UK drivers of 'grey' imports concerned their car may have been stolen in Japan for export are being offered a free conformity check by U-Save Automotive, the specialist supplier of Japanese parts for imported.
The offering comes after a police investigation revealed that between 60,000 and 100,000 'grey' imports in the UK may have been stolen by Japanese criminal gangs.
Vehicle owners need to supply the full vehicle chassis number and U-Save, using a database covering nine Japanese manufacturers, will confirm details of the vehicle including colour, year of registration, engine and transmission details.
Alan Marshall, U-Save Automotive sales manager, said: "We want to take the 'grey' out of grey imports and felt it was import to set up this service to reassure owners. The initial vehicle conformity check will flag up any early concerns with the vehicle for example if the vehicle has been modified, is a ringer or has been cut and shut and is in fact two cars welded together.
"In addition on request we can confirm, within 48 hours, with our exporter in Japan that the vehicle was properly de-registered prior to export and not stolen."
When a vehicle is officially exported from Japan it must first be de-registered, and this process confirms whether the vehicle has been reported as stolen.
Mr Marshall said: "When buying a grey import vehicle, we strongly recommend customers ask to see the de-registration documents before parting with any money. These are of course in Japanese so also ask for an English translation."
Grey import car owners can access the U-Save Automotive free vehicle conformity check at www.usaveauto.co.uk/vcc, or telephone 01789 720 999. It covers the manufacturers Daihatsu, Honda, Isuzu, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota.
The vehicle conformity check is available free from U-Save Automotive until the end of the year depending on demand. Motorist can also check vehicle details with their nearest appropriate dealer, costs for this service are approximately £25 + VAT.
Mitsubishi Motors UK, one of the principle victims of the 'grey' import phenomena and its most vocal opponent, has instructed all its dealers to check VIN numbers to help the police and the DVLA trace the stolen cars. A spokesman said the move was unlikely to drive business away to the independent sector.
“We're more likely to win business than lose it,” he said. Grey importers are in a blind panic and a lot of independents have been approaching us to check our VIN numbers.”