[Vwdiesel] Diesel Progress magazine

Kneale Brownson knealeski at sbcglobal.net
Mon Dec 24 02:31:55 PST 2007

One additional note:  I believe the manufacturer has to supply test data demonstrating that a car to be imported to the US of A actually passes (from physical destruction) our safety regulations.  Some of these tests require multiple vehicle destructions to complete.    This regulation may be obviated by the now worldwide safety rulings, but this was the case originally and still may be an impediment.  The manufacturer's statement that a vehicle does not meet all requirements may result in part from the requirement to give up several vehicles to the testing.

William J Toensing <toensing at wildblue.net> wrote:  Reply to Sherwin Goff & others interested in this subject. You asked a question on why we can't buy & import cars into our "so called free country, the USA". Part of this is info I know & part is conjecture.
Prior to 1967 or 1968, can't recall which year, you could buy any car from any part of the world & import it to the USA & drive it on our streets. Then Congress passed legislation which was signed by then Pres. Nixon which established the EPA. I believe DOT legislation was passed earlier in the Johnson administration which established the 1968 model year as the year in which all automobiles imported into the USA had to meet federal safety regulations in effect for that model year. This legislation was an outgrowth of Ralph Nadar's book, "Unsafe at any Speed" which slammed the Chevrolet Corvair. Nixon wasn't elected Pres. until Nov. 1968 & took office on 1/20/69.

Between 1968 & the early '80s (1982, I think), one could bring in a non-complying car if you modified it to bring it into federal compliance.

In the early '80s, the German Mark was weak against the U.S. Dollar & people were buying new Mercedes Benz 190s for around $12,000 retail in Germany & importing them to the USA. Transportation cost around $1,000 & the cost of bringing the cost of cars into compliance with USA regulations was around $3,000, bringing the cost to about $16,000. The equilivant MB 190 imported by M Benz had an MSRP of around $25,000 so private importers were able to sell new Mercedes Benz's for less than the wholesale cost to Mercedes dealers & make a tidy profit. A similar situation existed with other German made cars sold in the U.S. market & U.S. dealers were screaming for help to stop this low priced competition. Mercedes Benz along with BMW & Porsche lobbied the U.S. Congress for help to prevent this competition. Congress then passed legislation that gave all auto manufacturers the authority to state whether a car that they made met our regulations. If a manufacturer said a model did not
 meet our regulations, it could not be imported into our country & driven on our roads. I understand some exceptions were made for off road racing, museums, & an import of a car for advertising, testing etc. as long as the manufacturer kept title to the vehicle. Most loop holes were closed. Many people who tried to import non-complying cars had them seized by customs & either re- exported from the USA or Canada or crushed. At some later time, in the late '90s I think, regulations were modified to permit the importation of any non-complying car that was at least 25 years old.

European & Asian manufacturers at first, lagged the USA in safety & smog regulations but more recently, have established regulations that are as tough if not tougher than our American regulations. I have heard that Swedish & Swiss safety regulations are tougher than the USA, & that Japanese & Swedish smog regulations are tougher than ours.

At the present time, European (EU) regulations are as tough as ours, but due to technical differences, are not exactly the same. World auto manufacturers can still exclude any model they want to by simply stating it does not meet our regulations. Many manufacturers do not want to bring in cars for marketing reasons. M Benz feels the "A" class model would cheapen the expensive image M. Benz has built up in the USA. VW apparently feels they can't make money with the Polo which would have to sell for around $14,000 to $15,000 to be competitive. (this is my guess, perhaps there are other reasons.) Citroen pulled out of the U.S. market in 1974 because they had insufficient volume to make any profit in the North American market, especially due to the cost of modifying their cars to meet our regulations & actually making them less safe in a head on collision due to our requirement for a 5 MPH bumper at that time. I also heard they were plagued with litigation with the Citroen SM
 because of its fast steering & inability of some Americans to handle what was actually a safer car. In the USA, anyone can sue anyone for any reason they can dream up, if they can find a lawyer to take your case & I heard, but can't prove, that this was one of the reasons Citroen left the market.

Some of you may ask why I have some knowledge in this area. I have been a car buff since childhood. I am now 74 years old. I have been interested in fuel efficiency for most of my driving life. My first new car was a 1957 VW Bug. When the revolutionary Citroen DS-19 was announced in 1956, I was strongly attracted to that car because of its technical innovation. However, I could not afford to buy one until 1960. Since then, I have always owned at least one Citroen, except for the year 1963 (another story). I have been active in at least one Citroen club since 1964. I currently own the following Citroens: 1970 ID-19, 1972 DJX-21 station wagon (owned since new), & a 1979 "gray market" CX Pallas diesel. I have followed this situation due to the inability to buy new Citroen's in the USA since 1973. My 1979 CX was bought used in 1985 having been "federalized" by the previous owner who went thru the hassle of bringing it into federal compliance.
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