Hey, whatever happened to that replica car law passed in 2015?
Three years ago it looked like we’d all be driving replica Cobras and ’32 Fords. That was when Congress passed the FAST Act, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act. Among its provisions, thanks to SEMA, was one that would allow small-volume automakers to sell up to 325 turn-key replica cars a year. Replica cars are those that resemble vehicles 25 years old or older. That meant Cobras and ’32 Fords, among others. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was supposed to establish the process by which those small-volume manufacturers could start building all those Cobras and ’32 Fords (and Cheetahs, D-Types, 356s and - why not - P4s). NHTSA never got around to it.
“Passage of the FAST Act in 2015 was a landmark moment since low volume auto manufacturers could now produce turn-key replica vehicles for customers nationwide,” said SEMA President and ceo Christopher J. Kersting. “While the law was celebrated by industry and enthusiasts alike, NHTSA’s continued delays have frustrated replica car companies and consumers. The replica car provision was designed to be easy for NHTSA to implement, as it simply extends the common-sense approach to overseeing kit-car production that the agency has employed for decades.”
NHTSA had one year to establish a process for companies to register with the agency and to issue any necessary regulation to implement the Federal law. Like a teenager and his homework, NHTSA never got around to it.
“As I understand it, it has all been done for NHTSA by SEMA now,” said Lance Stander, owner of Hillbank Motors, your source for Cobras and GT40s in Southern California and throughout the world. “The original holdup was also on CARB (California Air Resources Board) finalizing their regulations, which are all done now thanks to great cooperation on the part of the CARB staff, SEMA staff and the Low Volume Manufacturers Group.”
SEMA explained the need for the act, created so that a shop making a small number of replicars could legally build and sell them: “Prior to enactment of the FAST Act, the U.S. had just one system for regulating automobiles, which was established in the 1960s and designed for companies that mass-produce millions of vehicles. The lack of regulatory flexibility has prevented small businesses from manufacturing turn-key cars that recapture America’s automotive heritage. The vehicles will have engine packages that meet current model year emissions standards.“
SEMA points out that the delay is creating financial hardship for small businesses committed to the program: “Replica car companies began making investments in new facilities, equipment and supplies based on the one-year timeline to implement the law. Instead, workers have not been hired and sales are on hold because of NHTSA’s inaction.”
“It costs our business a lot of money in two ways,” said Stander. “First, the sales we are missing out on and second, the amount of money we have in inventory standing for more than a year now waiting for NHTSA to issue us our regulations, plus what we have spent on ramping up production for the forthcoming models that specifically would qualify for Low Volume manufacturing as described in the FAST Act.”
SEMA said that hundreds of classic car enthusiasts recently expressed their frustration by sending hundreds of letters asking U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to instruct NHTSA to stop dragging its feet.
Well, SEMA and its low-volume manufacturer members are tired of waiting and are ready to take NHTSA to court.
“Over the past three years, SEMA has suggested several ways in which replica vehicle production could begin immediately, such as by allowing companies to register as the agency pursues a rulemaking. While NHTSA has failed to take advantage of the alternatives, it has inflicted harm on the industry through its inaction. SEMA is ready to ask the court to intervene and eliminate the harm.”
You can send a polite letter to Secretary Chao here.