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Datamyne Blog

Covering trade & transport, with tips on using import-export data to advantage

Miss Swaziland’s "Dubai"

There’s a name for re-exported, pre-owned, repurposed cars

News that General Motors sold more cars in China than in the U.S. in March sent us to the data on U.S. car imports and exports. Among other searches, we looked for 2009’s top destinations for U.S. “passenger motor vehicles with spark ignition internal combustion piston engines” — gasoline-fueled cars in the Harmonized Tariff System — and found, not surprisingly, NAFTA trading partners Canada and Mexico in the lead (see the Datamyne Top 5 Destinations for U.S. Car Exports). What did surprise was the United Arab Emirates in fifth place … until we realized the data included new and used cars. Filter out the used cars, and the top 5 markets for U.S. car exports last year line up as Canada, Mexico, Germany, Saudi Arabia, with China taking the fifth slot (keep in mind that GM’s China sales are through its Chinese joint venture).

Focus only on used vehicles, and the UAE, home to one of the world’s major used-car marts, moves to the top of the list. The Dubai Cars and AutoMotive Zone (DUCAMZ) opened in April 2000 with the objective of re-exporting used cars, SUVs, and mini-vans, and their parts. The re-exports are commonplace in south Asia and Africa, many repurposed as taxis and kombis or mini-buses for hire. Indeed, in some markets, a “Dubai” is slang for “pre-owned vehicle,” as the headline on a story in the Times (Swaziland) about one of the newly-crowned Miss Swaziland’s prizes, a pre-owned Opel Astra, indicates. (DUCAMZ was in the news earlier this month as the zone’s car dealers protested the implementation of a new customs declarations system, now temporarily suspended.)

As with Miss Swaziland’s Dubai, the DUCAMZ re-exports are mostly Japanese makes and models. With its huge domestic market for used cars, the U.S. has not been a major source. But that was changing: U.S. used vehicle exports overall were up by more than 50% in 2008 — before the global financial crisis threw the trend into reverse. Based on January-February trade data, it looks like exports are climbing again, but not yet to the heights of 2008.

Date posted: April 19, 2010

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