HomeThe MarketTariff tremor: President’s plans sending shocks through collector car world

Tariff tremor: President’s plans sending shocks through collector car world


Sandra Button wants to rally the troops.

“I cannot imagine what might happen if imported collector cars and car parts are designated as national security risks and taxed at 25 percent,” the chairman of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance wrote late last week in an email she distributed to dozens of leaders of the collector car community.

“I cannot imagine how we will be able to maintain and share even the collector cars we already have in the United States — whether first made here or abroad. How will we be able to continue to use them?”

Button called for collector car enthusiasts to join her in contacting the U.S. Department of Commerce, which has a public comment period only until June 22, and also vowed to testify on the matter in Washington, D.C.

The proposal “could potentially greatly harm the cars we love and our ability to share and celebrate them.”

“I have a hundred additional questions,” she said. “At present, the proposal before us has no answers for me.”

Late last month, President Trump proposed a 25 percent tariff on imported automobiles and auto parts. Though apparently aimed at protecting American manufacturing jobs by targeting new vehicles, the proposal also would apply to vehicles of all vintages.

According to a U.S. government website,  interested parties can submit written comments, data, analyses, or other information pertinent to the issue by June 22. Rebuttal comments are due by July6 and a public hearing is scheduled for July 19-20. 

“If this proposal is carried out, it would deal a staggering blow to the very industry it purports to protect and would threaten to ignite a global trade war,” Thomas J. Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told The New York Times.

Donohue was speaking of the American auto industry and its suppliers, but many feel the impact would be just as crucial to the collector car hobby.

Prominent collector car dealer Mark Hyman was notified by attorney Marshall Miller about the tariff’s possible impact on the collector car hobby. Hyman sent an email urging people to contact their Senators and Congressmen as well as the Dept. of Commerce. 

Noting that there already is a 2.5 percent tariff on imported vehicles, Hyman said, “Clearly, the importation of classic and collectible vehicles has absolutely no impact on our National Security, and these proposed tariffs would only serve to harm the countless individuals and independent businesses who buy, sell, restore and transport cars. 

“The collector car hobby is a multi-billion dollar-per-year business, and we must work together to fight this ludicrous proposal. Washington bureaucrats have no understanding of the impact such a political stunt would cause, therefore it is our responsibility to educate them.”

Among those Hyman contacted was John Carlson, president of the National Association of Automobile Clubs of Canada and a leading concours judge. Carlson, alarmed that Canadians would have an increasingly difficult time selling collector cars to American buyers, also sent out an email blast, followed in turn by Button’s.

tariff, Tariff tremor: President’s plans sending shocks through collector car world, ClassicCars.com Journal
The 1949 Mercury Monarch is being offered for sale on ClassicCars.com by its Canadian owner. The proposed tariff could add nearly $14,000 to its price

Button noted that the proposal “could potentially greatly harm the cars we love and our ability to share and celebrate them.”

Not only would prices increase for those buying a collector car from Canada, Europe, Asia or elsewhere, but the already expensive imported parts needed to restore or even to simply keep an imported classic car running suddenly would cost you an extra 25 percent.

For example, in February, an American collector paid $1,660,292 for a 1964 Porsche 904 GTS at Artcurial Motorcars’ auction at Retromobile in Paris. To bring that car home with a 25 percent tariff, the collector would have to pay the U.S. government $415,073.

And it’s not only high-end vehicles. Say you’re driving from Detroit to Buffalo, New York. You might be taking the delightful shortcut across Ontario, Canada, and you might want to stop in London, Ontario, to buy a 1949 Mercury Monarch being advertised on ClassicCars.com. The private seller wants $55,000. But to drive that car across the border into the U.S. under the proposed tariff schedule, the feds would demand you pay another $13,750 for that privilege.

On Tuesday afternoon, SEMA, the trade group for automotive aftermarket parts producers, issued a statement warning that the proposed tariffs are “a tax on American companies and consumers,” and noted that member companies already are “grappling with higher-priced steel and aluminum because of global tariffs.”

“SEMA welcomes efforts by the U.S. government to protect American companies and their customers from unfair trading practices,” Christopher Kersting, the SEMA president, was quoted in the release. “We urge the president and Congress to pursue trade infringements in a fashion that does not inflict unintended economic harm.”

How many cars could be impacted by the proposed tariff? Warren Barnes of Schumacher Secure, a company that specializes in shipping collector vehicles, both for private owners and for auction houses, said that last year his company shipped nearly 20,000 vehicles out of the U.S. and brought in somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000.

“And that’s just our company,” he added.

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


  1. Multi-millionaire dealers and speculators have ruined the collector car hobby and made it like fine art. Look don’t touch and definitely don’t drive! They should lobby the countries who have any tariffs at all on the U.S. instead of attempting to gain sympathy from millions of hobbyists they’ve forced out of the hobby. There are plenty of cars they can “share” in their own country. Of course they think we are stupid. “Sharing” means SELLING and profitting. Hopefully this will help depress the values enough so regular Jane & Joe can buy a semi-rusted Mustang driver for under $25,000! The wealthy use our beloved antique cars for portfolios, not “sharing”! They hoard huge collections in warehouses out of the public view! When was the last time you saw a truly rare antique car at a cruise night? Now it’s all about Pebble Beach and Wall Street. Sorry I don’t care about your $146,000 tariff on your million dollar car..

  2. I am sorry to see such a panicky political story appear on this website. Classic cars and their parts are a luxury of the well to do or at least those willing to pay a bit more for what they want and pricing of them is based on that old classic economic theory as supply and demand. Please try harder to keep your political beliefs out of your editorial perspective. After all, a higher price for a Jag due to a tariff may mean a better buy on a Chevy.

    • Please remove me from your email list. If I want information on what MIGHT happen politically, I’ll watch fake news!

  3. Sorry to write but the only way to made the USA again is to drop that president. He is a shame for the USA and the peacefull world.

    Regards Jaak from the Netherlands.

  4. Isn’t this just a reverse for of the VAT tax which European buyers have been paying on purchases of cars they purchase outside of Europe?

  5. Its about time that a President has enough courage and care for the US workers that he take on ridculous trade imbalances. I support you President Trump raise tariffs until the other countries fall in line. Guess what people if it raises China made products DON"T BUY THEM!!!!! If it raises our prices ride it out until the market adjusts. I am sick of liberal left non economist biases interfering with the US carrying water for all the se other countries that could care NOTHING for us other than a meal ticket. WISE UP and MAGA TRUMP in 2020.

  6. That’s fine with me. These other countries have been nailing our stuff for so long that everyone thinks it normal. Have you ever looked at how many American cars are sold in Japan, Korea, even Europe. Never mind the cars, but all of our stuff. Everyone’s been in a trade war with us for years and thankfully we finally have a president that worries about Americans first. Sorry, making sure there’s cheap crap for Americans while we lose jobs to these countries, is not looking out for Americans. Besides, these countries will fold. Our market is too important for them. What a difference from the last president we had that put everyone else first.

    • US made cars are available in Europe but these are not popular at all. Although these cars are suited for the US, these are not suited for the European markets. The reasons are as follows: 1. Bad fuel economy, 2. Bad roadholding, 3. Antiquated technology, 4. Low quality builds. 5. Large size, 6. Heavyweight builds.

      1. US roads are mostly wide long straight lines whilst European roads are often narrow and twisty. Parking spaces are small in Europe. This puts a lot of emphasis on roadholding, smaller sizes, lightness, new technology.

      2. Gasoline is sold at much higher prices in Europe than in the US. This puts a lot of emphasis on lightness, smaller size, fuel economy, new technology.

      This simply means that US made cars are more suited to the US market which typically requires “V8 big blocks, heavybuilds & large like a tank, rigid rear axles on semi-elliptic springs, etc…”. The European market is looking for different products with independent rear suspensions, good roadholding for twisty roads, low fuel consumption, small size and lightness. And often manual gearshift rather than automatic…

      Different countries = different needs…

  7. I am staggered at the small minded comments here, obviously from people who have never stepped outside of the USA, and have very little understanding of foreign affairs, or economics


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