NCT test hits importers

Owners of imported Japanese cars could face delays in receiving their NCT certificates

Owners of imported Japanese cars could face delays in receiving their NCT certificates. This is because of the length of time it takes to get relatively small components, either from breakers' yards, import parts suppliers, or even direct from Japan. Brian Byrne reports.

They may have to get extended "deferrals" of NCT test completions, which can cost them more money in retesting, and involve loss of income in taking time off work to find required parts.

The difficulties have increased due to a tightening of NCT test standards applied last year, following the "bedding down" of the system which went into operation in 2000.

Though "grey"' importers usually claim that imported Japanese cars are identical to their European counterparts, this is usually not so. Many come with extras such as climate control, traction control and air conditioning.

Emissions controls in Japan were in the past more strict than those implemented in Europe, so any replacement of exhaust and catalytic convertor systems from the versions sold in Europe can result in unbalanced emissions for the model, which can lead to failure in an NCT test.

Suspension and ride setup on domestic Japanese cars are also different to those on European-spec cars. As the NCT requires parity of performance on all four wheels, the failure of a shock absorber or spring on one wheel, for instance, may require replacement of the suspension systems on all four wheels to ensure compliance.

Though fears of non-service from main dealers for "grey" imports generally prove unfounded, such dealers don't carry spares specific to the imports. And while they are normally willing to send to the home country for required parts, shipping costs can multiply the end price by significant factors.

Around 60,000 imported second-hand Japanese cars were sold in Ireland between 1996-2000, the oldest of which would be 10-years-old or more, and the youngest six-years-old, and heading for its second NCT test. Sales of such cars have fallen dramatically from a high of more than 25,000 in 1998, due in part to lower interest rates and economic growth.

Several of the larger importers now ship more of their products to Britain than here. Many of the older imports are strongly represented in the Dublin taxi fleet, particularly Nissan Sentras which are not sold new in the Irish market. Testing of these cars is now also the responsibility of the NCT.

With the increasing numbers of these cars now reaching a stage where component replacement is necessary, it's likely that an increasing number will be figuring in the failure lists, and often for the smallest of reasons.

FAILING THE TEST: THE REASONS WHY. . .

In the first year of the NCT programme, 54 per cent of pre-1992 cars failed their first test, as did 32 per cent of 1992-1996 registered vehicles. More than 303,000 cars were tested and 40,000 taken off the road.

In the first two months of this year, 47 per cent of the 103,679 cars presented for a full test were failed. Of those re-presented for test, 10 per cent failed. The percentages are the same as last year, when 536,071 cars underwent a full NCT. Last year, the main failure items were Brakes, Front Suspension and Bodywork (in pre-92 vehicles).

The previous year the main failure items were brakes, front suspension and emissions. In the year 2000, one in six pre-92 cars were identified as having defective brakes, and one in eight were over the emissions limit set by the European Union.

One in nine had defective steering. With a significantly younger car population now rolling along Ireland's roads, the more critical failure reasons are likely to decrease. But now we're getting down to the small detail, which has the potential to cause more angst to car owners than does a major failure.

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