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Mar 18, 2011

This is the Reason the Nissan Skyline is Illegal in the US

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.
Read more:,9171,923836,00.html#ixzz1H0r4a8CU
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.
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 Imported 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.

Imported Vehicle Safety Compliance Act of 1988.

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


J L said...

After reading your post, I had to respond in manner, the situation is rather coincidental:

Anonymous said...

funny thing, my girlfriends uncle back in the early 80's imported "grey market" mb's, and porches. Another funny thing, is that his last name was benz too.

My gf's aunt gave me a stack of files of all the parts that needed to change on the cars before they were sold here in the us. The guy had a nice Mercedes Benz dealer in BFE bloomington. In the files there were letters sent to the DOT, EPA etc.. cool stuff.

Anonymous said...

however in new Zealand the rules are slightly different...

in 50s the got rid of import tarrifs: the reason being it was incredibly expensive to get a brand new car in the 40s. once the rules were relaxed the 70s were good to the Japanese, Datsun 1200cc and and 120y sold really well. but in 97 the rules changed slightly for import crash regs. and now any car pre 90s Japanese car cannot be imported if it doesn't have had crash testing (Nissan silvia's, rx7s) now if its 2005+ it will be allowed in. but some cars have to miss out.

Anonymous said...

Ok this doesn't specify why the skyline is "illegal". It just tells how Mercedes Benz protected it's interest by lobbying the US government against ALL gray market cars. The Skyline isn't illegal, it just wasn't brought to the US for sale. It could be for many reasons; maybe it didn't conform to the then current smog regulations, maybe Nissan didn't think there was much of a market for it when put up against the American V8. I think we can all agree on is that it was a missed opportunity. Some shadier importers still found ways to get them into the states, I always love seeing an R32 or R34 once in awhile.

Anonymous said...

The Skyline wasn't produced for the U.S. market makes them open to seizure under the import act Benz lobbied to enact. Any car not developed for this market is essentially illegal to privately import. Saying that the car itself is illegal must be confusing people.

Anonymous said...

Wow, thx Mercedes. Now i cant get R34s. #NeverGettingAMercedes