Canadian car dealer group wants to ban 'RHD Asian' cars, report says
Canadian legislation regarding automobile specification and requirements tracks U.S. legislation very closely -- simply to make it easier for automakers to build vehicles for multiple markets -- and this applies to importation requirements as well. But one of the key differences in Canada is that while the U.S. exempts nonconforming vehicles from a whole set of importation regulations if they are 25 years or older, Canada's very similar rule allows foreign-market vehicles in at the 15-year mark.
Canada's 15-year rule may now be in jeopardy, but only for very specific subset of imported vehicles: The Motor Dealers’ Association of Alberta (MDA) would like to see a ban on "RHD Asian vehicles," Jalopnik reports. The group is reportedly preparing substantial campaign contributions that will benefit Canada's United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney, who appears to have promised to enact such a ban.
Setting aside for a minute Canadian political campaign funding laws, this objective appears to be very narrowly targeted at Japanese cars and nothing else: This means Australian, European, and British cars would not come under the proposed ban.
There are a few possible problems with this proposed ban, as you might imagine, even if Canadian legislation works a little differently than in the U.S.
First of all, the selective nature of the proposed ban on "RHD Asian vehicles" is quite detached from the nominal safety arguments that are being pushed by the dealer group. If safety is the root issue, then why would other RHD vehicles from the same time frame, such as those from Australia, not be included in this ban. Surely an RHD Holden ute from the 1960s is far less advanced when it comes to safety technology than a late-90s Toyota sedan?
Second, the dealer group's motivation in pushing this importation ban appears to be targeting sales of all all cars that aren't sold by dealers, rather than being aimed at increasing automobile safety, as Jalopnik notes. Someone shopping for a RHD Nissan Skyline from the mid-'90s is unlikely to be cross-shopping that vehicle with a brand new Chevy from an Alberta dealer -- these are two very different needs that do not overlap at all. It's pretty clear that these imports are not stealing sales away from Alberta's new-car dealers: if these buyers wanted a new car, they would buy a new car.
Third, the number of JDM cars coming into Canada does not really make the charts when it comes to the annual statistics of new and used car sales, to put it mildly. It might seem that way on JDM forums (and only on JDM forums), but mainstream automakers and dealers aren't exactly being put out of business by 1997 Toyota Celsior sales in any given Canadian province.
As Jalopnik points out, this is almost more a story about Canada's campaign finance loopholes, which apparently permit large donations to a third-party advertiser (Canada's rough equivalent of a PAC) that can then use that money to advertise on behalf of a given candidate or party. In practice, this essentially permits corporations or individuals to give unlimited funds to an organization that will only use those funds to benefit their intended candidate, circumventing direct donations which would otherwise be subject to certain limits. The effect, opponents of this group claim, is that it allows deep-pocketed groups to buy legislation if their candidate is elected which, among other things, demonstrates that Canada is learning from the U.S.
Jalopnik was unable to get coherent answers from the Alberta dealer group regarding their opposition to JDM cars, but the site did play witness to some dubious logic gymnastics to make safety-related arguments against recent JDM cars, but not other types of cars imported into Canada (vintage British ones, for instance).
As strange as the efforts of one Canadian dealer group may seem, the SEMA Action Network (SAN) has been unable to bring about the opposite change in U.S. legislation: Adopting a 15-year-rule for non-conforming imports instead of the current 25-year-rule. The reason, in a nutshell, isn't safety -- newer imports feature far more safety tech -- but too much political money committed to keeping recent imports out.