Replica car sales will be legal in 2021

Replica fans rejoice! After five years of red tape, a new rule handed down from the U.S. Department of Transportation will make it legal to sell turn-key replica cars in the United States. The final rule was signed by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Deputy Administrator James Owens last week. 

Because kit cars have been sold here for decades, this may not seem like news, but the key differentiator here is that the new rule allows for the production and sale of complete, fully assembled replicas. Like the U.S. import law, it will only allow for the sale of vehicles at least 25 years old, and builders will still have to license the original designs from manufacturers, but this eases many restrictions on the production and sale of both aftermarket reproduction and factory “continuation” cars. 

“SEMA applauds NHTSA’s final rule allowing companies to market classic-themed cars,” said SEMA President and CEO Christopher J. Kersting. “Regulatory barriers have previously prevented small automakers from producing heritage cars for eager customers. The roadblocks have been eliminated. Companies will be able to hire workers, start making necessary parts and components, and produce and sell cars.”

There are some restrictions. Mazda can’t just replicate its tooling for the 1990 Miata and start cranking them out again at the same volume, in other words. Manufacturers are limited to producing just 325 examples a year (making high-volume tooling financial unsustainable) and the engines used must conform to current model-year emissions standards. The EPA has issued guidelines for builders who might want to go down this road. 

The $305-billion, bipartisan bill (which detailed appropriations for the Highway Trust Fund, including road, bridge and mass-transit programs) was passed way back in 2015, but implementation of the new replica regulations got held up at NHTSA. 

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