Grey imports - vehicles imported from outside the EU which by-pass the appointed 'official' import and distribution network - are currently subject to a 50-vehicle quota limit for any particular model. From March 2000, the limit will be taken off in stages, starting with a raised limit of 1,000, rising to 3,000 in April, 6,000 in May and so on up to more than 50,000 at the end of the year until it is abandoned altogether at the start of 2001.
Vehicles will have to pass an enhanced Single Vehicle Approval test, which the Government claims will match the emissions and safety demands of the Whole Vehicle Type Approval test imposed on official imports. The move coincides with the expected removal this year of a 'gentleman's agreement' with Far Eastern manufacturers which limited imports to about 7% of the UK market. The combined effect of the two changes to allow a larger number of cheaper vehicles into the UK could, it is thought, create massive downward pressure on new car prices.