House bill H.R. 2675, the Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act of 2015, seems like exactly the kind of bill I’d love — it specifically makes provisions for companies who make 500 or less cars a year so they can sell their cars more easily in the U.S. Great, right? Sure, but the bill is arbitrarily limited to one very specific category of car.
First, the good news. H.R. 2675’s (co-sponsored by Reps. Mark Mullin (R-Okla.) and Gene Green (D-Texas)) goals sound great — here’s how the bill describes itself:
To direct the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to establish a program allowing low volume motor vehicle manufacturers to produce a limited number of vehicles annually within a regulatory system that addresses the unique safety and financial issues associated with limited production, and to direct the Environmental Protection Agency to allow low volume motor vehicle manufacturers to install engines from vehicles that have been issued certificates of conformity.
Essentially, if a maker of these specialty, niche cars uses a major manufacturer’s engine and installs it according to the manufacturer’s instructions, that car can now easily be sold as complete and finished, without having to leap through the kit-car path that many low-volume manufacturers are forced into today.
Here’s the text relating to the engine installation:
A motor vehicle engine (including all engine emission controls) from a motor vehicle that has been granted a certificate of conformity by the Administrator for the model year in which the motor vehicle is assembled, or an engine that has been granted an Executive order for the model year in which the motor vehicle is assembled subject to regulations promulgated by the California Air Resources Board, may be installed in an exempted specially produced motor vehicle, if—
the manufacturer of the engine supplies written instructions explaining how to install the engine and maintain functionality of the engine’s emission control system and the on-board diagnostic system (commonly known as “OBD II”), except with respect to evaporative emissions diagnostics;
the producer of the exempted specially produced motor vehicle installs the engine in accordance with such instructions; and
the installation instructions include emission control warranty information from the engine manufacturer in compliance with section 207, including where warranty repairs can be made, emission control labels to be affixed to the vehicle, and the certificate of conformity number for the applicable vehicle in which the engine was originally intended or the applicable Executive order number for the engine.
That’s great! Well, it’s great if you want a Cobra replica, or maybe a Subaru-powered Porsche Speedster replica, or perhaps one of my Fiat Twin-Air-based King Midgets I’m planning on building someday. But the car can only be a replica. Here’s how replica is defined:
(B) REPLICA MOTOR VEHICLE.—The term ‘replica motor vehicle’ means a motor vehicle produced by a low volume manufacturer and that—
“(i) is intended to resemble the body of another motor vehicle that was manufactured not less than 25 years before the manufacture of the replica motor vehicle; and
“(ii) is manufactured under a license for the product configuration, trade dress, trademark or patent for the motor vehicle that is intended to be replicated from the original manufacturer, its successors or assignees, or current owner of such rights, unless there is a preponderance of evidence that such rights have been abandoned for at least three years.
So, yes, this is fantastic news for small replicar manufacturers, I agree. And I genuinely like many replicars. But I can’t help but feel that this bill is woefully short-sighted by limiting the cars it supports to replicas. What about novel new designs that are also low volume like this, like, say, the Rezvani Beast or what if someone wanted to produce a modernized, fully-manufactured version of the Brubaker box? Unless I’ve missed something crucial in this bill, it doesn’t appear to support that — and there’s no good reason why it shouldn’t. The restriction seems completely arbitrary — there’s really no technical differences between a modern re-creation of a vintage car and an original design, at least as far as this law should be concerned.
Again, I have nothing against replicas — but having this bill pass and not also providing these same protections for new, original designs just seems crazy to me. The original designs may not get the same attention or have the same nostalgic appeal as the retro cars, but they’re where real low-volume automotive innovations will happen.
I really hope this bill can be amended to include cars other than just Cobra replicas and other (admittedly fun) re-animations.
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