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.”
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.”