Diagnostic Grey Imports – The Pros & Cons

According to the dictionary, a "grey import" - sometimes called a parallel import; is a product that is imported without the legal consent of the manufacturer. 

To expand on that, grey import means that while the product may in fact a “real” product, it is not in the correct destination market for which it was produced.

This is not to say that all grey imports are “real” though! Some may be very good copies of the official product, but changed slightly to get around the legal implications of making a copy of a patented product. 

These are usually brought into the market through internet purchases, and either sold directly from one market to an end-user, or imported from one market and resold by resellers in another who may appear to be official, but are not.

Pros of Grey Imports​

  • Cheaper price point



Autel Grey Import (Online Model)


Autel Grey Import (Online Model)

Pros of Grey Imports​

  • Can come with hidden import fees and taxes (most people that import to fully realize these costs until after the purchase and the cost is often very similar to a local purchase to an offical dealer that can offer local support, warranty and other value-added services)
  • Long and costly warranty wait (Claiming warranty from sellers in other markets can be a 3-4 week process and can often be very costly in courier fee’s – you will need to pay both trips in most cases. I small DHL package to China can cost up R2000/$150, with the return it can cost  +-R4000/$300 in total)
  • Very limited after-sales support (most sellers are from China and therefore not only is langauge a barrier for effective support but also reference to the African automotive market)
  • The product may not be compatible with the vehicles in your market (Sometime you might think software is the same, but brands don’t always release the same software in all markets. Vehicle model references can sometimes be confusing as they are named differently in other markets)
  • Some brands, such as use IP blocking technology (This means that products used in incorrect markets will be locked, making them unusable potentially).

Other things to keep in mind

For many, the cost factor may outweigh the risks – grey imports are normally advertised as cheaper than official products. Just remember though, that part of the cost included in an official product is the support offered once you have the tool, as well as the knowledge that you are covered should anything go wrong. Many times, grey imports are sold by individuals or companies who are not solid fixtures in the market, and when you need them most, they have gone out of business and are nowhere to be found. 

On top of this, when you are buying a product through this type of channel, take note of the implications of buying a tool that is not legally entering your market. The cons and penalties that come with this are immense! 

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