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Imported used vehicles keep getting older

26 January 2006

Imported used vehicles keep getting older

The age of used vehicles imported into New Zealand keeps increasing, and in 2005 the average age of freshly-imported used vehicles exceeded eight years for the first time. In 1997, the average age of a used import was 5.87 years – in 2005 this had risen to 8.01 years. As a result, the mean age of vehicles in the total New Zealand fleet has been steadily growing, and is now 11.9 years, compared with 9.9 years in 1992.

“Quite clearly, something needs to be done to slow the rate at which we’re becoming a dumping ground for worn-out old vehicles,” said Perry Kerr, CEO of the Motor Industry Association. “Despite the fact that sales of new vehicles in 2005 were over 50% higher than they were seven years ago, this is more than offset by the rapidly increasing age of the used vehicles coming in.”

Less than 16% of used imports in 2005 were under five years old, demonstrating that used imports are no longer cost-competitive with used vehicles that started their life in New Zealand. The reduced real price of new vehicles is what’s now driving the price of late model second-hand ones, and in actual fact used imports are now effectively propping up the price of the bottom of the market. By far the greatest percentage of used imports are now in the nine year old bracket because 1996 models are effectively the oldest (and cheapest) cars that can be sourced in Japan, due to the frontal impact rule. Of course this rule doesn’t capture truck-based four wheel drives, so importers are continuing to force-feed the market with even older examples of these inappropriate, unsafe and fuel-guzzling vehicles.

“There are major issues associated with so many thousands of obsolete and worn-out vehicles crossing our wharves, “said Mr. Kerr, “ and we’re now set to become a dumping ground for old diesel vehicles that can no longer be used in Tokyo since that city is banning their use unless they can pass the pollution regulations applying to new vehicles.”

Apart from the obvious safety issues with cars that use technology that’s two generations old, catalytic converters have a design life of 160,000 kilometres, so most of these nine year old vehicles become a major pollution risk within a short time of going on New Zealand roads.

“The Government urgently needs to face this issue in the context of pollution, fuel use and road safety,” concluded Mr. Kerr.


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