SEMA Vs. the EPA's Attempt to Outlaw Race Cars

Jason R. Sakurai
by Jason R. Sakurai
sema vs the epa s attempt to outlaw race cars

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is embroiled in a lawsuit with Gear Box Z, Inc., contending that the Clean Air Act (CAA), doesn’t allow you to convert your street car into a competition-only race vehicle.

Once certified as a street vehicle, your car or truck can never be converted into a race vehicle even if it’s trailered and never driven on public roads again, argues the EPA.

The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) represents the $46.2 billion specialty automotive industry, which manufactures, distributes, and sells appearance, performance, comfort, convenience, and technology products for passenger and recreational vehicles. SEMA’s functions include legislative advocacy, market research, training, and product development support, along with hosting the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, and the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) Show in Indianapolis, both leading trade shows.

SEMA has entered the fight with the EPA as an amicus curiae, someone not a party to a case who assists the court by offering information, expertise, or insight concerning the issues in the form of a brief. Whether to consider an amicus brief is at the court’s discretion.

SEMA contends that the Clean Air Act doesn’t apply to street vehicles that have been converted to track-only use, stating that the EPA’s interpretation breaks from the CAA’s language, its legislative history, and the EPA’s own regulations and guidance. In the brief, SEMA points out that the EPA’s position contradicts its prior stance, where the agency said it had no interest in EPA-certified production vehicles used on public roads, which are permanently converted to sanctioned, competition-use only vehicles.

The EPA has tried to bend the CAA to fit before, as part of a 2015 rulemaking draft. A huge public backlash organized by SEMA caused the withdrawal of this provision. The next year, Congress introduced SEMA-sponsored legislation that confirmed what had been in place for 45 years, that the CAA doesn’t apply to vehicles modified for racing-use only.

SEMA is now advocating the Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act (RPM Act), bipartisan legislation that restates the legality of making changes to street vehicles for the purpose of converting them into race cars. Furthermore, it confirms the legitimacy of producing, marketing, and installing racing equipment. With the support of enthusiasts, whether racers or not, the RPM Act will protect your rights, save our race cars, and curtail the EPA’s actions.

[Images: Haugen Racing]

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  • DenverMike DenverMike on Mar 17, 2021

    The "OFF ROAD USE ONLY" isn't easy to enforce, point and click. Someone at the EPA would have to leave their cozy office. Going after the manufacturers is too easy, at the expense of true racers. Guilty until proven... There's a Constitutional violation somewhere. I don't know but someone should sue. It's the American way.

  • PeriSoft PeriSoft on Mar 17, 2021

    As a guy who road-races a 1990 Miata with a Megasquirt, this theoretically concerns me, but over the last few years I've seen any number of "sky-is-falling" pronouncements from SEMA, spread by anxious racers, that just happened to virtue-signal furiously to SEMA's main customer base (or customer-of-customer base). I'm a bit skeptical that this isn't a tempest in a teapot of, "They're coming for your gu... racecars!" ginned up by people with a vested interest. It would sure suck if it accidentally turned out to actually ban grassroots motorsport, though. Back to Formula Vee and SRF for everyone!

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