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A number of practices considered to be customary by domestic car users hinder imports of replacement auto parts, according to a trade ministry report.

These habits include the tendency of Japanese car owners to scrap cars before they need parts replaced, limiting the size of the market.

But the structure of the market could be changed if maintenance service suppliers offered owners a wider choice of products and inspired price competition, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said in the report.

The report, released Thursday, details specific domestic markets that bar foreign access, either by regulations or business practices.

The auto replacement parts market was the 14th area the government has examined after the U.S. pressed Japan in early 2000 to further open its auto and auto parts markets.

“(The market) was found to have relatively few (regulatory) barriers,” said Motoshige Ito, a professor of economics at Tokyo University, who oversaw the report.

Speaking at a news conference, Ito attributed the absence of regulatory barriers — in terms of standard requirement levels compared with European countries and the United States — to major deregulation steps that Japan implemented in 1995.

But the report points out that deregulation has caused demand to shrink by allowing owners to maintain their vehicles under relaxed requirements.

Carmakers were also criticized for limiting the opportunities of parts suppliers by only partially disclosing catalogs, and they were accused of raising costs by frequently marketing new models.

The report covers 12 products that account for 90 percent of Japan’s replacement parts market, which excludes repair parts and parts for new cars. Their shipments totaled 712 billion yen in fiscal 2000, compared with 13.25 trillion yen for all parts.

According to available data, parts imports stood at $6.29 billion in 2000, with mufflers accounting for 1.5 percent of all parts imported, shock absorbers 3.1 percent, batteries 8.33 percent and car tires 10.06 percent, METI said.

The government has carried out such surveys since 1995, addressing markets for housing, drugs, cosmetics, processed foods and mobile phones, as well as barriers against direct foreign investment into Japan.

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