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Car importers are stepping up to the mark with cut prices that reflect the January 1 tariff reduction

Prices of imported new cars are tumbling as the federal government's January 1 tariff reduction from 10 per cent to five per cent on imported passenger cars takes hold.

Audi, Peugeot, Porsche, Mazda and Honda are among the car-makers announcing they are passing on the benefits of the tariff reduction -- though not always consistently.

Even Subaru, which went on record late last year saying automatic tariff-related price drops should not necessarily be anticipated, used the cut to continue with reduced, driveaway pricing on one model -- the Impreza R manual -- previously introduced as a limited offer.

Speaking at the launch of the new Liberty Exiga MPV and diesel Outback, Subaru MD Nick Senior said the "extreme" pressure on profit margins in the last year would be a factor in working out its post-tariff prices. He said the company needed "to get back to some reasonable margins."

Audi announced on December 30 that it would pass on the reduction with every model in its range apart from the Q5 and Q7 SUVs, which already attract lower import duty.

Porsche has also just released a new price list for 2010, where recommended retails reflect the new tariffs, sometimes significantly. The only models not affected are the new Panamera, which factored-in the new tariffs when prices were announced last year, and the Cayenne SUV range.

Mazda pre-empted the tariff drop last October, lowering some of its prices by as much as $2000 to stimulate what MD Doug Dickson at the time described as a "sluggish" market.

Honda followed Mazda with price cuts on some European and Japanese imports of as much as $3000. Hondas built in Thailand -- and that now embraces most of the local lineup -- do not benefit from the tariff reduction because of Australia's free trade agreement with that country, nor do Honda SUVs, which are already subject to lower import duties than regular passenger cars.

Peugeot's announcement that it would pass on the tariff drop came on January 4, when it cut prices across its entire vehicle range by as much as $2200 on its entry-level 308 hatch.

The importer, which said the price cuts were also assisted by improved exchange rates, at the same time introduced electronic stability control as standard across its entire passenger vehicle range.

Suzuki, although not attributing anything in its announcement to lower tariffs, also stepped up to the mark with price cuts on its Swift and Alto ranges.

The entry-level Alto model is now pegged below $12,000 with a recommended retail price of $11,790, which is a reduction of $700. The Suzuki Swift now starts $500 cheaper than in 2009 with a $16,290 entry-level price.

So far there's no word from other car-makers with significant imported product, other than Mitsubishi's comments late last year suggesting it had a few things up its corporate sleeve, but was not yet prepared to talk.

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Published : Wednesday, 6 January 2010

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