When Japanese "grey" imports first started arriving in the UK, they were not very well understood and as a result the availability of parts was generally poor – even from main dealers in some cases. About a decade ago, ADL began to invest in information, systems and training to accurately research and catalogue Japanese grey import car parts and provide first rate technical back-up for "Japanese grey imports". As a result, Blue Print led the way in effectively "de-mystifying" the grey import parts market.
The Blue Print catalogue was the first in the UK (and probably in Europe) to list Japanese imports alongside mainstream UK specification Japanese and Korean vehicles. Today, ADL continues to actively develop Japanese grey import content of the Blue Print range and to offer the industry's most comprehensive and expert cataloguing and technical support for this sector.
In short, Blue Print is an indispensible tool if your garage wants to effectively exploit the opportunity presented by Japanese grey imports.
What is a Grey Import? –
A grey import is a vehicle made by Japanese manufacturers for the Japanese domestic market that is then imported into the UK for the used car market.
Why do they come to the UK? –
Japanese car owners typically keep their vehicles for three years before trading them in and buying a new one. This creates an excess of 'second hand' cars in the Japanese market for which there is little demand. Japanese import cars are usually right hand drive and tend to have a lower average mileage and higher standard specification than their UK equivalents. Customer demand in Japan also results in a wider variety of models being made by manufacturers for their home market. Performance cars, people carriers and 4x4 vehicles from the Japanese domestic market have all proved popular with the British public.
How do they get here? –
Almost all cars in Japan are sold at auction. Unlike UK vehicle auctions Japanese ones are 'closed' to the public. Specialist companies in the UK have made it their business to bid for the vehicles available and ship them to the UK. The cars are usually exported to other right hand drive markets such as Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Malta and Cyprus.
How do you identify a Japanese Grey Import? –
All vehicles manufactured for the entire European market will, without exception have a VIN that is 17 characters long. These include a World Identifier at the beginning, usually 3 characters in length that denotes the country where the vehicle was manufactured.
The VIN of a Japanese import always has fewer than 17 characters. The World Identifier will always be omitted and will often begin with the model type.
Here is an example of a Mitsubishi Shogun VIN and its Japanese import counterpart, the Pajero. In this example the World Identifier of 'JMA' is not used on the Pajero and the VIN starts with the model type:
Shogun – JMAL049GWJJ000001 (UK)
Pajero – L049-000001 (Import)
Even on models that share the same name, the VIN is always this way to confirm the vehicle is a Japanese import. This example is from a Toyota Celica:
Celica (ST205) – JT164STL500000001 (UK)
Celica – ST205-000001 (Import)
Japanese import VIN lengths can vary between 10 and 14 characters. The Celica example above is from the ST205 model type; this is more apparent in the Japanese import VIN as it starts with ST205. Model codes are always needed in addition to the VIN to identify the correct components; our research shows that although many Japanese imports physically look the same as vehicles intended to be sold in the UK, many models have significant differences in the components used.
On Japanese imports, the model code is situated underneath the VIN on the chassis plate and takes the following format:
ST205-PQRRS (The letters on the end vary depending on the exact model.)
While the VIN and model code are vital in ensuring that you receive the correct parts, finding the code in the first place can prove to be a challenge even to the most experienced Japanese grey import specialists!
Below is our 'Japanese Grey Import VIN Locator Guide'
for the most popular vehicles being shipped into the UK:
The vehicles themselves can also give clues as to when components were replaced or work was done. The picture below is a label in an engine bay on a Toyota Townace. This indicates that the timing belt was changed on 24/10/1999 at a recorded mileage of 102,098km.
Japanese dates are shown as YY/MM/DD, so the example above gives the date 11/10/24. Japanese years do not follow years as we know them, so the date does not represent 1911 or 2011; instead it represents the 11th year of the current Emperor's reign. At the time of writing the current Emperor ascended the throne in 1989; therefore 1989 is 'year 1'. See the table below:
This format will continue in uninterrupted numerical order until the year the current Emperor dies. Once ascension of the new Emperor has taken place the years will start again from 1 in the January of the first complete year of his reign.
When vehicles are registered in the UK the DVLA allocate a registration number where the year identifier indicates the year of manufacture, and not from when the car was imported into the UK. To this extent the registration can be a reasonable indication of the age of the vehicle, but chassis and model codes will be needed to identify the true build date due to possible component changes.
While a non-Blue Print part may physically fit you can never be sure it is suitable for the vehicle. As well as knowing precisely which UK spec parts were fitted to Japanese grey imports, we supplement this by listing hundreds of components unique to Japanese grey imports that never crossed over to UK spec cars, giving you the complete solution.
For all your Japanese grey import needs insist on Blue Print from your motor factor and you can be sure it will be 'Right First Time!'
Click on the link below to download our Japanese Grey Import Guide featuring the Japanese Import VIN Locator and a list of vehicles catalogued by Blue Print.