“Haven’t seen the orange VW before? The CrossFox is an off-road version of Volkswagen’s Fox supermini, and would be perfect for Canadian roads.

Just before Canadian Parliament dissolved in late March, to clear the way for the Federal Election, it passed Bill S-5, to very little fanfare.

But maybe we should have been done the Mexican Hat Dance.

Because Bill S-5 will (eventually) clear the way for Canadians to not only purchase late-model used vehicles from Mexico — something we always could do— but to actually license and register and drive them in our respective provinces — something we could never do.

So how about an Audi A1, or Ford Ka, or the Toyota Hilux diesel pickup truck?

Not so fast, enchilada breath…

Here’s the deal… It will take another year or two for the government to work out the regulations and protocols for Mexican used-vehicle importation, and the only vehicles allowed in will be those that can be certified for Canadian safety and environmental standards. This means that some vehicles will continue to be effectively persona non grata in Canada, because if they don’t already meet Canadian safety and environmental standards, it will likely be too costly and difficult to make them so.

But as is the case with American market vehicles, there will no doubt be a lot of vehicles that already meet Canadian safety and environmental standards; the only modifications they need then for Canadian certification are relatively affordable and straightforward ones, such as daytime running lights, metric gauges, and Canadian compliant child seat latching systems.

(At some point, Transport Canada will certainly publish a list of Mexican market vehicles, which fit the above criteria.)

The Mexico-market Chevrolet Tornado, basically Cobalt-sized El Camino.

NAFTA Compliance Issue

Why did Canada suddenly get the impulse to invite Mexican used vehicles to our party? In order to bring Canada into compliance with the automotive provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Those provisions require that Mexico, the United Sates and Canada allow the importation of used vehicles from one another’s countries. All the parties were supposed to have this provision done by the end of 2010. Canada was the lone laggard; hence the rush to get it done before the election.

Canada and Mexico will follow a phased implementation: Allowable importations start with vehicles 10 years old and older. The age threshold for the vehicles will decrease by two years, every two years, until 2019, when all the NAFTA countries may not adopt or maintain any prohibition or restriction of used vehicles from each other.

U.S. Vehicles Pave Way

Vehicles imported for use in Canada that are 15 years old or older are not required to meet our safety or environmental standards — regardless of which country they originate from.

So this new Mexican move is about late model used vehicles (14 years and younger), and will (eventually) make Mexico equivalent to the U.S., when it comes to used vehicle importation into Canada. We’ve been able to import late-model used vehicles from the U.S. since 1995, due to provisions in the original Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement of the late 1980s.

And by the way, before the Mexican move, the United States was the only country in the world allowed to ship its late-model used vehicles into Canada.

To monitor and regulate the importation of American used vehicles into Canada, the government set up, in 1995, the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (www.riv.ca). This registrar program will be extended to cover Mexican vehicles.

The sold-in-Mexico Peugeot RCZ, a “French-ified” Audi TT Coupe, is one of the most beautiful cars on sale at any price.

How many Mexican vehicles?

“There won’t be a rush of people of people at the border, waiting to take their cars across,” predicts Brian Osler, president of the North American Automobile Trade Association (NAATA). His member companies are those that buy and sell vehicles across international borders.

He suggests a slow build up, because that’s what happened when Canada first allowed U.S. imports.

“It took a long time for people to become aware that there was one more buying channel… It takes your nieghbour buying one, takes seeing it in the press. It won’t happen overnight.”

In 1995, just over 13,000 used vehicles were imported into Canada. In 2010, over 150,000 made the journey.

Considering the millions of used vehicles currently on our roads, the American used import portion would certainly have to be classified as a “niche.” But it’s a big niche and on track to one day outgrow the term.

“It is not insignificant any more,” notes Osler. “All the industry players, be they manufacturers, leasing companies, dealers, etc., have all adjusted their buying and selling practices to allow for used vehicle imports.”

Because of all this future potential, Osler was actually “shocked” about how little press coverage and general discussion there was, when Canadian MPs did the deed back in March, and officially opened the door to Mexico’s used vehicles.

“All of sudden you open up this whole new market and no one is talking about it.”

Future Predictions

Osler expects growth, but not at the level so far seen with American imports, due to the added comfort and better logistics offered by the American market.

“I expect dealers to buy from Mexico long before consumers,” adds Osler. “Some of our member dealers are already busy developing contacts in Mexico. Dealers are more accustomed to treating the automobile as a commodity.”

But no one can predict the future with absolute certainty, and in future years the relative currency values and the relative used vehicle prices in each country may set the tone as to how fast, or how slow, is the flow of used vehicles from Mexico.

Currently the conditions must be at least favourable — many NAATA dealers already purchase Mexican used vehicles for export into European markets.

Future Funkiness?

At the very least, the move will eventually establish protocols and an infrastructure to import a lot of interesting models that were heretofore unseen in Canada. If they were 15 years old or older, they could have arrived before now — but now it will be easier and more likely to happen. We may even see dealers who specialize in the funkiness. If so, in a few years I might even put an order in for, say, a decent Peugeot RCZ. “

Source: Sympatico Autos