The Truth About Cars » White House The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 26 Jul 2014 01:30:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » White House Only A Nutcase Would Import A Car To America. B.S. Wants To Change That, And He Needs Your Signature Wed, 20 Feb 2013 16:31:39 +0000

As a worldly American and car nut, on one of your world travels, there will be a time when you fall in love with a car in a foreign land. The crush on that thing will be so big that you will want to take the irresistible beauty home with you. Just ask Sajeev or Frau Murilee.

My advice: Resist that urge at all cost. Trust me, it is easier to import a new wife from Pago-Pago to America than to bring-in a lightly used Euro-spec Porsche from Zuffenhausen. There is one man who wants to change all that: A man with the initials B.S. petitioned the White House to liberalize the immigration rules for used cars. No, it’s not THAT BS.

Benjamin Sharabani of Venice, CA, wants the Obama administration to “lower non-federalized vehicle importation requirements with NHTSA & EPA to 10-years from the current 25-years.”

This is a worthy cause, because America is for all intents and purposes closed to cars that have not been “federalized” – in itself a time- and money consuming exercise, which only very large or very rich and determined importers can afford. Unless that car is more than 25 years old, a non-federalized car needs to stay out of the country – or else.

The Department of Homeland Security warns:

“The Federal agencies that regulate the importation of non U.S. version or nonconforming vehicles are the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Transportation (DOT), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). These agencies do not encourage the importation of non U.S. version or nonconforming vehicles for on-road use because converting a nonconforming vehicle is usually very expensive, and sometimes impossible or impractical. It is possible that a car will conform to one agency’s requirements but not another’s.”

If you go to the EPA for guidance, you will hear:

“EPA strongly recommends that prospective importers buy only U.S. version (labeled) vehicles, because of the expense and potential difficulties involved with importing a non-U.S. version vehicle. EPA strongly recommends that current owners of non-U.S. version vehicles sell or otherwise dispose of those vehicles overseas rather than ship and import them into the U.S., because of the expense and potential difficulties involved with importing a non-U.S. version vehicle.”

The NHTSA is a bit more circumspect:

Since the cost of modifying a nonconforming vehicle, or the time required to bring it into conformance, may affect the decision to purchase a vehicle abroad, we strongly recommend discussing these matters with a Registered Importer before buying and shipping a vehicle to the U.S.”

Basically, the NHTSA leaves it to the Registered Importer to tell you: “Are you nuts?”

They will explain to you that you must post a bond of three times the value of the car to U.S. customs, and then again a bond of one and a half times the value of the car to the DOT, before the Registered Importer even can start trying to bring the car in compliance “with all applicable DOT Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS).” If you have not declared bankruptcy at this point, and/or committed yourself to an asylum, you will have to deal with the EPA.

Trust me: It will be easier to get green cards for a whole harem than to import a foreign car that was built after 1988.

Forget about bypassing these regulations. Even if you stick the car in a container and pile bales of Marijuana on it to throw the Feds off scent, Homeland Security will tell you: “You will need the CBP Form 7501 to register the vehicle with the Department of Motor Vehicle. CBP will not give you this form without approval from the EPA and DOT.”

There is a “List of nonconforming motor vehicles that are eligible for importation.” Importation not by mere mortals, mind you, it must be done through a Registered Importer. Don’t get your hopes up. Most of the cars on that list are there because they are “substantially similar to a U.S.-certified vehicle”. As in Jeep or Chevy. Even if that’s the case, extensive paperwork is required.

Now what about truly foreign cars? According to the list, less than 50 cars have sufficiently established “that the vehicle has safety features that comply with, or are capable of being altered to comply with, all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards.” Oddly, 14 of them are G-Wagens built between 1997 and 2006.

Ben’s car, The 1997 911 C4S, left. Ben vowed to “one day I will destroy” his friend and his Viper, right. Friend’s tag obscured, Ben’s tag in the buff to show the authorities that he is real

In other civilized parts of the world, such as Europe and in allegedly closed Japan, legalizing a non-approved car is as easy as checking that it has lights and brakes. You have it inspected, you sign a few forms, and you are good to go. If you want to import on a somewhat grander scale, no problem: Both the EU and Japan have special dispensations for low volume imports that are let into the country with a minimum of fuss. This, by the way, is how most of the U.S. makers import their cars to Japan and Europe. Only to bitch that the regulations are too onerous.

Even China is more lenient than the U.S.: Officially, the importation of used cars is bu hao, or verboten, as we say in America. But if you know someone – mei wen ti – no problem.

In America, they have you by the gonads if you bring in a foreign car. Say you paid all the bond money, but somehow you failed to bring the car in compliance. Trust me, the system is built to make you fail. Then, all that is left to you is to junk the car and kiss your bond money good-bye, you think? No, you can’t even do that. Says your friendly DHS: “It is also illegal to dispose of the vehicles in a junkyard. Non-compliant vehicles must be exported, destroyed, or brought into compliance.”

Catch 22, meet Kafka. Kafka, meet Catch 22.

But then, this might all change if Benjamin Sharabani’s petition is heard, right? Wrong again.

Benjamin needs 100,000 signatures by March 21, 2013. Yes, that’s a moth from now. He has 19 signatures now. Only 99,983 to go. Oh, and your 100,000 friends need to give their names and email addresses to the government. The Internet-savvy White House will even keep the petition from being searchable via Google if it has less than 150 signatures. But once 100,000 sign, it will get action, right? You can’t be wronger. Says the White House:

“If a petition gets enough support, White House staff will review it, ensure it’s sent to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response.”

Gee, thanks!

The petition system, by the way, is a Chinese import. There, it has been around for centuries. Except that when you go to Beijing and petition, you might get roughed up in a dark alley when you go home.

Maybe that’s what those email addresses are for.

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Why Did Ford Drop Its Bailout Ad? House Oversight Chair Investigates Fri, 30 Sep 2011 16:00:13 +0000

The Detroit News reports that the only Republican in Washington with subpoena power, Rep Darrel Issa has written a letter asking Ford CEO Alan Mulally for “a full and complete explanation of Ford’s decision” to stop running an advertisement that was critical of the TARP-funded auto bailout.

In a letter, Issa asks Ford if any White House, Treasury or other federal employee discussed the ad with any Ford employee “at any time via any manner of communication” and asks the automaker to turn over any documents connected to any discussion by Oct. 12.

Spokeswoman Meghan Keck said Ford will cooperate, but reiterated that the White House didn’t pressure the Dearborn automaker.

Ford took the ad off of Youtube after “individuals inside the White House questioned whether the copy was publicly denigrating the controversial bailout policy CEO Alan Mulally repeatedly supported in the dark days of late 2008,” according to Daniel Howes of the Detroit News. The same day Ford restored the video, and denied that White House pressure led to the takedown. Color us curious as to how Mulally is going to explain this little episode…

UPDATE: The Washington Post’s Plum Line reports

I just got off the phone with Detroit News managing editor Don Nauss. “We stand by our column,” he told me. “It was based on multiple sources. It’s written by a busines columnist who can draw conclusions based on the reporting that they do.”

The story contains no attribution for the central charge of White House calls to Ford. Asked about this, Nauss declined to comment.

Asked to clarify if the column was alleging any White House pressure on Ford (the story hints at it up top but quotes someone later saying there was no pressure), Nauss declined to say. “The story speaks for itself,” he said.

When contacted about his column, Howes referred me to Nauss’s comments above.



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Howes: Ford Yanks Bailout Ad After White House Pressure Tue, 27 Sep 2011 14:25:41 +0000

[UPDATE: Ford has restored the video to Youtube. More details here.]

Detroit News columnist Daniel Howes reports in a column that Ford has pulled its controversial “bailout ad” after the White House asked “questions” about it. And apparently the take-down decision makes this a threatened piece of footage: in addition to yanking the spot from the airwaves, the version of the video we posted two weeks ago has been taken down from YOutube as well [a home recording of it can still be found here]. So what happened that Ford would throw its most popular ad in ages down the memory hole? Howes is cryptic…

Ford pulled the ad after individuals inside the White House questioned whether the copy was publicly denigrating the controversial bailout policy CEO Alan Mulally repeatedly supported in the dark days of late 2008, in early ’09 and again when the ad flap arose…

With President Barack Obama tuning his re-election campaign amid dismal economic conditions and simmering antipathy toward his stimulus spending and associated bailouts, the Ford ad carried the makings of a political liability when Team Obama can least afford yet another one. Can’t have that.

The ad, pulled in response to White House questions (and, presumably, carping from rival GM), threatened to rekindle the negative (if accurate) association just when the president wants credit for their positive results (GM and Chrysler are moving forward, making money and selling vehicles) and to distance himself from any public downside of his decision.

In other words, where presidential politics and automotive marketing collide — clean, green, politically correct vehicles not included — the president wins and the automaker loses because the benefit of the battle isn’t worth the cost of waging it.

Who were these “individuals inside the White House?” What questions did they have for Ford? And why on earth would Ford not stand up for itself in this situation? That GM was “carping” about the ad only makes this worse: the White House wasn’t just trying to smooth over the campaign trail, it was protecting its investment (remember, the government still owns a significant stake in The General) by “asking” a competitor to kill a successful ad. So, just how aggressively did the White House “ask” about this ad? Again, Howes is cryptic:

“This thing is highly charged,” says an industry source familiar with the situation. Ford “never meant it to be an attack on the policy. There was not any pressure to take down the ad.”

Maybe not technically. But the nexus of politics and the auto business in today’s Washington is bigger, broader and more complex than it arguably has been in who knows how long.

Gosh, if I had a reporter in the White House press corps, I’d be sure to have them ask about this. After all, this situation highlights perfectly why bailouts are so un-American. I don’t care who you are or how you felt about the bailout in the first place: at the point that the President is pressuring competitors to government-owned companies to yank truth-telling ads, you’ve got to wonder what happened to this country.

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Quote Of The Day: Payback’s A Bitch Edition Fri, 15 Jan 2010 00:55:31 +0000

My commitment is to the American taxpayer. My commitment is to recover every single dime the American people are owed… We want our money back and we’re going to get it.

Without even getting into the politics of President Obama’s proposed “financial crisis responsibility fee,” it’s easy to see that the initiative holds a wealth of implications for America’s TARP-recipient automakers. In Obama’s new rhetoric, taking TARP money put businesses in a new category of special obligation to the taxpayers. Though the fee is targeted at financial institutions, the principle applies just as much to Detroit.

Banks owe the government about $60b in TARP money, while GM and Chrysler owe about $50b. Unlike the financial institutions though, it’s clear that GM and Chrysler will never be able to pay back their full obligation to the taxpayers. This has Wall Street types in a fury, accusing the White House of forcing them to subsidize Detroit.

The real irony in all this isn’t that successful banks will be penalized while failing Detroit gets a pass. That makes perfect sense, because as Rep Barney Frank puts it “getting money from these banks is a good way to expand government revenue without expanding the deficit.” There’s no such money to be had from GM and Chrysler.

The real irony is that the bank bailout allegedly took place because nobody understood the real nature of the crisis, shrouded as it was in the opacity of financial industry jargon. Now that the moment of crisis is over, the banks are back to making money, while the automakers are still dreaming of that first post-bankruptcy profit. Which one turned out to be the more difficult, complex industry?

If you don’t want banks making risky bets you can tie “fees” to their leverage ratios. But how do you legislate your way to a successful automaker?

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