For used-car shoppers in Mexico, 1998 is about to become a very popular year. Starting today, only 10-year-old cars—nothing newer, nothing older—can be imported in Mexico, a move designed to curtail the flood of “vehiculos chatarra,” or jalopies, clogging the streets. Before the change, imports needed to be 10-15 years old, to lessen competition with Mexican car dealers.
But novelty value and bargain-basement price tags have made jalopies so popular that new-car dealers begged for tighter restrictions to “stop the conversion of our country into the world’s biggest automotive dump.” In Texas, price tags on ‘98s are soaring, while others plummet. “If a 1997 worth $3,000 can’t cross, it’s not even worth $1,500,” lamented one dealer.