The car market in Northern Ireland could be transformed by new European Union rules on car sales, according to Fred Maguire, president of the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI).

“We can expect further changes due to the new block exemption regulation,” Maguire said.

“In Northern Ireland, in excess of 20% of the market is served by parallel imports. It is currently a ‘discreet activity,’ but one which will be a feature of life under the new regulation.”

However, Maguire believes that although the regulations will legitimise the practice, they may also be its undoing.

“It is important to remember that the purpose of the regulation is to drive forward an equalisation of the product price, and if this happens, will the parallel import be viable? It must surely become less profitable.”

Maguire has also pledged the RMI’s continuing support for petrol retailers in Northern Ireland.

“In this part of the world, where fuel smuggling accounts for one litre in two, petrol retailers face an extremely challenging time. In fact the growing effect of this problem is set to be highlighted later this month by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.

“As petrol forecourts continue to close, the government has at last decided to consult with the industry through the creation of the Oil Industry Forum. We will play a full part in the sessions.”

Government plans for garage licensing have also received Maguire’s support.

“If the government introduces a ‘Good Garage Scheme’ to strengthen the protection provided to the consumer, we will not just walk closely with them, but hand in hand.”