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Mexico Changes Import Laws

Posted: 03/03/2008 - 2:16 PM ET

In a bid to protect their own market for new and used cars, Mexico has changed their import laws regarding used cars. Effective Monday, March 3rd, only cars that are exactly ten years old, no more, and no less, can be legally imported into the country.

If this sounds like an arbitrary law, consider that auction houses along the Texas and California borders were routinely swept for ten-fifteen year old cars and sold to Mexican drivers desperate for affordable transportation and models unavailable from new-car dealers at home. While many of those cars were in good condition, some were scratched or dented, and others failed very shortly after purchase.

So why the change? New car dealers in Mexico felt that "vehiulos chatarra" - what we call "jalopies" - were undercutting their sales if they were newer than ten years old, and older cars were labeled "environmental hazards" as well as being possibly unsafe.

The instigators of the change in legislation were members of the Mexican Association of Automobile Distributors, which said the new rules were needed to, "stop the accelerated conversion of our country into the world's biggest automotive garbage dump."

Representatives of the Mexican Consulate in McAllen, TX, add that this is an effort, "to restrict the entry of vehicles that compete with the Mexican car industry."

Used car dealers on the US side of the border are finding that they can now increase the price of their 1998 stock by $500-$800, the first time many vehicles have appreciated since they rolled off their original lots. Says Elena Garcia, co-owner of Walester Auto Sales which is located about a mile north of the Rio Grande, "At this point we have a lot of merchandise that was going to Mexico that now will stay."

Another dealer, Juan Gutierrez of Gutierrez Brothers, adds, "The worse thing we can do is buy something that we don't know if it can go across (the border)," Juan Gutierrez said. "If a 1997 worth $3,000 can't cross, it's not even worth $1,500." Gutierrez had to dump a thousand cars at extremely reduced prices last month in order to not be saddled with them when the month turned.

Car dealers only had a month's worth of notice of the change.

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