But the end of the restriction has been labelled a non-event by car makers which have established production in the UK or Europe, including Nissan, allowing models to be exempt from quota restrictions. The quota, which is removed at the end of next year, limits the import of Japanese-built cars to 7% of the UK market.
A spokesman for Nissan, which sold 102,000 cars last year, said: 'For us it will be a complete non-event. We have a quota for cars coming into the UK, but that only applies to our niche models.' However, the sales volumes built up by manufacturers such as Nissan and Honda will come under pressure from rival Japanese firms which see the removal of the restrictions as their first opportunity to show their full potential in the UK market.
Mazda is strengthening its corporate sales team and expanding its dealer network in preparation for it to grab a 2% share of the market in the new millennium, pushing up sales from a limited 32,000 to more than 40,000. The need to protect used car values dominates thinking at Subaru, but it predicts the British market can support a doubling of sales, from 10,000 to more than 20,000.