HomeCar CultureCommentarySEMA sues DoT over delay in replica vehicle rules

SEMA sues DoT over delay in replica vehicle rules


As it prepares for its annual automotive trade show in Las Vegas, the Specialty Equipment Market Association says it has filed suit against the U.S. Department of Transportation for failing to implement a Congressional mandate for replica vehicle regulations.

Passed by Congress as part of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act in 2015 was a provision that would allow low-volume automakers to produce as many as 325 replica cars on an annual basis. Such cars would be new versions of vehicles last manufactured at least 25 years earlier.

Congress gave the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration until December 4, 2016, to issue any necessary regulations to implement such a law. The SEMA suit says the agency has yet to take any such action and thus SEMA has petitioned a federal appellate court “to require the government to allow replica car manufacturers to immediately begin production.”

Checker Motor Car announced plans in 2015 to return. Among its vehicles could be a pickup truck

Such action could jump start plans by rights holders to revive such brands as Cord, Checker and DeLorean. 

Such revivals would include powertrains that meet current emission standards and vehicles that are in line with currently required safety protections.

“Prior to enactment of the FAST Act, the United States had just one system for regulating automobiles, which was established in the ’60s and designed for companies that mass-produce millions of vehicles,” SEMA said in announcing is suit. “The lack of regulatory flexibility prevented small businesses from manufacturing turn-key vehicles. 

“Eager to produce replica vehicles under the new law, many companies made capital investments and took customer orders on the assumption that sales could begin in late 2016. However, NHTSA has failed to issue regulations or undertake any other action allowing the small automakers to produce and sell vehicles as permitted by law.

“SEMA has made every effort to work collaboratively with NHTSA for over three and a half years, although the agency has taken no action to implement the replica car law,” SEMA president Christopher Kersting was quoted in the news release. “Consequently, companies have not hired workers, businesses have lost money, and consumers have been denied their rights to purchase replica cars.”

In its statement, SEMA noted that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board have developed guidelines and regulations regarding replica vehicles.

“The replica car provision was designed to be easy for NHTSA to implement, as it is an extension of the common-sense approach to overseeing kit car production that the agency has employed for decades,” SEMA said. 

“While the FAST Act requires NHTSA to ‘issue such regulations as may be necessary’ to implement the law, the agency also has other options such as issuing a guidance document that will allow production to begin immediately. SEMA has asked the court to compel NHTSA to take action.”

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. Maybe it’s just because I’m overly cynical of anything related to any agency of our Federal Government; but I don’t see this lawsuit going anywhere very quickly. The NHTSA is comprised of career bureaucrats who see themselves as our overlords. Good luck COMPELLING them to do anything!!

    • James: Cynic is what an idealist calls a realist.
      Low volume makers should make their cars in Mexico (or Norhern Ireland) and import them

    • It’s a start SEMA. You got to try. The State will work all night to pass a bill that lines their pockets. But private enterprise always waits, for most of the time, the inevitable conclusion. Lets pass it the competition would be good.

  2. We’re "governed" by egotistical, self serving, entitled morons who care only for maintenance of their own power.
    Behind them, we suffer legions of career bureaucrats (think "license branch") who not only imagine they’re our overlords, but sincerely believe that they have this right, while deeply believing they know what’s best for all through the circular nonlogic of "they gave me the job, so I must be good at it".
    And then our judiciary, completely beholden to their political party masters despite their shreiking, desperate protestations of "independence"- just check their rulings v. political affiliations and, well.
    Let’s not forget the multitude of self servants… oops, I mean "public servants" who consider their law degree from a second or third tier school proof that they are experts in, well, everything. Isn’t omniscience wonderful?
    I applaud SEMA for the effort, but I’m with Mr. McIntire- not holding my breath. Common sense and "will of the people" left our government decades ago.


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