Government regulations designed to deliver increased competition and choice for UK car buyers are having the opposite effect, says the industry vehicle pricing ‘bible’ Glass’s Guide.

Glass’s blames changes to the UK’s Single Vehicle Approval (SVA) scheme, which came into effect on 1 February, and further changes due later this year.

For a vehicle to qualify as a ‘personal import’, the importer must now have lived abroad for at least 12 months and to have owned or used the vehicle for a minimum of six months.

It is no longer possible to travel abroad, usually to mainland Europe, drive a car a few yards and then bring it back to the UK, as was the case until recently.

Changes due to come into effect on August 1 will require non-type-approved vehicles to undertake a more demanding Enhanced SVA (ESVA) test during which emissions, crash safety, brakes, noise emissions, seat belts, belt anchorage points and security provisions will be checked.

Under ESVA, compliance with full type-approval standards for these key items will be necessary and the cost of the tests is expected to be significant – £500 ($US713) for an emissions check alone.

“Rather than opening the market up to provide greater choice, several areas where cars could legitimately be brought into the country are now under threat of being closed off,” said Glass’s senior car guide editor Jeff Paterson.

“It’s becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to bring personal imports into the UK – and that spells bad news for those looking for a cheaper alternative to British franchised dealers.

“The [testing] costs are too prohibitive to allow an individual or small firm to import single or small quantities of vehicles into the country [and] need to be spread across a large number of vehicles.

“This can only be possible where large volumes of the same specification are accessible or available. Some reduction to these costs could be achieved if the model reports were shared between applicants but the reality of this happening is extremely unlikely.”

Paterson added that it was hard to see how the UK vehicle checking system could cope with the regulation changes because there are currently only two laboratories in the UK able to carry out the tests.

“The end result will be that, rather than opening the market up to greater choice for the consumer, these moves will restrict the numbers of cars that can be imported,” he said.

“Good news perhaps for manufacturers who are concerned that grey imports are affecting UK residual values, but not such good news for consumers.”

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

Review of the UK Automotive Industry 2000

Global Car Forecasts to 2005