DIAMOND BAR, Calif. — The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) has filed a petition in federal appellate court seeking to force the U.S. government to allow replica car manufacturers to begin production immediately.
SEMA's petition refers to a 2015 law — Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) — which included provisions allowing low volume auto makers to sell up to 325 replica cars each year that resemble production vehicles manufactured at least 25 years ago.
The FAST Act set a deadline of Dec. 4, 2016, for the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to issue any necessary regulations to implement the law. The agency has yet to take any action, SEMA said.
Prior to enactment of the FAST Act, the U.S. had just one system for regulating automobiles, which was established in the 1960s and designed for companies that mass-produce millions of vehicles, SEMA said.
This lack of regulatory flexibility prevented small businesses from manufacturing turnkey vehicles. According to SEMA, a number of companies made capital investments and took customer orders on the assumption that sales could begin in late 2016.
"SEMA warned NHTSA in 2018 that it would file suit if companies could not begin production of turnkey cars as authorized by the FAST Act," SEMA President and CEO Christopher Kersting said.
"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. Consequently, companies have not hired workers, businesses have lost money, and consumers have been denied their rights to purchase replica cars."
Vehicles produced under the FAST Act will be current model-year clean cars, SEMA said, noting that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board have developed guidelines and regulations to confirm that the engine packages to be installed will meet current emissions standards.
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 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.