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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 24 Apr 1991

Vol. 407 No. 4

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Car Imports.

Joseph Doyle


10 Mr. Doyle asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce if his attention has been drawn to the great concern within the motor industry over the high level of imports of second-hand cars from Japan; and if, having regard to the fact that the commercial importation of these cars is not permitted in the case of any other EC member state, he will introduce a quota system to ensure that the established motor industry in this country is not undermined by this trade.

All cars sold on the Irish market have to be imported. I have received several representations expressing the concern of the established importers of new cars about the import of second-hand cars, particularly from Japan, but I am of the view that such imports tend to increase the level of competition on the Irish market. We cannot unilaterally introduce import restrictions because of our EC and GATT obligations. In any event, I would regard the imposition of such restrictions for the purpose of protecting established importers as anti-competitive and totally contrary to the spirit of competition which I am trying to promote, not least by the new Competition Bill.

Does the Minister expect that after 1992 the cost of imported new cars will be more competitive as a result of the levelling off of the various excise duties imposed now on new cars imported into this country?

That, of course, is an entirely different matter. It is a matter for the Minister for Finance. I understand that there will be some decrease but it will probably be relatively marginal. It will not be enormous, from what I understand. These matters have not yet been finalised. There will, of course, have to be harmonisation on how they are approached within the Community. That matter might more usefully be addressed to the Minister for Finance who could give the Deputy the up-to-date information on it.

The Minister's reply does not surprise me. I can understand the representations he receives, particularly from the Society of the Irish Motor Industry, but is he not concerned about consumers who will experience difficulties in trading-in these cars in the future and obtaining spare parts? Those consumers may ultimately lose out in the long term.

I have no evidence that that is or will be the case. Apparently spare parts are available. They can be imported for these cars and that is being done. So far as a drop in the value of these cars is concerned, that could arise if a concerted effort was made to make their value drop. However, I hope that no group of people or traders would come together for that purpose.

May I ask the Minister if other member states of the Community allow the importation of these cars? Is it true that at one time these cars could be imported into Australia and New Zealand but that this practice has been stopped by the Governments of those countries?

I understand that the only other country in the European Community which could allow the importation of these cars in the normal way is Britain where cars are driven on the same side of the road as in Ireland and Japan. I understand the British authorities do not prohibit the importation of second-hand cars from Japan. I believe this does not happen because the price of second-hand cars in Britain on average is a fair bit lower than it is here. Therefore, it is probably a less economic proposition to import them. I understand that these cars were imported into Australia and New Zealand but this practice was stopped after some years as a protection measure for the local industry.