THE world's fastest, rarest and most expensive supercars - previously banned because they're made only in left-hand-drive - are one step closer to Australian roads, draft legislation to be released today shows.
The biggest changes to the Motor Vehicle Standards Act in 30 years will also see car companies and "vehicle providers" fined between $210,000 and $1.1 million if they sell a car that has not had compulsory safety recall work completed.
Dodgy sellers will face fines up to $63,000 and 12 months jail for tampering with car odometers or providing false information or documentation.
A loophole used by car dealers to import second-hand vans from Japan under the guise of converting them into campers - with no intention of doing so - will be closed, a move that will almost certainly end imports of cheap seven-seaters such as the Nissan Elgrand.
However, the sweeping changes will ultimately mean a greater choice of vehicles as the private import rules revert to their original intention: rare and classic "enthusiast" cars.
There will also be more options for vehicles that have been manufactured or modified for people in wheelchairs.
An "exposure draft" of the proposed changes is due to be released today (Wednesday 13 December, 2017) before being debated in Federal Parliament in 2018.
The Government plans to introduce the new regulations in 2019; businesses affected by closing the loophole on van imports will have until 2021 to clear their stock or adapt their operations.
The new regulations will cut $68 million in red tape and give the Federal Government more power to penalise sellers and companies who break the law or mislead consumers.
While there will be a clampdown on used "people mover" vans such as the Nissan Elgrand and hatchbacks such as the Nissan Cube, the new rules will expand the number of eligible enthusiast vehicles - new and old.
Near-new left-hand-drive supercars from the likes of Bugatti, Lamborghini and Porsche must meet a rarity criteria of between 100 and 3000 vehicles produced globally.
The only roadblock is whether individual states and territories will allow limited numbers of modern left-hand-drive supercars to be registered for road use.
However, many Australian jurisdictions already allow older left-hand-drive cars to be registered for road use. Japan and the UK have allowed new left-hand-drive cars on their roads for decades.
Older performance cars eligible for import under the new regulations have a sliding scale that ranges from a minimum 110kW of power per tonne for 1990s vehicles, to a minimum of 136kW of power per tonne for modern cars.
The horsepower rule - on a sliding scale depending on the vehicle's age - is designed to prevent importers bringing in regular cars under the specialist scheme.
"The new legislation … will better protect the community, provide more choice for specialist and enthusiast vehicles and be responsive to emerging technologies," said Paul Fletcher, the Federal Minister for the Department of Infrastructure, which covers motor vehicle regulations.
The proposed bill will also give the Federal Government "strong powers to mandate the recall of vehicles if serious safety issues arise".
Contrary to perception, safety recalls are conducted voluntarily by car makers.
Under the current scheme, car manufacturers notify the Federal Government of safety concerns before posting recall notices on the recalls.gov.au website and notifying customers by mail.
Under the new rules, recalls deemed a serious safety threat - such as the Takata airbag crisis which has claimed 19 lives globally, including at least one in Australia - will likely be mandatory.
More than 2.3 million cars on Australian roads - part of 100 million worldwide - have been recalled because their Takata airbags can spray shrapnel when deployed in a crash because their particular type of explosive material has become unstable over time.
More than half of the affected cars in Australia have been fixed but there are still close to 1 million outstanding locally - and the waiting list for parts stretches well into next year.
The new motor vehicle regulations will be debated in Federal Parliament in early 2018; interested parties can lodge feedback by mid-February. More information can be found at infrastructure.gov.au.
This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling
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