I rarely comment on anything political, but in this case, as a journalist in the field, I feel compelled to speak up.
There are things happening around us in the world of the automotive aftermarket that are very concerning. I’m sure many of us did not see or hear about the issue I’m going to talk about, but I think that is what is so concerning.
On February 8, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a regulation that would prohibit the conversion of vehicles originally designed for on-road use into race cars. The regulation would also make the sale of certain products for use on such vehicles illegal. The proposed regulation was contained within a non-related proposed regulation entitled “Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles – Phase 2.”
The regulation would impact all vehicle types, including the sports cars, sedans and hatchbacks commonly converted strictly for use at the track. While the Clean Air Act prohibits certain modifications to motor vehicles, it’s clear that vehicles built or modified for racing and not used on the streets are not the “motor vehicles” that Congress intended to regulate.
Before you get too overheated, on March 10, 2016, members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate introduced a new bill (H.R. 4715 and S. 2659) that will clarify the Clean Air Act to explain it has always been legal to modify a street vehicle into a race car. Go ahead, breathe.
While this might not directly affect either the aftermarket distribution market or the collision repair market, it’s a glaring example of what can slip into our world without being noticed. Of course, the original notion is obscured, but it was still proposed as a bill anyway – probably due to some obscure special interest group’s best interests and not ours. With all the other political noise around at this time, the creators probably figured no one would notice and the law would pass and we would all realize it long after this fall’s elections.
Luckily, this industry has some very sharp associations that are keenly focused on our friends in Washington. They found this legislation, jumped on an awareness campaign, got the White House to comment and got it stalled. Disaster averted!
My point is that we have things coming at us from places we never would have thought of. Awareness is a key business skill, and it may even be critical to our survival. My advice is to stay involved and keep your eyes peeled on the horizon.