Import policy tops concerns
With Andrew Holness sworn in as Jamaica's prime minister and a Cabinet slated to be announced imminently under the new Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) administration, Jamaica's automobile sellers are hoping for an early meeting with the minister who ends up with responsibility for the sector.
Both Lynvalle Hamilton, who heads the Jamaica Used Car Dealers Association (JUCDA), and Kent LaCroix, chairman of new car dealers' organisation, pointed to the motor vehicle importation policy as the top item on his list of priorities in having dialogue with representatives of the incoming Government.
Those issues are outstanding from the previous People's National Party (PNP) administration.
"We would love to have a meeting with the minister in charge as soon as possible and see where we go from there," LaCroix said. He said the major area of concern is the motor vehicle importation policy, which has been high on the ADA's agenda for the better part of the last 18 months.
He said that the policy determines not only the practices and procedures, but also the regulations governing both new and used-car dealers, and there are certain aspects which the importers wish to have changed.
Although there are new issues which the ADA wishes to raise with the incoming administration, LaCroix told Automotives that he prefers not to disclose them prior to the hoped-for early meeting.
Hamilton said the JUCDA was not pleased with a number of issues which were not dealt with under the previous Government. He, too, identified the overarching motor vehicle importation policy as the major area of concern, with a number of policies under that which JUCDA believes continue to undermine the industry.
LaCroix said the February election affected sales for last month, as many potential consumers were in a holding pattern until the outcome was determined. Still, he said, it was a better month that January. Taken together, though, new car sales for the first two months of 2016 were "pretty much flat".
While gas prices have been falling, La Croix does not see this influencing vehicle sales. "I think people are just happy that the prices have been going down and it saves on the bottom line at the end of the day. I don't think people are packing up and driving all over the place. If they are saving something, that is good," he said.
On the other hand, Hamilton reported an unexpected resilience in the Jamaican used car market. The JUCDA members had expected events in Japan which affected the availability of 2011 vehicles - which would have been at the five-year limit for importation and also have more affordable prices - to slow sales. Added to that was the yen strengthening against the US dollar, leading to higher prices.
However, Hamilton said, "We were still able to get cars at reasonable prices."