Fleet News

Grey imports policy slammed

THE tide of grey imports sweeping the UK will continue until the Government and motor industry remove the 'gentlemen's agreement' which restricts the volume of new Japanese cars coming via official channels to the UK. This quota, which terminates at the end of next year, limits the import of Japanese-built cars to just 7% of the UK market, but has failed to protect British manufacturers and has penalised UK consumers, according to Subaru UK.

In the company's official submission to the Trade and Industry Select Committee's inquiry into car price differentials between the UK and European Union, managing director Ed Swatman attributed the growth of grey imports to customer impatience with the unavoidable waiting lists caused by the 'gentlemen's agreement'.

'The restrictions placed on Subaru over the last 20 years have denied us any opportunity to grow our customer base to justify the establishment of a manufacturing facility within the UK,' he said. 'The inevitable result is that we are unable to satisfy demand for Subaru products, to the despair of our dealers and the frustration and disappointment of would-be customers.'

Even more galling from Subaru's perspective are the seven-month waiting lists faced by fleets and retail customers for its most popular models, while grey importers can circumvent official channels and supply customers more rapidly.

'We are therefore in the bizarre situation in which Subaru UK, the officially appointed concessionaire with a massive investment in the infrastructure required to support the after-sales care of Subaru owners, is restricted by import quotas on the number of vehicles we may import directly from Japan, while others may enjoy entirely unrestricted access to any number of Japanese-built vehicles obtained indirectly from Japan via other countries within the EU. This is utterly illogical and undermines the avowed intent of the import quota system,' said Swatman.

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