Laranzo Dacres, Gleaner Writer
TWO YEARS after restrictions were imposed on the importation of damaged vehicles, some sections of the auto industry are still feeling the effects.
"Is a stunt to cut out di poor man," said a body repairman who only gave his name as Kirk.
"All the three groups — Jamaica Used Cars Dealers Association (JUCDA); Automobile Dealers Association (ADA) and the unofficial 'crash/damaged car dealers' could have coexisted."
The body repairman rubbished the claim for the restriction.
"The explanation for the ban was that imported vehicles caused accidents because they were not repaired properly is rubbish," he said.
"All these cars have to go to the examination depot for fitness checks, so the examiner should know if the car is repaired good or not."
He said the restriction put a lot of persons out of work: paint shop operators, body repairmen, mechanics and parts dealers.
"The ban mash wi up!" Kirk continued.
A mechanic who opted to be referred to as Kingfish grappled with the hope of the adjustments being made to the restriction policy. He reminisced on times when he had a lot of business because of the trade.
"The ban stopped a whole heap a business, mi lose a whole heap a work," said Kingfish, who also operates a garage. "I normally have three body man at my garage and now I only have one, two gone home."
The 2008 restriction to prevent damaged vehicles from entering the island is supported by the ADA and the JUCDA.
"There is no necessity for damaged vehicles to be brought in the country because many vehicles are available here for sale, whether they be new or used and I think both associations are adequately supplying the market with the vehicles that the consumers need," said Kent LaCroix, chairman of ADA, the umbrella group for dealers of new cars.
Asked if he thought the restriction could be lifted, LaCroix told Automotives the ADA would ardently oppose any such decision, a response which has been echoed by used-car group president, Ian Lyn.
"Whoever is looking to re-implement the importation of crashed cars to the local marketplace would have to convince JUCDA before that person or group can convince the trade board, because the trade board listens to us and the ADA. We (both car associations) are the authoritative bodies and right now we are not taking much talk in favour of this," Lyn told Automotives.
In outlining the genesis of the restriction, Douglas Webster, trade administrator at Trade Board Limited, the island's import licensing authority, said the ban restricting new- and used-car dealers from importing damaged vehicles came into effect on July 1, 2004. However, individuals could still import damaged vehicles for themselves. A total ban was imposed on May 1, 2008, and he was unable to say if the restriction would ever be lifted.
"It had become a matter of safety as it relates to the repair of the vehicles. Nobody could control how well these vehicles were repaired and there were also many of these damaged vehicles that were being sold to unsuspecting consumers," LaCroix explained.
"It was also affecting the sales of both new and used cars - and there were also problems relating to customs valuing these vehicles to determine the duties that should be paid. Therefore, it was decided that a ban had to be placed on the importation of crashed cars."
According to statistics provided by the Trade Board Limited, of the 18,071 vehicles imported in 2007, damaged ones accounted for 16 per cent, while in 2008, of the 15,514 vehicles brought into the island, damaged vehicles totalled 21 per cent.
Kirk, however, called for an amicable solution to benefit all the stakeholders.
"Government want dem tax, consumers want low-priced vehicles, di JUCDA and ADA want good sales ... mechanics, body man, paint shop and parts dealers all want work and I know there is a way to satisfy everybody. We should all meet and work it out," he concluded.