Its heard all the time on the internet, the Nissan Skyline is illegal in the USA. To the layperson, they may hear this and take it as gospel. It used to be you would hear its illegal because it is right hand drive. You would hear that it is illegal because it was too fast. Neither of which is true. Here is the true reason that the Nissan Skyline is illegal in the US, Mercedes Benz North America.
What does Mercedes Benz have to do with a Nissan Skyline? Picture yourself as Mercedes Benz North America, the official distributor of Mercedes Benz. As the distributor you setup the dealer networks, handle parts and warranty, import the cars, setup pricing, and make money off each Mercedes Benz sold in the US. Enter the “gray market” cars. Gray market cars are cars that are imported, but not though official distributors. The gray market cars don’t have a warranty, they are not supported by a dealer network, but here is what they are……CHEAPER. In the consumer driven dollar and cents market place, the cheaper car, is the one the consumer wants.
In December 1984, Time Magazine published this article about gray market luxury cars. In the article, they mention that the change in the dollars value via the exchange rate, can mean up to a $12,000 savings for a buyer of an imported gray market car, vs a model purchased at a US dealer. They mention that as many as 50,000 automobiles could have been brought into the US in 1985.
Example: a Mercedes 500 SEL, when bought from an authorized dealer in the U.S., is about $52,000. The same model bought in West Germany and imported by a U.S. buyer goes for some $40,000 after the extra charges.There is data on the number of vehicles imported into the US though the gray market, and though official channels, and at one point the gray market was importing more cars than the official US distributors.
Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,923836,00.html#ixzz1H0r4a8CU
The grey market was successful enough that it ate significantly into the business of Mercedes-Benz of North America and their dealers. The corporation launched a successful million-dollar congressional lobbying effort to stop private importation of vehicles not officially intended for the U.S. market. An organisation called AICA (Automotive Importers Compliance Association) was formed by importers in California, Florida, New York, Texas, and elsewhere to counter some of these actions by Mercedes lobbyists, but the Motor Vehicle Safety Compliance Act was passed in 1988, effectively ending private import of grey-market vehicles to the United States. No evidence was presented that grey-import vehicles' safety performance differed significantly from that of US models, and there have been allegations of improper lobbying, but the issue has never been raised in court.Mercedes Benz North America spent a million dollars lobbying congress to get the importing laws changed, to protect their interests, and money. Lately I have been mentioning this a lot. It will take a lot of money to get the laws changed. It will take a lot of money, to try and get one seized Nissan Skyline back.
So, if you have at least a million dollars of lobbying power, there is a chance you might be able to get the laws changed. However, if you start to get close, there is a good chance you will be fighting Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, Ferrari, and maybe a few others. It is not in their best business interests, to allow a relaxation of vehicle import laws. They have their business interests in mind.
This is not about DOT, this is not about EPA, this is about money. If you have any doubt, just look back at the 1980’s vehicle import market.
Picture : SOUSA via NICO