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Porsches parade through Kingston with police escort

Published:Wednesday | December 7, 2016 | 12:00 AMNeville Graham

Motorists on Sunday were taken aback when a line of Porches swept through the capital with police escort.

Social media lit up with complaints - and colourful language - about what was perceived to be special treatment for luxury cars that only the rich can afford.

But checks by Gleaner Business indicate that police escort for cars imported to Jamaica is not unusual, and is in fact standard procedure, no matter the make.

Dealers theorise that motorists may only have noticed this time because of the type of vehicle, its vaunted profile, and the fact that Porches are hardly ever seen in Jamaica. The brand is now formally represented by ATL Automotives.

"That's how we all transport cars from the wharves," declared Howard Foster, general sales and marketing manager at Toyota Jamaica.

Indeed, Toyotas are the most prolific cars in Jamaica, with thousands of units imported and sold annually. That compares to about five Porsches that are known to be owned by a scattered group of wealthy people.

Foster indicated that there is a system by which auto dealers make formal requests for police escort for vehicles and that this happens on a regular basis throughout the year. It's meant to be a form of insurance.

"Once or twice per month, depending on the number of vehicles or how many shipments have come in for that particular month, then the broker will make that request. The police will then escort the vehicles - one escort to the front and another to the back - and they move from the wharf to our bonded warehouse," Foster said.

Transporting the vehicles in this way would dispense with the need to licence and insure before they leave the wharf since they are going to a facility where there would be no need to pay the required duties and road taxes until the motor vehicle is purchased by the customer, he explained.

Foster says companies do it this way to protect themselves.

"That is the best way to do it because, remember, the cars are not licensed or insured, so if the police are escorting them there will be no trouble from that standpoint. In addition, there is less risk since the vehicles will not be mingling with normal traffic, and so on," Foster said.

TIGHT CONVOY

Kent La Croix, who is chairman of the Automobile Dealers Association as well as group special projects manager at Stewarts Automotive, described how the transportation protocol works. They establish a tight convoy with limited numbers and guidance from the police.

"For Stewarts, they are taken off the wharf to a holding area, where they are lined up, and that convoy awaits the police escort. Depending on the number of motorcycle patrol units available at the time, we break up the convoy into batches of no more than 15 vehicles at a time," La Croix said.

Stewarts represents luxury brand Mercedes, as well as middle-of-the-road Suzuki and Mitsubishi.

La Croix emphasised that the aim is to ensure speed of delivery with little inconvenience, while preventing losses.

"There are two guiding principles in that we try not to inconvenience the public, and we ensure that there are adequate numbers of police to block off the junctions as we go through. This way, we ensure safety for all and minimise the possibility of damage to the motor vehicles," La Croix said.

Ricky Geourzoung of Magna Motors agrees. He says his many years in the business has taught him that a lot can go wrong between the wharves and the dealer's warehouse.

"We do police escort because it is a lot safer, and we are always mindful that in the past, there was a car that went missing. This is not to say that nothing will happen, but the presence of the police minimises that possibility," Geourzoung said as he recalled the time in 2002 that a car went missing en route to the dealership.

Magna Motors distributes Hyundai in Jamaica.

The eight Porches that arrived in Jamaica at the weekend - one Panamera, four Macans and 3 Cayennes - are priced up to $31.5 million.

ATL Automotive declined to say how many of them already had buyers.

"We're not prepared to say how many, but a few have been sold and some others are pending," said marketing executive Christina Thwaites. "This is the first batch, and we expect even more interest in days to come," Thwaites said.

neville.graham@gleanerjm.com