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Minister of Justice, Senator the Hon. Mark Golding, says the Government continues to make suitable amendments to the Motor Vehicle Import Policy, in an effort to ensure that there is equity and balance within the local motor vehicle industry.

Speaking at a ribbon cutting ceremony for the opening of a new Suzuki showroom on South Camp Road in Kingston, on November 29, Mr. Golding noted that the most current review of the policy is focused on addressing, in a more comprehensive way, the developments and issues related to the sector.

“We recognise that there are a number of potential risks associated with the industry, in the absence of clear guidelines to govern importation of vehicles,” he pointed out.

The Minister noted that the regime governing importation of motor vehicles must seek to balance factors such as road safety, consumer protection, fair competition, consumer choice, revenue collection, the safe guarding of intellectual property rights and environmental protection, among others.

One imperative, he said, is the importation of more environmentally friendly units into the island, particularly in terms of emissions, fuel use, and stricter adherence to age limit restrictions. “The intention is to avoid an overabundance of older and often less efficient units in the island,” Mr. Golding said.

He further informed that the new policy focus also gives a stronger tone to the ban on the importation of half cars, while also making the importation of parts for repair more accessible.

"This will serve to boost the inventory of replacement parts under warranty condition. Additionally, warranty requirements are being strengthened for both used and new car dealers as part of efforts to improve customer service within the sector,” he said.

Additionally, the new policy focus also intends to facilitate the importation of vehicles by legitimate registered companies designated for their own use. Under the policy, each company is allowed to import a maximum of three units themselves over a two-year period, with the option of obtaining additional units through registered dealers.

Mr. Golding assured that this clause does not intend to restrict legitimate business, but instead seeks to ensure the absence of loopholes, in terms of dealer registration requirements.

The Minister also pointed out that there is a formal recognition of returning residents in the current policy as well.

“We expect that these essential amendments to the motor vehicle policy will contribute to a more holistic policy. However, we appreciate the fact that the environment in which the motor vehicle industry operates is ever changing,” he said, adding that the Government will continue to review the policy at regular intervals to ensure that consumers are protected, that the needs of the sector are met, and that the objectives of the Government are achieved.

In the meantime, Minister of State in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Sharon Folkes-Abrahams, commended Stewart’s Automotive Group for their continued investment in Jamaica since 1938.

She further congratulated the Group on the opening of its new Suzuki showroom, pointing out that the latest investment signals the growing confidence in the local economy, and “is very much supportive of the Government’s focus on jobs with growth."

Mrs. Folkes-Abrahams pointed out that the ultimate goal is for a successful local automobile industry that not only benefits those who invest and work in it, “but one that is also for the good of the Jamaican economy as a whole."

For his part, Japanese Ambassador to Jamaica, His Excellency Yasuo Takase, commended Stewart’s Automotive Group for making the Japanese Suzuki brand a household name among the Jamaican people.

“I am quite happy and satisfied and also impressed that there are many Japanese cars in Jamaica,” he said.

There are currently a total of 21 certified new car dealers and 185 certified used car dealers in Jamaica. Approximately 1,500 persons are employed directly by new car dealers and 1,900 by used car dealers, and an undetermined number of persons are indirectly employed in various areas, including motor vehicle repairs.