Left-hand Drive Enthusiasts Demand Action
Left-hand Drive Enthusiasts Federation
PO Box 83 183
May 23, 2005
Left-hand Drive Enthusiasts Demand Action
More than 3000 left-hand drive enthusiasts have banded together to lobby Land Transport New Zealand to keep its promise to review the law governing the importation of late model left-hand drive vehicles.
The Left-hand Drive Enthusiasts Federation believes the law is grossly unfair in its current form. The law states that a left-hand drive vehicle (under GVM 3,500) less than 20-years old must be converted to right-hand drive in order to be registered for use in New Zealand, unless the vehicle has been registered in the importer's name for 90-days prior to its importation.
The LHD Enthusiasts Federation comprises Mustang, Corvette, Ferrari, BMW, Cadillac-La Salle, Buick, American Classic and American Muscle car clubs, plus Pukekohe Hot Rod Club and the National Street Rod Association. The group also has the backing of the New Zealand Federation of Motoring Clubs and interest from the wider enthusiast community is growing daily.
Former Senior Chief Traffic Officer, Bob Davies, who served 23 years in the Ministry of Transport, is one of the group's spokespersons. He says, "I can say categorically that in all my years of active involvement in road safety, I know of no cases of an accident being caused through a vehicle being left-hand drive. European and American tourists driving on the wrong side of the road in right-hand drive cars is a far more significant problem."
Mr. Davies is also a former owner of a left-hand drive vehicle. "With the benefit of those years driving LHD in New Zealand, I can confirm my long-held belief that there is no road safety related reason to be concerned with LHD vehicles being driven in New Zealand by enthusiasts.
"I understand the motivations of the antagonists and protagonists but on balance there is no reason to keep the 90-day rule, which has nothing to do with making vehicles safer. It is mere gate-keeping and there are better ways," he says.
The main issue worrying the LHD enthusiasts who convert their vehicles to right-hand drive is that the carefully engineered frontal impact standards of their "collectible" vehicles may be affected in ways not anticipated by the manufacturer.
Mr Davies says, "When the frontal impact rule was signed in December 2001, it meant any vehicles imported after April 2002 would be required to comply with a recognised frontal impact standard, such as the American FMVSS208 compliance, which is one of the most rigorous in the world.
"Vehicles produced by their original manufacturer and imported by our members meet these standards. We believe that after a non-factory conversion, the integrity of the design is severely compromised. This occurs to such an extent that any benefit from conversion is far outweighed by the loss of design integrity on such complicated safety systems as airbags and the untested effect on impact safety zones."
Jeff Tobin, another spokesperson for the group says, "This re-engineering, at great expense to the enthusiast owner, is unnecessary. As history has shown, vehicles of this sort are highly admired and valued when kept in their original factory condition. Vehicles that are radically altered or customised, traditionally lose their collectibility, value and favour within the enthusiast community."
Whilst evidence gathered shows there are no problems driving LHD vehicles on New Zealand roads, the LHD Enthusiasts Federation is keen, like the Government, that the rules are not so radically altered as to allow a deluge of left-hand drive vehicles into the country.
The Federation has put together a draft proposal which seeks to allow an "enthusiasts' exemption". Such an exemption would have strict control criteria to ensure bona fide identification of the enthusiast through the nationwide umbrella of the NZFOMC and deterring the commercial importation of LHD vehicles.
LTNZ says that by registering under different names, importers have brought left-hand drive vehicles into the country more frequently than once every five years, in contravention of the law. It admits that it lacks the resources to police the problem.
Genuine enthusiasts say, however, that they don't want to see this part of the law relaxed. They merely want the 90-day rule rescinded.
"We want LTNZ to remove the rule, with its inequitable provisions and to put in place a system of individual importation and tracking of these vehicles to stop resale within five years. We are offering to assist LTNZ in its policing process," says Mr. Davies.
The Federation has set up a forum on its website (www.nzmustang.com) where left-hand drive vehicle owners can comment on the rule and its effects. To date, in excess of 800 LHD vehicle owners and enthusiast associations have voiced their concerns. The Federation has also set up a freepost box number (Freepost Box 83-183, Edmonton Auckland) to which owners may write to express their views.