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Police raid car yards

The Advertiser

Thursday 12 July 2001
By MATTHEW BOWMAN and VIVIENNE OAKLEY


Serious faults in 150 vehicles

MORE than 150 vehicles with serious faults have been defected during police raids on a dozen Adelaide used-car yards.

The cars - almost 40 per cent of the 400 inspected at the low-price dealerships - had problems, including rust holes in the floors, frayed seat belts and poor brakes.

The alarming number of defective cars has reignited debate about the introduction of compulsory vehicle inspections, with the Motor Trade Association calling for checks on all vehicles before sale.

However, the RAA opposes any move to compulsory point-of-sale inspections, saying licensed dealers are already legally obliged to sell roadworthy vehicles.

Police yesterday warned dealers to ensure their vehicles were roadworthy.

"The results of this operation are very frightening,'' Inspector Jim Carter, of the Traffic Support Branch, said. "Buyers cannot presume all cars are roadworthy.''

Police were assisted in the raids - which began on Tuesday - by staff from Transport SA. The unroadworthy vehicles, which were all priced below $6000, were marked with defect labels and left in the yards for the dealers to fix.

During one inspection at a car yard in Blair Athol, all but two cars were defected. Insp Carter said the main problems identified during the police operation were bad brakes, steering faults, poor suspension, inadequate headlights and worn tyres.

Dealers must rectify the problems and present the cars at their local police station, or Transport SA at Regency Park, for more serious defects before the car is declared roadworthy.

Motor Trade Association executive director Ian Horne said the result of the police operation was "disappointing'' for the industry which has 1400 licensed dealers in SA.

"Let me say it creates great concern in the association,'' he said.

"There will be a significant number of vehicle dealers who will be very concerned and upset that the behaviour of some is going to cast a shadow over the whole industry.''

Mr Horne said if the results were reported to the licensing authority - the Office of Consumer and Business Affairs - dealers could face losing their licence through the courts.

"Perhaps it's time the Government looked at raising the bar and making licenses harder to get,'' he said. "Something in the licensing system appears not to be working.''

RAA spokesman Peter Hennekam recommended random, roadside inspections, carried out by government-appointed qualified motor mechanics, instead of compulsory testing.

"This (result) shows the industry can't meet its own statutory obligation to make vehicles roadworthy,'' he said.

RAA technical services manager Mark Borlace said the raids showed how buying a second-hand car was a case of "buyer beware''.

"The reality is that motor vehicle dealers have a fundamental obligation to provide roadworthy vehicles,'' he said. "But it's definitely a case of buyer beware. You have to do your homework before you sign for it.''

Mr Borlace said the police action would send a signal to sections of the industry.
"It keeps them on their toes,'' he said.

"The dealers are professionals so it's going to be hard for them to hide behind ignorance.''

A spokesman for Consumer Affairs Minister Trevor Griffin said he had asked for more information about the result of the raids. "If vehicles are defected it is important that consumers are protected,'' he said.

Dealers on notice

* The defects included:

Hole rusted through floor, seat belt frayed, seat belt not working correctly, brakes not adjusted correctly, tyres bald, hole rusted through firewall, insufficient brake fluid, handbrake failed to release, handbrake doesn't work, headlights not working properly, window tint too dark, emission control unit not working, oil light not working, engine leaking oil.