THE Jamaica Used Car Dealers Association (JUCDA) fears a proposal by the Automobile Dealers Association (ADA) for a return to an import policy unfavourable to them, would put the brakes on their struggling industry.
The ADA, which represents the 18 new car dealers in Jamaica, has suggested that government revise its policy on the age of used-car imports. The current four-month-old policy restricts the age of imports to five-year-old vehicles.
They have also proposed that light commercial vehicles be restricted to four years, down from the current six-year-old limit.
These measures are part of the ADA's response to wide-ranging
recommendations for tax reform by the Private Sector Working Group (PSWG), released early this month.
Lynvalle Hamilton, president of the JUCDA, addressed the ADA proposals during a press conference Wednesday at the Terra Nova All Suite Hotel in St Andrew.
He said a reversal of the current policy would severely affect his 72 members.
"We believe their position is not in the best interest of the country. Last year when we had the duty reduction it really saved the industry because we were on the brink of collapse," Hamilton explained.
He is optimistic the three-month-old government of prime minister Portia Simpson Miller will stand by the policy put in place by then industry, investment and commerce minister Christopher Tufton.
"Based on the evidence that is there, it (a reversal) will not happen," Hamilton said.
In November, Tufton announced that as of December 1, the age of used cars imported into Jamaica would be moved from three to five years. The age limit on light commercial units would be moved to six years. The new policy meant used-car dealers are now able to import 2007 brand cars.
The JUCDA had long lobbied for the age of imported used cars to be increased from the three-year, 11-month restriction instituted in 2004 by the government of prime minister P J Patterson.
Insiders likened that policy to a stake through the heart of the used-car industry. This week, Hamilton said it resulted in a 20 per cent importation decline and even more devastating, the closure of over 20 companies.
The once-thriving industry which saw over 33,000 vehicles coming into Jamaica in 1996 declined to a worrying 4,700 in 2011. Hamilton told Auto that since the new policy took effect in December, five JUCDA members who had closed shop, rejoined the fold.
According to Hamilton, JUCDA members employ around 1,400 workers.