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Mitsubishi criticised over grey tactics

The Office of Fair Trading is being asked to look into whether actions by carmakers to stop grey imports into the UK are restriction of trade.

Mitsubishi and Toyota are prepared to take legal action to stop independent dealers in the UK selling cars imported from outside of the EU. Several grey importers are bringing in cheap versions of cars and particularly pick-ups from markets such as Japan and Thailand.

Mitsubishi has already forced one UK trader to return several pick-ups to Thailand as part of an out-of-court settlement and is confident European trademark law supported its position. Toyota has also written to importers demanding they stop.

The British Independent Motor Trade Association is in talks with the OFT about competition law. It believes Mitsubishi is abusing its position as an official importer. “Mitsubishi’s tactics will not go down at all well with the British public and the company is putting its reputation at serious risk,” says Richard Moore, general secretary.

As AM went to press Mitsubishi had served papers on 14 car importers in the UK.

“We have already accepted that our members should stop selling new cars from outside the EU and offered this as a compromise to Mitsubishi, but it wanted more. They want to control the used car market too and this is the most worrying aspect,” adds Moore.

More than 55,000 new and used vehicles are unofficially imported to the UK each year worth around £300m.

Mitsubishi says it is taking action to protect its customers being mis-sold products. “Customers may be misled about the origins and standards of vehicles which they purchase from non-franchised dealers,” says Jim Tyrrell, managing director of Mitsubishi UK.

Toyota says that the latest version of its Hilux was imported from Thailand before it went on UK sale last month.

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