In 2016, it was announced the Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989 was being updated for the first time since 2000. After all, a lot has changed since then, and these updates intend to:
- Bring the Act up to date with the modern world
- Get rid of unnecessary legislation
- Properly address the fact that cars today are very different than they were 20 years ago
This guide will take you through the changes that will affect importing a car into Australia.
2020 car import reforms update
Changes arising from the reforms did not come into force until December 2019, in the guise of interim arrangements.
Here's a quick summary of the eligibility criteria brought in to effectively allow the import of 25-year-old vehicles that would have been included in the reforms had they gone ahead:
- The vehicle model or variant must not have been genuinely available (or in full production volume) to Australian consumers, at least for a period of its lifespan.
- The manufacturer must have placed the car on sale in international markets for a minimum of three months.
- Additionally, it must fall into one of the following six vehicle categories:
- Performance variant
- Environmental vehicle
- Left-hand drive
- Campervan or motorhome
The process for importing a vehicle using these stop-gap measures goes like this:
The applicant accesses the vehicle for SEV eligibility, before submitting a form and supporting evidence to the infrastructure.gov.au SEV email address.
From there, the department takes over and follows a flow chart to determine whether they need more information or whether they can advance to adding the vehicle to a register of SEVs eligible for discretionary approvals. They also maintain a list of ineligible vehicles.
Only Registered Automotive Workshops (RAW) can take advantage of this short-term provision.
What do these proposed changes mean?
Let's travel back to February 2016, when, following a review into the existing Motor Vehicle Standards Act, the Australian Government announced what it had planned. Following extensive industry consultation that resulted in a few adjustments to those original plans, the Road Vehicle Standards Bill was to be introduced into parliament before the end of 2017.
As a result, the following changes were expected to take effect by 2019:
- Increased access to different specialist, classic, luxury and enthusiast cars.
- Quicker and easier process of importing a car through the Registered Automotive Workshop Scheme, while the quality of these vehicles is improved.
- Simplified process for importing special vehicles that fail to meet typical standards.
- Improved supply of new mainstream cars.
- Clarified supplier responsibilities in the event of a vehicle recall.
- Vehicle recall provisions applied to all road vehicles sold in Australia, whether private or commercial.
- New vehicles to receive a secure vehicle identification marking to deter theft and re-birthing.
- Reduced regulatory burdens for registered automotive workshops (RAWs).
As you'll note from the box above, these changes haven't been fully implemented yet.
Importing rare and special cars
When these changes do eventually come into effect, you'll be able to import a wider variety of rare, luxury, classic, collective and special-purpose vehicles more easily, with expansions to the concessional arrangement scheme, which grants exemptions to the usual requirements when importing certain special vehicles. This is one of the main ways to import vintage or special cars that don't meet typical new car standards, and the car import reforms should make it easier.
Prior to these reforms, a vehicle could only qualify if it was manufactured before 1989. Naturally, setting a fixed date like this doesn't make a lot of sense because the number of eligible cars keeps shrinking each year. The reforms will replace the "manufactured before 1989" requirement with a rolling "must be at least 25 years old" requirement.
Compare finance to import rare and special cars
Regulations and costs for businesses
Overall, these updates should shift Australian vehicle standards closer to that of international equivalents to make the overseas import of cars to Australia easier, and reduce the costs involved in regulating and managing these imports.
Current regulation includes a $12,000 special duty on imported used vehicles. This is rarely applied but still represents a significant hurdle for importing used cars. The cost of administering this duty is higher than the return, with a lot of the costs borne by automotive businesses.
The removal of this outdated rule is one of the changes that businesses should expect to encounter. Appropriately registered automotive workshops and dealerships can expect reduced red tape, additional options and more streamlined approval and registration processes.
Registered Automotive Workshops (RAW) will now be able to import both new and used vehicles of the types listed by the Specialist & Enthusiast Vehicle (SEV) register. As a garage business owner, this means you can offer your customers added value with less bureaucracy, and as a customer, you can enjoy increased options with better value in more places.
To get on the SEV register, a vehicle must match at least one of the following criteria:
- Performance. High performance with specifications such as power-to-weight ratio that are significantly superior to mainstream Australian vehicles.
- Environmental. Environmentally high-performing, such as vehicles that offer much lower emissions per kilometre travelled than mainstream cars.
- Mobility. Manufactured with special features to assist people with disabilities.
- Rarity. One of only a small number, limited editions.
- Left-hand drive. A left-hand drive car of which right-hand drive versions are not available anywhere in the world.
- Motorhomes and campervans. A vehicle originally manufactured as a campervan or motorhome.
There are other benefits too:
- Registering as a RAW will be simplified. Workshops will now only need to establish certain workshop particulars and achieve ISO 9000 quality management systems certification.
- Sample vehicle testing and modification requirements will be reduced, including removal of the current requirements that serviceable catalytic converters and tyres be replaced, and reduction of emissions testing requirements for sample vehicles that are from countries with similar emissions standards as Australia.
- The limits on the number of vehicles that can be processed by each workshop will be removed.
- The industry code of practice for left-to-right-hand drive conversions will be updated to take into account modern vehicle construction and design methods.
While these make it a lot easier for businesses to provide and for buyers to purchase imported vehicles, there is still a commitment to actively improving and not just maintaining existing quality standards with the introduction of third-party vehicle-by-vehicle inspections. All Registered Automotive Workshop Scheme (RAWS) supplied vehicles will be required to undergo third-party inspection to confirm that:
- Modifications have been carried out appropriately
- The vehicle has no structural damage
- The vehicle's identity is genuine
- The odometer reading is valid
Workshops will also have to meet new technical and reporting requirements, but this is also being streamlined with a documentation pre-approval process known as Model Reports, which:
- Are authored by qualified third parties
- Provide for the sharing of documentation and design details between multiple RAWs
- Provide a standardised way for shared designs, test evidence and modification procedures to be efficiently examined and approved by the Department of Infrastructure
- Include a checklist of key specifications to be used to more easily confirm compliance
How to prepare for the car import reforms
If you run an automotive business, it's a good idea to familiarise yourself with the changes and think about what it will mean for you. Be ready to hit the ground running by knowing about your new responsibilities and advantages.
If you're a car enthusiast or are in the market for a vehicle, it might be a good idea to plan ahead.
- Want a modified or imported car? Consider delaying your purchase until there are more options, better value and an easier time with importing and registration.
- Need a vehicle in the meantime, but want to wait before spending money on a "real" car? You might want to consider saving your money for the real thing and cheaply financing a used car, or pick up a cheap or low-interest car loan so you have more to spend in the future.
- Think you'll want a good car in the near future, but not right away? If you start planning now, you can ensure that you're in a position to take full advantage of these car import updates when the time comes. This might involve budgeting to pay for a new car outright, or comparing new car loans ahead of time to prepare for that instead.
Consider getting car loan pre-approval if you'll be taking advantage of the car import changes.
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