Associate Editor —
Auto & Entertainment

Friday, January 17, 2020

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IT'S the best of times for the island's used-car sector, according to the organisation's head Lynvalle Hamilton.

“We've imported over 40,000 vehicles in 2019 and this is the highest it has been for the last 10 years,” Hamilton, president of the Jamaica Used Car Dealers Association (JUCDA), told Jamaica Observer's weekly Auto magazine.

“Normally, we import 35,000 to 36,000 annually. So 2019 was a great year for the industry,” he continued.

Hamilton, principal of Corporate Area dealership Auto Channel, has been at JUCDA's helm since 2010. He cited a number of factors, both locally and internationally, which has contributed to this fillip.

On the local scene, he cited a lack of an efficient and effective public transport system as a reason for the spike.

“You also have university graduates wanting to own their own cars, as well as persons wanting a newer used-car,” he told Auto.

He listed the government's 2018 concession of allowing import licences for eight-year-old vehicles for the taxi sector, which according to Hamilton, trickled down to private owners.

Also, the government's revision of its laws in November 2019 allow the age limits for cars, light commercial vehicles and commercial vehicles to range from six to 30 years.

Under this new regime, the importation age for cars (sedans, station wagons and SUVs) as well as buses and pick-up trucks (not exceeding 1,500 kg) will be capped at six years.

Meanwhile, a 10-year limit was placed on pickup trucks and small trucks with an unladen weight of 1,501 kg to 3,000 kg, panel vans, window vans and buses with a seating capacity of nine to 14 people.

“This (revision) would cause us to sell more cars this year,” he said.

The international factors include the opening of the Singapore market and, as a consequence, the falling vehicle prices out of Japan due the competition.

“These savings were passed on to the consumer; so they benefit from these savings,” he said.

The used-car boss said the sector was also in expansion mode.

“We (JUCDA) have 195 members, however, quite a number of dealers came in the business in 2019. Nearly 100 became certified last year. That contributed to the number of cars coming in,” he said.

It was not always smooth sailing for Hamilton and his sector. In February 2018, he complained bitterly that Goverment's implementation of pre-shipment inspection policy was having a deleterious effect on the sector and economy.

He argued that since its implementation, several skilled jobs, including body repairs, were being relocated to Japan which resulted in a 30 per cent hike in motor vehicle costs. This he contended would have to be passed on to consumers.

As for the road ahead, Hamilton said he's predicting much of the same.

“Baring any policy that would be deleterious to the sector, it might be much of the same,” he added.

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