The British Independent Motor Trade Association (BIMTA) has disputed the scale of the international stolen car trade highlighted by the BBC's special investigation into the 'biggest car fraud in the world'.

BIMTA represents non-franchised dealers across the UK, many of whom import vehicles direct from Japan.

"We estimate that around 1,000 stolen vehicles a year are entering the UK - possibly 2,000 at the most," said BIMTA spokesman Richard Moore.

"This puts less than 10,000 stolen Japanese cars on our roads."

This is in sharp contrast to the "tens of thousands" of stolen vehicles claimed by the BBC Watchdog programme (Wednesday July 25 BBC1 7.30pm) to be in circulation in the UK.

"Nobody disputes there is a serious problem but it must be kept in perspective if we are to act responsibly and avoid unnecessary panic amongst UK motorists," said Moore.

"It has even been suggested half a million stolen Japanese cars have passed through the Middle East. This is plainly ludicrous. In the last five years only 135,880 cars have been stolen in Japan and not recovered.

"Last year alone in the UK some 400,000 cars were stolen and of these a staggering 150,000 were never recovered. That's a much bigger domestic problem."

He said there was a perfectly legitimate trade in second hand Japanese imported cars.

"Motorists just need to use their common sense when shopping around for a Japanese import," said Moore.

"Buy only from an established dealer and if the price looks too good to be true - there's probably a very good reason."

However, BIMTA has called for tighter controls on vehicles being imported to the UK from the Middle East - most of which originate from Japan.

"We first alerted police to this problem almost two years ago," said Moore, "and it's certainly now time that tough measures were put in place to stop this illegal trade.

"But this can only happen if there is far greater co-operation between governments, police forces, motor manufacturers and trade bodies.

"We would like to see a working group established immediately to co-ordinate international efforts to put the criminals out of business."

To read yesterday's related news article, please click here.

To view related research reports, please follow the links below:-

The world's car manufacturers: A financial and operating review

Automotive regional report: Western Europe

Automotive country report: Japan

Auto market intelligence
from just-auto

• Auto component fitment forecasts
• OEM & tier 1 profiles & factory finder
• Analysis of 30+ auto technologies & more