Opinion: Want to see how incompetent our government is with automotive imports? Warning, it’s not for the faint hearted w/ video

You may have heard it before, but recently, our government has come under fire again over the issue of archaic and insensible import laws, which lead to huge debacles over the fate of grey-marketed vehicles here in the US.

Earlier this year, 40 or so illegally imported Land Rover Defenders were seized from their owners, causing a major stir in the worldly automotive scene and putting a spotlight in our legislation and how we deal with imported vehicles.

And just today, another video and story surfaced about the public destruction of a 2000 Mini Cooper imported illegally in the country, here in New Jersey. Now, I don’t know about you, but the public execution of anything is about as obsolete as the guillotine itself and even the laws that brought this poor Mini to the crusher.

Ok, ok, now I know some of you are out there are just sitting back in your chair and crossing your arms, thinking–the law was broken, they got what they deserved and the Mini doesn’t matter. Yes, and no because, you see, the laws that brought this Mini to meet its maker are about as sensible, modern and paralleled as classifying those caught for possession of small amounts of marijuana as psychotic axe-wielding murderers and first-degree rapists. Again, a principle and case-in-point of obsolete laws that’s alive and well.


So here’s the down-low, and the story is much like the same from those 40 seized Defenders: this 2000 Mini Cooper didn’t meet US’s ridiculous 25-year import pardon and additionally, it was found to have a falsified VIN number from a 1988 model. However, as with many other similar stories, the owner wasn’t aware and of course, like the Defender owners, this Mini owner was SOL.

Why should we care? Well, this needs to stop, that’s why. Because when these illegally imported cars get confiscated, they’re not not sent back home, federalized and fixed, or even parted out for other’s use. They’re just flat out destroyed regardless of their inherent value and the public exhibition of such an event happening is just salt in the wound, further stabbing at the inner Hulks of all of us automotive enthusiasts–this just outrages us because this isn’t even fair.

And we’re not crying wolf for no reason and to explain, let’s break down our current 25-year rule. Why does it exist? Well, it was in essence, a gentlemen’s agreement established in the 1980s that passed as a bill to keep people buying cars in foreign markets and importing them here. And it was actually lobbied by Mercedes-Benz, who at the time, had a huge influence on the dealership and import structure of car buying here in the states when the imports were at their peak. That’s because grey-marketing was a way of undercutting the official sales force and dealership structure we have here in the states. Ultimately, at the time when the economic climate was much different, it was much cheaper to buy a car in Europe or elsewhere and import it here instead of walking into a dealer and just buying one. Had this law not been passed, dealerships and even manufacturers would’ve probably suffered some serious business casualties.

But this isn’t the 1980s any more, our economic climate has changed, and so have safety standards and the emergence of the globally designed automobile–all things that make our 25-year import rule as obsolete as the ban on marijuana because the hemp industry threatened the paper and textile industry in the first half of the 20th century. See the parallel now?

And as others have voiced, the problem isn’t with the people who enforce these laws–no, the problem is with the laws and legislation themselves. Let’s break down the Mini situation again. The Associated Press reports the Mini was destroyed, even publicly, to “highlight safety standards” that the vehicle didn’t meet–our archaic 25-year rule. BALONEY!

Ok smart government, what kind of safety threat does a 2000 Mini Cooper pose to anyone, even drivers, occupants, or other motorists, when compared to a Mini Cooper that does pass the 25-year rule, both of which are virtually the same car from the ground up–same story with those 40 Defenders? In fact, this recently destroyed 2000 Mini Cooper can be argued to be even safer than those that pass the 25-year rule because this one has airbags, and possibly other subtle improvements of modernization–it is a 2000 model year car that was sold brand new in the UK. So it certainly meets safety standards from at least the year 2000.

And how is this Mini Cooper any less safe than the thousands of poorly made American econoboxes with faulty ignition switches that are still on the road today? Does that even make any sense whatsoever?

What can we do and how do we fix this? Well, this requires a bit of change at the governmental sector and that means auto enthusiasts need to voice their opinion to have this 25-year law changed. And not too long ago, a petition was formed to get the attention of the government. You can find that and sign it here.

We’re not vouching for the illegal manipulation of VIN numbers obviously, but more so the change needed to stop this ludicrous process.

For what it’s worth, this is an immigration reform that all of us car nuts can stand with. Help us save the imports!

– By: Chris Chin

Source: AssociatedPress/LehighValleyLive via Road&Track and Jalopnik

Chris Chin

Editor-In-Chief of egmCarTech Freelance Automotive Journalist / Editor / Photographer

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