NHTSA answers SEMA’s lawsuit by issuing overdue replica vehicle regulations

Well, that worked. Two months after SEMA sued the U.S. Department of Transportation for failing to issue the regulations required to implement the 2015 Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has done exactly that.

The law, which allows production of replica vehicles, has been in limbo since the deadline for the NHTSA to issue the regulations passed on December 4th, 2016. SEMA decided that three years was long enough to wait, and it filed suit in October 2019.

“SEMA welcomes NHTSA’s proposed regulations and urges the agency to quickly finalize the rules,” SEMA President and CEO Christopher J. Kersting said in a press release. “The replica car law was enacted to much fanfare in 2015, with customers eager to buy classic cars celebrating America’s automotive heritage. Four years later, companies are now poised to hire workers, gear-up for production, and provide consumers the chance to buy turnkey replica cars.”

According to SEMA, the final regulations will allow low-volume automakers to sell up to 325 cars each year that resemble production vehicles manufactured at least 25 years ago. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board have issued guidelines and regulations covering the engine packages to be installed in these replica vehicles.  

Prior to the Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act, the U.S. had just one system for regulating automobiles. Established in the 1960s, it was designed for companies that mass-produce millions of vehicles, and it prevented small businesses from manufacturing turnkey cars. According to SEMA, some small companies made capital investments and accepted customer orders on the assumption that sales could begin in late 2016. Without action from the NHTSA, however, those companies—and their customers—are still waiting.

NHTSA is providing 30 days for public comments on its proposed rules. SEMA says it “will be submitting comments on behalf of the industry to urge the most favorable regulations so that companies can begin production.”

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