Allowing the private importation of new or near-new cars will hardly decimate established factory-backed car distributors — but that doesn’t mean last week’s proposal to do just that is a good idea.
This is the stance of Nissan Australia managing director Richard Emery, who this week joined a long line of industry figures slamming the announcement made last week by assistant industry minister Jamie Briggs.
Briggs last week proposed allowing people to purchase and import new or near-new cars from overseas, with the caveat of a ‘buyer beware’ mentality — meaning, a number of consumer protections would potentially not apply if one brought a car in from, say, Japan or the UK.
Such a move was designed to make cars cheaper, and a wider variety available.
Criticism has centred around the fact that, once associated costs are factored in — private transport, insurance, luxury car tax if necessary and the lack of factory warranty — only high-end vehicles with six-figure price tags would be viably imported in such a way.
High-end vehicles and weird, left-of-centre cars not sold here, such as a Japanese Kei car, that is. All this has led numerous industry bodies such as the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries peak body, to ask — why bother?
Emery spoke with CarAdvice this week about his concerns over making such a change to the established industry, though admitted frankly that it would be scarcely more than a blip on the radar for Nissan Australia itself.
Rather, it would be franchise dealers that could suffer, and more importantly, consumers unaware that if they import their own cars from overseas they could be ‘on their own’, without the requisite consumer protections available if they bought a new car in the established way.
“I think it’s a bad decision. To be honest, we’re a global car company, it’ll be a blip on the screen if it happens [for us],” he said.
“I’m more concerned about what it will to do consumers in terms of protections, and what it’ll do to our network who’ve invested millions of dollars training and employing people.
“For us if it happens on a large scale and the market goes from 1.3 million to 1.2, we’ll adjust, we’ll say ‘Australia can take 10 per cent less cars now’…. the real impact will be Mums and Dads invested in car dealers, people employed in dealerships.”
Emery’s words will be music to the ears of his generally multi-franchise dealer network — many of whom he is having to win back to Nissan’s cause after the company made steps in the recent past, under previous management, that alienated them (force-feeding stock, leading to lower operating margins).
Emery claims this debate is, on a macro scale, reflective of a government that makes knee-jerk decisions that often contradict each other. It’s not the first time this month that the government has drawn Emery’s ire.
At the start of April, industry minister Ian MacFarlane attended the premiere of Hyundai Australia’s new hydrogen fuel station. He labelled hydrogen “the fuel of the future” and rather remarkably brushed off hybrid and electric vehicles as mere “transitioning technology”.
Emery, as the boss of the company that sells the Nissan Leaf electric car, immediately went on the front foot, slamming the government for failing to support existing green automatic technologies in the way many others do.
“The thing that frustrates me most about [minister] Briggs, and MacFarlane’s comments last week about EVs, is that I’m a bit tired and frustrated of politicians of all persuasions not taking the time to fully understand how our business works,” he said.
“And to make knee-jerk and sometimes motivated decisions that don’t take full consideration,” he added.