Over five years later than the time frame established to be met by Congress, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has finally published the guidelines that will allow the return of cars that resemble the ones that have been taken off from the market for at least 25 years.
You can download and read the final regulations on the NHTSA website. They cover more than 105 pages.
The regulations will allow what’s known as “low-volume motor vehicle manufacturers” to create as many as 325 replica vehicles as turned-key cars (with engines already in place) instead of kits (sold sans machines) every year.
(We believed that the final regulations were completed over an entire year earlier. However, they’re not official until they’re released within the Federal Register.
In celebration of this rule, the Specialty Equipment Market Association, the aftermarket for the automotive trade group, released an announcement: “Replica Car Companies, Start Your Sales.” SEMA has been insisting on NHTSA on the rules and even suing for damages against the Department of Transportation in 2019.
In 2015, Congress added an amendment to the Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act to fix the nation’s Surface Transportation Act. In 2015, Congress directed that NHTSA create final regulations by December 4, 2016.
“SEMA applauds NHTSA’s final rule allowing companies to market classic-themed cars,” Daniel Ingber, SEMA vice president of government affairs, was quoted in the SEMA’s announcement. “Regulatory barriers have previously prevented small automakers from producing heritage cars that consumers covet.”
Finally, “The roadblocks have been eliminated,” Ingber said. “This is a hard-fought victory for enthusiasts, small volume manufacturers, their suppliers, and all the men and women who will be hired to fill new jobs created by this law.”
SEMA has also called the release of the rules “historic,” adding, “Replica car businesses will now be able to produce and sell turnkey replicas to eager customers nationwide.”
Replica cars appear to be similar to the ones that were previously produced. Before the current regulations were finalized, SEMA stated that “the U.S. had just one vehicle-related system and was specifically designed to be used by companies that manufacture thousands of automobiles. The new rules recognize the particular challenges that face businesses that manufacture a limited number of customized cars.”
One of the businesses that have waited for regulations is those that own the rights to cars such as the iconic Checker taxi cabs to Cord and Cobras as well as DeLorean that is now able to produce vintage-style vehicles, as well as the latest version of the brand, which will be unveiled in August during Pebble Beach.
The regulations restrict production feasible; cars need to meet emissions standards. These were issued by the Environmental Protection Agency published in 2019. Small-scale producers have to declare their products to NHTSA and NHTSA, EPA, along with CARB (California’s Air Resources Board). In addition to meeting emission standards, reproduction vehicles are exempt from specific safety rules.
The rules apply to both vehicles manufactured in the U.S. and those imported.
“Enthusiasts will still have the option to build a car from a kit,” SEMA said, “but now they may also purchase a turnkey replica car.”