Street level air pollution and excessive tailpipe emissions from old parallel imported cars

Parallel imports offer an easy and flexible path for car aspirants to own a car whose characteristics and vintage matched their specifications and dreams. From a commercial perspective, parallel imports afford a mechanism for exchange of cars with differential performance characteristics tailored to the road conditions of individual markets. Hence, parallel import adds to the diversity of cars available in any market; thereby, providing greater choice for people.


However, compared to direct imports from the original car manufacturer, whose cars are distributed to authorized resellers, parallel imported cars are sold via individual car dealers who may not be well versed in the car trading business or who lacks the expertise to critically evaluate the safety, reliability and performance characteristics of cars designated for other markets with different road characteristics and safety regulations. Hence, parallel imported cars may lack in safety and environmental standards, while remaining highly appealing in price compared to direct imports specifically tailored for individual markets.


While the general trend around the world is towards the establishment of more stringent environmental standards, differences remains in emissions standards from automobiles in different countries, due primarily to the higher cost associated with standards for tighter regulation of tailpipe emissions. Such differences in emissions standards, however, does not potentiate the cost differential that drives the parallel import business for cars. Rather, it is currency exchange rates, performance specifications, as well as other aesthetics aspects that prompt buyers to go for the parallel import option.


Although not responsible for the price differential in relation to the buy decision, poorer emissions standards of cars destined for emerging markets and developing countries may severely impact on air quality in countries with a sizeable market and buying potential for parallel imported cars. Specifically, Singapore has a sizeable market for parallel imported cars, each with differentiated emissions and safety standards, given their origins as tailored products for other markets with regulations significantly different from the island nation. Therefore, cars of poor emission standards and with inefficient engines may contribute, in substantial ways, to air pollution at street side in Singapore.


Analyzing the issue deeper, poor efficiency in engines or ones whose engine control unit is mistuned for the market such as large European and American cars unsuited for the island nation’s narrow and twisty roads, meant that high levels of particulates, nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides are emitted and contribute to formation of photochemical smog, visible in clear fine days in city’s skies. Given the health impacts of breathing in soot particulates from vehicular exhaust, such elevated emissions of air pollutants from parallel imported cars run counter to the city’s aims at achieving a higher level of living standard for its populace of around 5.3 million people. While the island imposes stringent emissions standards for all cars on direct import from the manufacturers, regulatory loopholes in parallel imports open the way for lax supervision of emissions from cars originally destined and manufactured for other markets.


Taken together, issue of air quality at street level in a city highlights the utility of a comprehensive view on the regulation of vehicular emissions from the perspectives of tightening regulatory standards for direct and parallel imported cars, in-service constant monitoring of degradation of air pollutants’ emissions profile, as well as standards and incentives for guiding consumers to purchase cars of better emissions standards. Using parallel imported cars as an example, the relative higher age of the cars meant that they usually lag other cars in emissions standards. Hence, higher emissions of soot, nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides from these vehicles add to overall air pollution in a bustling city with a large car population. More importantly, with price differential pointing to the lower price end leading to substantial up take by the population, cars of low cost originally designed for countries with less stringent environmental regulations could, in the end, put a significant dent in the efforts of countries to reduce air pollution at street level, and protecting the health of citizens.


Category: environment, atmospheric science,

Tags: air pollution, parallel import, environmental standards, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, particulate pollution,






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