Motor Trend, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dodge, wasn’t the only publication to weigh in on SEMA’s wild-but-plausible allegations against the Environmental Protection Agency’s “clarifying” that it can regulate track car emissions. We covered it, lots of outlets covered it, so did they. But so far MT is the only publication to have their story on the subject disappear after it was published.
Both Reddit’s r/cars and The Truth About Cars this afternoon pointed out that a Motor Trend article about the topic—one that downplayed the idea of the aftermarket parts barons at SEMA being altruistic about this issue and instead called them “paranoid and reactionary, shooting from the hip”—is now gone. Disappeared. Vanished from the face of the Internet.
“Oops! That page can’t be found,” the page now says. How mysterious!
But despite being a print outlet, surely MT must know that nothing on the Internet really goes away forever, and thanks to one Reddit user it can be read in full on this Google cached page.
Here are some relevant excerpts from Motor Trend’s story:
Make no mistake: This issue is complicated. The rule the EPA is proposing to change is somewhat vague and contradictory, as are the EPA’s proposed changes and its motivation for doing so. A degree in public policy is required to untangle all the legalese. SEMA, meanwhile, is being paranoid and reactionary, shooting from the hip and making a mountain out of a molehill. Neither side can claim much of a moral high ground here.
[...] As car and racing enthusiasts, we should care about this controversy because it indirectly affects us. If the EPA’s intent is to eventually crack down on race car emissions, it will have a major effect on the motorsports we enjoy and participate in as well as the companies we buy performance parts from. The evidence, however, doesn’t yet support that conclusion, and SEMA has done us all a serious disservice by crying wolf. SEMA’s kneejerk reaction hurts its credibility and exposes it (again) as the lobbying firm it is as much as it actually informs us all of important regulatory activity. The government is not coming for your race car, and it’s disingenuous and manipulative for SEMA to suggest so. What’s worse, it’s created a false controversy that will cloud the important discussion to be had about the actual regulation.
They’re not wrong! The magazine is right to call the issue complicated; it certainly is, which is why the hot takes from various news outlets have been all over the place (and why writers and readers alike have had such a hard time wrapping their heads around what’s going on.)
And MT’s actually right here to comment on SEMA’s true motivations: they lobby on behalf of and represent the parts business, which could be impacted if the EPA really starts regulating parts for your race car. We have said the same thing in our stories! MT’s article is, however, a lot more trusting of the EPA’s stance and dependent an assumption that no enforcement will occur than I have been. Fine. Agree to disagree.
The story doesn’t matter anyway because it is now gone.
It’s not clear why the article vanished, whether it was pulled down intentionally or otherwise. I emailed Motor Trend editor Ed Loh to ask, but he hasn’t gotten back to me.
Naturally, some are raising the question: could Motor Trend have buckled under some sort of external pressure? In the car magazine business, where keeping automakers and sources and advertisers happy is often Job No. 1, stuff like that is certainly not unprecedented. Or maybe the editors decided to pull it for some other unknown reason.
We do not know!
TTAC’s Jack Baruth demanded Motor Trend “either re-publish the editorial or to formally retract it, with apologies to SEMA.” If nothing else, the magazine would be best served to simply be more honest and transparent with its readers.
Do you have clues that can help solve this mystery? Email us at email@example.com.
Update 2/13: The story is back, kind of. Or rather, it’s back but very different. Motor Trend posted this story by the same writer, Scott Evans, that goes far more into detail on the EPA rule clarification but is also far less bombastic toward SEMA than the now-deleted version, and indeed cites the potential harmful effects to tuners and racers than the old story.
SEMA has interpreted these clarifications as the first step in a secret plan to shut down parts makers whose products alter or eliminate emissions controls (and, you know, punish their customers and kill grassroots racing). Is that what these clarifications actually say? A critical reading says no, it is not. The actual changes simply clarify that the competition exemption that exists for vehicles like dirt bikes and snowmobiles does not apply to road cars used in competition. That’s what the rules already say, in fewer words, and the proposed changes don’t go any further than that. No new rules, no new penalties, not even a new way to enforce the rules.
[...] The evidence, however, doesn’t yet support that conclusion, and SEMA has done us all a serious disservice by crying wolf. SEMA’s kneejerk reaction hurts its credibility and exposes it (again) as the lobbying firm it is as much as it actually informs us all of important regulatory activity.
And the new one:
It’s bigger than that, though. The biggest victims of this “clarification” would be the aftermarket companies which make performance parts. Not only would catalytic converter delete kits be illegal, but any part which affects the vehicle emissions could be considered illegal. That would mean no hot cams or computer flashes or turbo kits or the like. With their products made illegal, most will go out of business. Only the largest companies could possibly survive, if they have the necessary resources to certify all of their parts with an authority like the California Air Resources Board. Most hot rodding, the small-time operations which make up much of the aftermarket, is effectively regulated out of existence if EPA carries its enforcement activities far enough.
Talk about a 180.
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