Car imports

The newly passed and reformed Road Vehicle standards bill is being met with varying response by automotive industry stakeholders, but should ultimately mean more choice for Australians looking to drive an affordable electric vehicle.

It’s taken a long time for the reforms to come about – five years and an equal number of prime ministers – but once introduced in around 12 months time, the outcomes for Aussie drivers could be significant.

A new, publicly searchable Register of Approved Vehicles (the RAV) – the list of cars allowed on Australian roads – will be created under the reforms, as well as a new Specialist and Enthusiast Vehicles (SEVs) Register; the list of vehicles Australians can apply to have imported.

Of particular interest to those keen to switch to an EV, the terms surrounding what is allowed to be imported into Australia as a specialist or enthusiast vehicle is being expanded to include a new category:

“Environmental – vehicles that offer environmental performance significantly superior to mainstream vehicles in Australia,” the bill states.

With a distinct lack of affordable electric vehicles on the Australian market – the first such vehicle under $A50,000 having only just been put to market by Hyundai – the reforms to the bill open up new possibilities for Australians wanting zero emission transport options.

The Australian Imported Motor Vehicle Industry Association (AIMVIA) has welcomed the reforms, which it says will broaden the appeal of electric and hybrid vehicles to Australian drivers, as well as make them more attainable.

Although there are about 800 vehicles on the current SEV list, only about 20 of those models have ever been brought into Australia in volumes above 20 individual vehicles.

The reforms, AIMVIA president and car importer Jack Sandher tells The Driven, are about “expanding SEVs and allowing more cars that Aussies actually want to drive.”

There’s an “interest in electric vehicles growing,” Sandher says. “In the last 12 months we’ve had a very big increase….we’ve only just brought in our first Nissan leaf, we’re behind the times in Australia.”

However, while other industry stakeholders also welcome the reforms, the Australian Automotive Dealer Association (AADA) says that it will work to make sure the changes don’t open the doors to higher numbers of “grey imports”, as used car imports are referred to.

“Following the passage of the Bill, the AADA will now focus on supporting the development of the underlying regulations to make sure that greater numbers of grey imports do not come into Australia”, said AADA CEO David Blackhall in a statement.

“Expanding the number of used cars coming into Australia is not in the public interest and we will be seeking assurances that the Specialist and Enthusiast Vehicle scheme (SEVs) does not allow used car imports to come in via a backdoor channel,” he said.

“The SEVs offers imported vehicles concessions against national vehicle standards and should be used for vehicles which are truly specialist and enthusiast in nature rather than used mainstream cars.”

Sandher on the other hand says that the changes are good, but they don’t go far enough – there needs to be more consumer choice, and as long as a car meets compliance and registration requirements, there should be no issue with an imported SEV on Australian roads.

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