Chevrolet Montana

Canada is opening its used car market to vehicles from Mexico to fulfill the obligations of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). While vehicles 15 years old or older can already be imported to Canada, this move concerns late-model used vehicles. The only other country Canada accepts used vehicles under 15 years old from is the United States, and NAFTA stipulates that Canada should have already completed this bit of border opening by the end of 2010.

According to Canada's Sympatico Autos, there's not likely to be an immediate flood of Mexi-cars into the Great White North, however. Brian Osler, president of the North American Automobile Trade Association (NAATA) notes that when cars from the United States became available, "it took a long time for people to become aware that there was more than one buying channel." Not only that, but vehicles will still need to meet Canadian emissions and safety standards, and the program is being phased in, starting with vehicles 10 or more years old. Every two years, newer vehicles will be allowed until the restrictions sunset in 2019 for all NAFTA signatories.

Global pressure on the economy and tight used-car values are likely to keep a damper on a buying bonanaza, at least in the short term. U.S. vehicles are also cushier and long-established in Canada's used-car marketplace, though some Canadian dealers are already establishing supplier channels in Mexico, and some already buy vehicles from Mexico to send to Europe. One peek at the ravages of road salt on a vehicle, and the allure of a vehicle that's lived closer to the equator becomes clear, and that's likely to be one factor that spurs Canadian buyers to consider used vehicles originally from Mexico. Us? We'd be interested in some of the Mexican market's forbidden fruit.