Auto Terminal Japan, as well as spoken to them, that the damage must be of a structural nature, like chassis and front end. They would have the history of the car in their country, like a Carfax, as we want to make sure all the vehicles are structurally sound... Vehicles can pick up dents while being driven to the port and they can be fixed here,” he said. “There is an argument that there could be more than one agent in Japan. But based on experience, both entities will begin to compete for customers and will result in the relaxing of the rules. So let's run it for a year and see what the data says.”

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