SEMA Files Lawsuit Against NHTSA Over Delay in Replica Car Rules

Diamond Bar, CA — The Specialty Equipment Market Association filed a petition Oct. 17 in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California requiring that the U.S. Department of Transportation fulfill a Congressional mandate on implementing carmaker guidelines for building turnkey replica vehicles.

Photo: Factory Five Racing

Passed by Congress in 2015, one provision of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act specified that low-volume automakers could sell up to 325 replica cars — new versions of vehicles manufactured at least 25 years earlier — on an annual basis. The FAST Act had a deadline of Dec. 4, 2016, for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to issue the necessary regulations to implement the law. SEMA says the agency has yet to take any action.

Prior to enactment of the FAST Act, the United States had just one system for regulating automobiles, established in the 1960s and designed for companies that mass-produce vehicles. The lack of regulatory flexibility prevented small businesses from manufacturing turnkey 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,” said SEMA President and CEO Christopher J. Kersting. “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 for 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.