PROPOSALS that threaten to flood the UK market with unlimited numbers of gray import vehicles next year are being strongly opposed by auto industry officials.
The current regulations, called Single Vehicle Approval, limit independent importers to bringing in no more than 50 non-type approved cars a year, or no more than 100 cars every five years. But now the government wants to remove numerical limits while tightening safety and pollution standards for these imports.
Despite the current limits, gray imports hit the headlines earlier this year after thousands of niche Japanese vehicles arrived in the country at highly discounted prices. Independent traders were taking advantage of the fact that such vehicles are not sold by the official importers.
Individual companies and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders have until 28 November to respond to the proposals.
'We will move heaven and earth to get the proposals modified - we owe it to our customers as much as to ourselves,' said Stephen Dixon, managing director of UK Mitsubishi importer Colt Car Co. Dixon claims the gray imports do not adhere to European safety and pollution standards.
Subaru UK Managing Director Ed Swatman agrees. In a presentation to the House of Commons Trade and Industry select committee, he said: 'We are in the bizarre situation of being restricted by quotas on the number of vehicles we can import while others enjoy unrestricted access to any number of Japanese-built vehicles.
SMMT spokesman Al Clarke said: 'The franchised industry spends a fortune providing buyers with product liability cover. Gray importers do not offer the same level of protection.'
But Richard Moore, spokesman for the British Independent Motor Traders' Association, said: 'The days of the UK being a honeypot for the carmakers are over. The government wants to give consumers a broader choice.'
Used-car price experts Glass's Guide also attacked the manufacturers. Senior Car Editor Jeff Paterson aid: 'The official importers are going to have to rid themselves of this attitude because the tide of gray imports is not going to recede. On the contrary, there are numerous independent traders waiting in the wings to offer UK consumers a better deal.'