Used car imports in New Zealand
Used car imports are very popular in New Zealand.
A number of companies devote themselves to sourcing used cars overseas and importing them to New Zealand. The business is big enough that there is even a dedicated facility for this purpose at Auckland harbour.
Why Used Imports?
Since the economic reforms in the last quarter of the twentieth century, New Zealand has had no local manufacturing industry.
In common with other countries in a similar position, New Zealand has had no compelling reason to place barriers in the way of importing used cars from overseas.
If you have your own car industry, you will worry that an imported used car will be a substitute for a locally produced new one or at the least, it will depress the price of locally produced used cars making owners less willing to take a loss and replace their current vehicle with a new one.
An accident of geography, road handedness and foreign laws also means that New Zealand is in a very good position to benefit from importing used cars from Japan.
Like the Kiwis the Japanese of course also drive on the left hand side of the road and so they use right hand drive vehicles. Most countries near to Japan drive on the right and so do not offer a market for used right hand drive cars.
Also, in a bid to protect their own car industry, the Japanese government has passed laws that tend to make people replace their cars early. In Japan, the regular vehicle safety checks are much stricter than in most countries - even more so than in Germany - and this means that there is a steady surplus of perfectly fine and roadworth used cars in Japan.
Why not used imports?
Many people, including members of the government argue against the import of used cars saying that older cars are less safe and consume more fuel and thus emit more carbon dioxide.
I don't buy this. An eight year old car from Japan will come with airbags and anti lock brakes - the two biggest safety improvements since seat belts were introduced.
Also, that used import is likely to be consiging some twenty year old junker to the scrap heap which will be a big improvement to the New Zealand vehicle fleet.
Finally of course, most pollution from cars is tied up with building them in the first place so it makes sense to make use of a used car that might be scrapped if not exported from Japan and thus avoid building another car.
Why not used Japan?
I have heard comments from older Kiwis that they resent the fact that New Zealand fought - and defeated - Japan in World War II and yet now New Zealand ends up as the place where Japanese people dump their old cars. This is a minority view and, like those who hold it, it is dying out.
It is worth pointing out that by paying full price for a new car and then selling it at a 75% discount after four years, the Japanese consumer is in fact subsidising the Kiwi who buys the car and uses it for the next ten years.