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Dealers would oppose used car policy change

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A pilot scheme that allows Bermuda car dealers to sell second hand cars has been in operation for nearly a year – a little known part of the second hand car market that hangs in the balance of an ongoing government review.

The review has automotive dealers concerned – but not because the scheme might end.

They are worried that government might allow individuals to privately import cheap, used cars from Asia.

The government has not indicated it has made such a decision. But when recently asked about it, a Transport Ministry spokesperson said it was under review.

One auto dealer, Rayclan’s Amy Greenslade, said if everyone was allowed to import used cars, it would mean a number of problems.

“That would concern me,” she said. “Second hand commercial vehicles are one thing. But there is already a thriving second hand car market in Bermuda. You just need to look in The Royal Gazette, or on Emoo.”

Others in the auto dealer industry share her concerns.

They point to problems faced by some taxi operators and companies importing low-priced, second hand commercial vehicles from Asia.

Used commercial vehicles are also imported by the main automotive dealers.

But Richard Davidge of Eurocar Ltd. and Prestige Autos Ltd. said some individual buyers bring in used commercial vehicles, with no warranty and largely untracked by manufacturers.

Should a manufacturer discover a need for a worldwide recall, or to advise of a safety defect, the Bermuda owner will be out of the loop.

He said, “The manufacturer won’t know where they are, to affect notification. They try to track them for the life of the vehicles.”

He said used private cars allowed into the Cayman Islands devastated the new car market.

But he also recalled: “Some years ago, Cayman was hit hard by a hurricane. There were cars left all over the island, because they had purchased them cheaply second-hand, and there were no parts for them. So they were left trashed all over the island. It was a big problem.”

Refurbished second hand taxis, minibuses and commercial vehicles like trucks are allowed to be imported into Bermuda by public service vehicle owners and businesses to supplement the supply of new commercial vehicles brought in by automotive dealers.

But dealers import used commercial vehicles they know they can service. They point to instances where there are no parts and no shops to service vehicles imported privately.

Mr Davidge said: “Commercial vehicles coming in now could be just more landfill. Add private cars to that, and it may have a serious environmental impact.”

“The cost to set up a business and a relationship with a manufacturer is huge. So, if you have people bringing in the non-manufacturer-represented vehicles and can’t look after them properly, it will be a problem.

“Can you imagine them bringing in electric cars. People have died trying to work on electric cars because they didn’t know what they were doing.”

Car dealers say that apart from the service and support they provide for the commercial vehicles they bring in, they are more carefully screened before purchase.

Meanwhile, the used private cars government allows dealers to sell, are typically ones they have previously imported and sold brand new, but which are now being returned as owners seek to upgrade (or downsize to a smaller vehicle), leaving a perfectly functioning auto mobile.

Dealers can buy back and maintain a fleet up to 10 cars, at a time. But any unsold after 90 days, has to be cut in half.

Rayclan Chevrolet’s Amy Greenslade said: “There could be a car that comes in needing service, but the owners feel the car is old and they are going to have it cut. We might buy it for a $1,000 and fix it. It’s like a trade-in in the states. You won’t get a whole lot for it.

“But individuals importing vehicles can get them all the way to Bermuda and then find they are unusable. And sometimes dealers can’t help them. Sometimes, there is no fixing some of them.”

She added: “We have been bringing in second hand commercial vehicles from Japan for 20 years. But we bring in the makes and models for which we have parts. We have a service department just for trucks. And we warranty them. We deal with a company we know, so we have boots on the ground over there.

“Anyone can buy something on line but they have no support. There have been several cases where people have imported vehicles that have major issues. They then believe a local dealer should have parts for it – a Japanese domestic car, the model for which is not even distributed in Bermuda.”

“A Bermuda mechanic can open a Japanese car made for their domestic market, and being unfamiliar with it, the car’s on-board computer could shut right down.

“The software has built-in antitheft code. It just assumes someone is trying to steal it. Whose problem is it now?”

“Everything looks shiny on the internet, especially at a great price.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Home Affairs said the Consumer Affairs Department has had cases involving the second hand purchase of vehicles.

The spokesman said buyers had to beware, as no warranty exists. It means researching the product, asking key questions, and seeking clear evidence the seller is giving truthful answers.

The spokesman said: “If the two contracting parties cannot agree on a solution, redress can only be obtained through the courts. Should this be necessary, they can go to the government portal to view the guide for Magistrates’ Court procedures.

“The three main product complaints are associated with second-hand vehicles, boats and appliances.

The majority of purchasers' complaints are in product performance, discovering that there is a lien on the product, the seller not being truthful about ownership, age and repair history of the product.

“For the sellers, it revolves around payment for the product, a problem which overseas sellers mainly report.

“To be clear, these are the private person to person transactions of second-hand goods which do not fall under the Consumer Protection Act 1999, and any redress sought must be obtained through the courts.

“Before purchasing any second hand items or products, we encourage consumers to visit the government portal to view the guidelines for buying used products and buying a used car or bike.”

Amy Greenslade VP and Sales Manager at Rayclan Chevrolet (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Richard Davidge, owner of EuroCar Ltd.

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Published September 30, 2021 at 7:59 am (Updated September 30, 2021 at 9:14 am)

Dealers would oppose used car policy change

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