We love forbidden fruit, especially when that fruit is a diesel, manual, four-wheel drive small pickup truck not meant for the U.S. market, like the Volkswagen Amarok. Believe it or not, there’s one for sale in Pennsylvania right now, but you may not want to buy it.
As you may well know, here in America there’s a stupid rule against importing non U.S.-spec vehicles that are younger than 25 years old. The Amarok in these pictures—sent by a reader named James, who spotted the truck in the parking lot of a traveling gun show—was first registered in 2015, so it’s clearly not a quarter of a century old.
So why is it for sale stateside?
After seeing these photos, I called the number on the for-sale sign, and found myself speaking with a soldier in the German military who’s stationed in the U.S. for training. The man, named Andreas, told me that because of what’s called a “SOFA Agreement,” German soldiers are allowed to bring their Euro-market cars to the U.S. and drive them legally without American titles.
When I asked Andreas whether he could legally sell the vehicle, he said the folks he spoke with at his importer and also at U.S. customs seemed to indicate that he could indeed get a U.S. title for his truck and that he could sell it, though he’d have to pay taxes since he hadn’t paid any upon entry.
Andreas told me he admittedly was a bit suspicious of these answers, saying the information wasn’t clear, and it wasn’t on paper.
“Nobody could tell me exactly [if I can sell my truck in the U.S.]... Customs said ‘if you have a title, you can sell it,’” he told me.
Andreas made it clear that he planned to be 100 percent sure that the truck could be sold here before making a deal with anyone, as he didn’t want customs to seize the buyer’s vehicle in the future, telling me “Before I sell it, I have to make sure that this won’t happen.”
I reached out to friend of the site Will Hedrick, an attorney who specializes in car import law. He emailed me his take on the matter, saying “The vehicle should have been declared as a “‘Box 6' on the USDOT HS-7 Declaration Form,” which states:
6. The vehicle does not conform to all applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety, Bumper, and Theft Prevention Standards, but I am eligible to import it because all of the following conditions exist:
a. I am a member of a foreign government on assignment in the United States, or a member of the Secretariat of a public international organization so designated under the International Organiza- tions Immunities Act, and within the class of persons for whom free entry of motor vehicles has been authorized by the Department of State;
b. I am importing the vehicle on a temporary basis for my personal use, and will register it through the Office of Foreign Missions of the Department of State;
c. I will not sell the vehicle to any person in the United States, other than a person eligible to import a vehicle under this paragraph;
d. I will obtain from the Office of Foreign Missions of the State Department, before departing the United States at the conclusion of a tour of duty, an ownership title to the vehicle good for export only; and
e. I have attached a copy of my official orders. [591.5(h)(1)]
Hedrick summarizes, saying that “Per Box 6, the vehicle is not legal to sell here in the US.” He goes on in the email, writing: “The EPA Form 3520-1 Declaration (copy attached) further states the following under ‘Code N’”:
code N - imported for up to one year by member of the armed forces or personnel of a foreign government on assignment to the U.S., for whom free entry has been authorized in writing by the U.S. Department of State, or a member of the armed forces of a foreign country with offcial orders for duty in the U.S. “
Hedrick points out just how limited the EPA exemption is, also stating that, because import duties weren’t paid when the vehicle entered the U.S., the subsequent owners would be liable for them.
“Ultimately,” Hedrick says, “this would result in ‘collateral damage’ to an unwitting subsequent owner.”
“In my opinion the vehicle in-question would be subject to seizure and forfeiture by the U.S. government and the individual who imported the vehicle would also be liable for civil penalties by virtue of their declarations and subsequent actions in violation of those declarations,” he said.
“Bottom line,” he concluded, “I would not recommend pursuing a purchase of this vehicle.”
So you could, but you probably shouldn’t.
I called up Andreas and relayed him the news, and—while he wasn’t surprised—I could sense his frustration over the phone when he said: “It’s just astonishing that nobody officially could tell me that.”
Andreas now plans to bring the Amarok (which is apparently expensive to insure in the U.S. and difficult to find parts for), a German-market Jeep Cherokee, and a Chevy Suburban (!!!) back with him to the beautiful land of Bavaria.
Hopefully I’ve not only saved him some trouble, but I’ve helped out a buyer who might have had their vehicle seized. More importantly, hopefully I’ve kept one diesel manual VW Amarok from the jaws of the junkyard crusher.