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Hamilton sounds the alarm

Associate Editor —
Auto & Entertainment

Friday, May 11, 2018

LYNVALLE Hamiliton, president of Jamaica Used-Car Dealers' Association (JUCDA), says he will be seeking dialogue with Minister of Commerce Audley Shaw to discuss the deleterious effects the Government's four-month-old pre-shipment inspection policy is having on the sector and economy.

“Firstly, we are not against the pre-shipment inspection system, but the pitfalls that come with it [are] what we're concerned about.... Since its implementation, several skilled jobs in Jamaica are being shifted to Japan and we're seeing a 30 per cent hike in motor vehicle costs which, ultimately, will be passed on to consumers,” Hamilton told Jamaica Observer's weekly Auto magazine earlier this week. “I believe Minister Shaw is someone we can talk to.”

Implemented on February 1, the pre-shipment inspection regime aims to provide a transparent motor vehicle importation policy that safeguards consumers. The move, according to the Government, was necessary, given reports of tampering of motor vehicle odometers to reflect lower mileages and other irregularities. Japanese company, Auto Terminal Japan Limited, has been contracted to examine all used vehicles shipped to Jamaica.

The JUCDA boss said “he could not confirm or deny” whether odometers were being tampered with, but admitted “there could be a possibility”. However, according to him, the policy has morphed into something else.

“We notice cars are being failed for simple things like rust in the doors, for a hub cap missing, for a fender bender... And to fix it there (in Japan) is more expensive than to fix it here (in Jamaica). So what the Government has done is to push the labour away from Jamaica, where people would get jobs here in dealing with it, and forcing us to deal with it Japan. I don't believe that is a good thing,”said Hamilton, principal of Corporate Area dealership AutoChannel. “And our automotive repairmen and mechanics are among the best in the world... they have families that depend on them. We're sending them in the unemployment line as they're losing their jobs... Many of them are from the inner city. Also, locally, we would purchase new parts from other companies, so it has a ripple effect on the economy. Layoffs are imminent. So now we're forced to get higher-quality cars. Therefore, in six to eight months time, used car prices are gonna soar.”

Hamilton — who in January was given an eighth-consecutive year at the 185-member organisation — said his sector employs 20,000 (directly and indirectly).

“Some smaller dealers whose stocks are dwindling may ultimately close their doors,” he said.

Labelling the new system as untidy, he says the new regime has resulted in “significant delays in shipment”, as it now takes six weeks to get a pre-shipment inspection certificate for vehicles to be inspected.

“The system is not automated. What I understand is that you call to make an appointment and then they give you an appointment. Prior to this, you could order a car and we were able to ship that car in a day or two. There has been a significant decline in the number of used vehicles imported,” he said.

Efforts made to verify Hamilton's claims with Trade Board, Kingston Wharves and Kingston Logistics up to press time were unsuccessful.

Last year, according to the JUCDA boss, the sector recorded an uptick of 8.5 per cent when compared to the previous year, with 35,000 units being imported.