Why Japanese imports?
Because they are low mileage?
Because they are all like new?
Because Japan has more stringent MOT’s since they don’t use salt on the road?
Believe it or not, it’s none of the above! But that certainly doesn’t mean they’re not worth buying as they do have some fantastic benefits. It’s the reason we’ve been selling them successfully for 20 years.
Like most things, what you see is not always what you get, and many dealers and converters will claim “they come from Japan, they are all great” which isn’t always true. We have created some information pages about Japanese imports focusing on why they are such good vehicles and also some of the pitfalls to watch out for.
Please read on below for more information, and as always, it’s good to talk, so feel free to give us a call if you have any questions.
We started Wellhouse in August 2002, but before we had even begun to trade, myself and a friend of mine Vaughan, from AVA Leisure near Gatwick, had heard of these “funny little Mazda Bongo campers” in Japan. Back then Google was still in its early days meaning we had limited information to go on. We contacted a couple of Japanese car exporters and flew to Nagoya, Japan, to learn about how it all worked.
Looking back over 20 years it was quite daunting flying halfway round the world to put our trust into people we didn’t know. Japan is an amazing place but also can be a bit bewildering as its vastly different to the UK and other European countries.
We knew from the beginning that we had dropped on something good here as we also saw other vehicles such as the Toyota Granvia, Regius, Hiace, Alphard, Honda Stepwagons and many other weird and wonderful people carriers which we would go on to convert.
We would continue to make several more visits to Japan over the next few years, strengthening our relationships with our buyers.
As of 2022 we still convert the Toyota Alphard’s, Nissan Serena and Honda Stepwagon’s and we are off to Japan again in early 2023.
One thing we think is hugely important is the fact “we go to Japan”, if you don’t go and see how it works, how do you know what you are doing? Visiting is so important as you get to build relationships with your buyers.
OK let’s deal with some of the myths. After selling over 1,500 imported vehicles from Japan we have been asked just about every question you could be asked regarding imports.
If you decide you want a Wellhouse Japanese imported campervan we can do this one of two ways. First of all, you can look at what current stock we have either in the UK or on the way in from Japan if you “CLICK HERE” for our current stocklist. Or we can find you what you want in Japan and import to order. As we are always booked up in the workshop so far in advance, it gives us time to find the right base vehicle for you in Japan and import it.
So, if for example you want a black 3.0V6 2007 4WD with grey interior and no more than 40,000 miles, we can find it for you! It means we can also keep in contact, send you the information and go through it with you before we order it. More than half the imports we sell are bought to order.
First of all, our buyer in Japan has access to all the auctions online systems. They will also have teams dotted around within the Kobe area at the auction sites. This means if we would like them to look at a vehicle in more detail, for example, ‘LOT number 1234 at USS Osaka auction’ they will first have a look at the notes on the auction sheet. If this reads well, they will then physically check the vehicle at the auction.
If the base vehicle checks out the next step is they bid on it. If we are successful and buy it the vehicle is brought down to the yard in Kobe and then its photographed on the outside, inside and underneath so we know what we are getting. The vehicles are also professionally inspected and driven round the port at this stage.
Next is paperwork and shipping. Our agent does all the paperwork for us in Japan, export documents, export logbook and gets the base vehicle on the ship to the UK. Once we know what ship it’s on, we send the customer the name of the ship and you can track it on this website “CLICK HERE”
Most of the time the ships go Westwards, through the middle east and through the Suez Canal. Sometimes they do go East through the Panama Canal then call in at ports in the USA before crossing the Atlantic. When the ship arrives at one of various UK ports, we get it cleared at customs then brought back to Wellhouse.
When the vehicle is with us, we send it off for a service and a pre-MOT. On the 3.0V6 version they have a cambelt as part of the service and many of them have new tyres, not because of wear and tear, but because of the age of the tyres. It then goes off to the body shop as just about all the imports we bring in will be in need of some work.
Once the base vehicle work is done, it has the rear seats and trim removed before it can then go in for conversion. On a Toyota Alphard it takes us around 150/160 hours in total to convert which seems a lot and we know many can convert them in around 100 hours but when people visit us, we show you where this time goes.
Firstly, it spends a week in section one which is the roof fitting department. All the roofs are colour coded to match the base vehicle and all of them have a solar panel fitted before the roof is fitted to the base vehicle.
Section two is where it goes in to be lined out, have the floor fitted and any new interior trim.
Section three is final build. This is where they fit the water tanks, electric’s, gas pipes, seat swivel/s, curtains, any extras. The conversion is built upstairs in the wood shop and brought down fully built up ready to fit. Once the conversion is fitted it then goes on to PDI (pre delivery inspection) gas and electrical testing are just two of the many important checks they have, and they are also test driven. After this they go into valet, and they are ready to go. Also remember all the imports we build just like the new campers come with gas & electrical installation certificates.
Lastly, as well as being Ford approved, we are Stelanitis approved, ISO9001 accredited, VCA (Vehicle Certification Authority) approved we are now members of BIMTA which is the British Importers Motor Trade Association. BIMITA also do mileage checks on the vehicles we import.
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Websites are great for sending information and showing what Wellhouse do but you can’t beat a phone call and its always better to speak with us ahead of a visit so we can discuss in more detail what we can offer and your requirements.