Used car dealers in Jamaica under audit

KINGSTON, Jamaica, April 30, 2009 – Used car dealers in Jamaica are coming under closer scrutiny.

Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce  Karl Samuda has directed the country’s Consumer Affairs Commission( CAC) to conduct an audit of all certified used car dealers over the next two weeks.

He has also suspended the granting of certification to new businesses to operate as used car dealers. No new import licences will be issued for over-aged vehicles without specific approval.

The Minister’s directive followed a meeting with stakeholders in the used car sector, Ministry officials and its Motor Vehicle Committee.

Samuda has also instructed that no import licences must be granted to dealers who had shipped over-aged vehicles, prior to receiving import licences. Any exception to this, he said, would be considered as a “special case” to be examined on an individual basis.

The news came as Samuda, in his contribution to the budget debate, said that government is exploring the possibility of importing damaged vehicles, which will be repaired in free-zone facilities for re-export, as part of a review of the motor vehicle policy now underway.

In May last year, Samuda announced a ban on the importation of damaged vehicles, with importers mandated to land all such units negotiated prior to that announcement, by July 31. That deadline was then extended by two months.

The review will also include a re-examination of the regime for the licensing of trucks, tractors, and other vehicles weighing three tonnes and more, which was implemented in September, following concerns raised by regulatory stakeholders regarding the age and safety of these units.

Samuda said that consultations would be facilitated on the matter, and urged members of the private sector to participate.

There was a 24 per cent decline in motor vehicle imports in 2008/09 as compared to 2007/08, he told parliament, adding that the Trade Board Limited (TBL) received 17,424 applications to import motor vehicles during 2008/09, down from 22,283 the previous year.

“This decrease is attributed to the economic downturn, coupled with the ban on imports of damaged vehicles. The economic downturn has not spared any sector, whether directly or indirectly. This includes new and used car dealers, who have reported declines in sales,” Samuda said.

Meanwhile, the Trade Board facilitated product exports totalling US$245.7 million during 2008/09, a 19 per cent increase over the previous year. According to Samuda, the main contributor was ethanol, which recorded a 137 per cent increase in exports to the United States, earning some US$130.7 million in the process.