Independent “grey” market motor traders Wednesday launched their own auction house to process up to 20,000 cheap new and used car imports a year, mainly from Japan.

The venture follows the refusal of established auction houses, such as BCA and Mannheim, to handle the unofficial imports trade.

More than 300 independent motor traders converged on Donington Park motor racing circuit in Derbyshire Wednesday for the first of a series of weekly auctions, from which private buyers are being excluded. More than 250 cars were sold.

“Grey” imports are vehicles that have not been built specifically for the European market and, as such, do not have European Union Type Approval.

They are allowed into the market only after undergoing a Special Vehicle Approval test confirming their suitability for use on EU roads.

Tim Charlesworth, a member of the British Independent Motor Traders Association, is leading the venture, whose partners include Nichibo Trading, a Tokyo-based motor distribution group.

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He said it had been formed “out of sheer frustration” with the established motor auction houses’ refusal to act as a distribution outlet for the cars.

Independent traders claim “grey” imports are up to 20 per cent cheaper than those available from the franchised outlets of companies such as Mitsubishi, Toyota and Mazda.

They maintain that BCA and other auction houses – whose dealer sales, also closed to the public, play a significant role in the disposal of hundreds of thousands of manufacturers’ and fleet and leasing companies’ cars – have been under pressure from manufacturers not to handle the “grey” trade. This is despite the prospect that they are forgoing up to £4m revenue from the trade.

Tom Madden, BCA chairman, has long made no secret of his company’s reluctance to engage in the business, saying that BCA had no wish to alienate the established motor trade.

The auction venture, which is creating 100 jobs and whose sales are intended to be based permanently at Donington, is organising its dealer network and operations partly through the internet.

It has adopted the domain name,

Mr Charlesworth said the imported vehicles were mainly high-performance saloons, sports cars and upmarket four-wheel-drive sports utility machines.

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency at Swansea has estimated that the “grey” car imports market exceeded 30,000 units last year.