In a move described as "a big win for consumers", the Federal Government has announced it will lift personal import restrictions on new and near-new vehicles sourced from Japan and the United Kingdom from 2018 onward.
The timing is designed to coincide with the end of local manufacturing by Ford, Holden and Toyota, and it is estimated the rule changes will only see around 30,000 cars enter the country as parallel or "grey" imports - representing roughly 2.5 to 3 percent of the overall new car market.
While the move will open up consumer choices beyond models that are currently offered by those manufacturers with a dealer presence in Australia, there are some restrictions on the scheme.
The new rules only apply to personal imports (meaning car yards can't simply buy new stock from overseas), and individuals are limited to buying one new car every two years. Cars must also be less than twelve months old, with under 500km on the odometer.
There are also question marks over whether warranty and maintenance support will be forthcoming from local car distributors.
“It is true car dealers are not enthusiastic about this change, but we expect the quantity of imports to be modest,” said Major Projects Minister Paul Fletcher in a press release.
“Most Australians will continue to purchase cars directly imported by manufacturers and sold through their existing dealership network.”
Australian Automotive Association chief Michael Bradley said the rule changes represented “a big win for consumers”.
“It will also produce environmental and safety benefits because it will encourage faster renewal of Australia’s vehicle fleet,” he continued.
“Australia’s private car fleet has an average age of 10 years, which is quite old by global standards and the fact that Australians often pay over the odds for new cars plays no small part in this.”
The Government also announced minor changes to personal importation rules for classic and collectible vehicles, with the minimum age now set to 25 years (the previous rule saw only pre-1989 models eligible) and the $12,000 import duty payment to be lifted.
Vehicles on the Specialist and Enthusiast Vehicles Register will remain eligible for low-volume import.
Does this news change your plans for how you'll buy your next new car? Have your say in the comments below.