By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A top auto dealer yesterday said he will "definitely" ensure his used vehicles undergo pre-import inspections, arguing that such processes will "take a lot of fear out of consumers".
Fred Albury, the Bahamas Motor Dealers Association's (BMDA) president, told Tribune Business he will "sleep better at night" by subjecting his own vehicles to the rigorous technical tests viewed during last week's Standards Bureau-led trip to Japan.
A member of that delegation, Mr Albury said it would be "a great consumer protection exercise" should the Government accept the offer by Japanese firm, EAA Company Ltd, to conduct pre-export inspections of all used vehicles shipped from that nation to the Bahamas.
He added that these inspections, conducted to standards and specifications set by the Bahamas, would enhance local consumer safety and act as a form of "insurance and assurance" that they were receiving "value for money" on their purchase.
And, responding to fears that pre-import inspection costs will price used vehicles beyond the reach of many Bahamians, Mr Albury told "the horn blowers" that the costs involved were "nominal" rather than "astronomical".
He said that based on the numbers suggested to him, pre-import inspection costs would likely be less than the sums spent by Bahamian women on their "hair and nails".
Describing the Japan trip as beneficial, Mr Albury told Tribune Business: "Any used cars I import now I'll definitely have inspected over there.......
"This is a great consumer protection exercise out there, which hopefully will be adopted by the Government and help consumers make better decisions on what they get. I'm going to have my vehicles inspected so I can sleep better at night. I had a couple of vehicles come in last year where the engines were bad."
A report on the Japan trip, and the delegation's findings and recommendations, is now being prepared by Standards Bureau executives for the Prime Minister and minister of labour's consideration.
Dr Renae Ferguson-Bufford, the Bahamas Bureau of Standards and Quality's (BBSQ) director, and who led the delegation, declined to comment prior to the report's submission and added that the Government's next public comments would be made at the ministerial level. Mr Albury, though, said he and members of the Standards Bureau-led delegation saw "a very thorough" inspection process where vehicles were raised up on lifts and subjected to a full technical diagnosis.
The "front to back" inspection assessed areas such as brakes, suspensions, brake pads, tyre treads, electrical systems, battery and oil quality, and emissions - all of which, Mr Albury said, will help to detect vehicles that are water-damaged, have been in an accident or are stolen.
"All in all it's a very good process," he told Tribune Business," and will take a lot of fear out of the consumer from buying 'sight unseen', having the vehicle inspected and to a certain standard.
"It's an insurance programme; insurance and assurance that the consumer is getting value for money. It makes sense to have. I think it's quite thorough, and I think it could be very helpful in the consumer making a decision about getting a vehicle out there rather than a piece of junk.
"They can also confirm the mileage. There's a lot of corruption with putting back the mileage for vehicles coming in here. While the consumer thinks their getting a vehicle with 40,000 miles on when it's really 140,000.
Mr Albury added that used car vehicle exporters to the Bahamas tended to come from other Asian nations, not Japan, and "see our market as being wide open with no regulation, so they have a field day with it, exporting junk".
He said Japanese customs statistics only captured vehicle exports above a certain value or "threshold", meaning that these failed to capture a significant portion of the automobiles being sent to the Bahamas.
Feedback on the pre-import vehicle inspections, as measured by responses to Tribune Business's articles on this newspaper's website, has been overwhelmingly opposed to the Bahamas adopting such a process and measures.
Many responses have suggested the Japan trip was a 'conspiracy' between the new car dealers, banks and the Government to price used vehicles beyond affordability for many Bahamians, resulting in increased sales, auto loans and Public Treasury revenues for the three parties involved.
Mr Albury, though, said the inspection fee involved would likely be "very nominal" based on the numbers provided to him, and would be well worth the improved consumer protection and safety.
"It's nothing astronomical," he told Tribune Business. "The expression was used that some women would spend more on their hair and nails than what these inspections cost.
"I think it's a good insurance policy that the consumer can have some protection on the buying of a car sight unseen, and to eliminate the mileage being rolled back on vehicles.
"The big thing the consumer needs to be concerned about is the corruption with mileage roll-back," Mr Albury continued. "When they think they're getting a deal they're really not, and this inspection process will eliminate that fear.
"From the numbers quoted, any inspection fee will only be nominal. For the horn blowers out there claiming this will be astronomical, it's not. The consumer should be very happy if this is adopted."
Mr Albury said the Bahamas would have to determine the pre-import inspection standards that used vehicles have to meet should it accept EAA Company's offer, and added that the rest of the Caribbean was likely to follow this nation's lead.
"It would eliminate the oil-burning clunkers and vehicles coming in with bald tyres and bad batteries that end up in the landfill, and cars that have been in an accident or stolen," the BMDA and Auto Mall chief added of the inspections.
"It's going to be a good source of consumer protection to ensure consumers are getting value for money."
Of the 1.2-1.4 million used vehicle exports recorded by Japanese customs last year, Mr Albury said some 74,000 found their way to the Caribbean. Jamaica, which has imposed a five-year age limit on vehicle imports, saw these arrivals increase by almost 50 per cent in 2017 - from around 22,000 to 33,000.