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Red tape 'will cut demand for European imports'

The obstacles to importing a vehicles from the continent are increasing – along with the price – according to Glass's Guide, which means good news for the UK franchised dealer.

Glass's Guide says the cause are the changes to the Single Vehicle Approval (SVA) scheme which came into effect on 1st February 2001, to be followed up by further changes later this year.

"These were designed to deliver increased competition and choice for car buyers," says Glass's senior car guide editor Jeff Paterson. "However, rather than opening the market up to provide greater choice, several areas where cars could legitimately be brought into the country are now under threat of being closed off".

For a start, to qualify as a 'personal import', the importer must now have lived abroad for at least 12 months and to have owned or used their vehicle for a minimum of 6 months. It is no longer possible to travel abroad, drive a car a few yards and then bring it back.

Secondly, even most important changes will come into effect on 1st August 2001 which will require non-type-approved vehicles to undertake a more demanding Enhanced SVA (ESVA). Aspects such as emissions, crash safety, brakes, noise, seat belts and their anchorage points, and security provisions will be tested.

Under ESVA, compliance with full type-approval standards for these key items will be necessary and the cost of the tests are expected to be "significant":

Emissions (test only): £ 500
Emissions Model Report: £1,500
Noise (test only): £250
Noise Model Report: £1,000
Immobiliser fitting: £100

"These costs are too prohibitive to allow an individual or small firm to import single or small quantities of vehicles into the country," predicts Jeff Paterson.

"The costs need to be spread across a large number of vehicles and this can only be possible where large volumes of the same specification are accessible or available. Some reduction to these costs could be achieved if the model reports were shared between applicants but the reality of this happening is extremely unlikely.”

Glass's says the end result will be a restriction of the numbers of cars that can be imported.

“Good news perhaps for manufacturers who are concerned that grey imports are affecting UK residuals, but not such good news for consumers," says Mr Paterson.

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