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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Direct Import Vehicles 1975 or Newer Into California


Direct Import(or Gray Market) vehicles are vehicles that were manufactured outside the United States for which the original manufacturer did not obtain California or Federal certification.  The EPA normally covers direct import vehicles under the ICI program, but if a vehicle is going to be registered in California, it needs to meet the California Direct Import requirements.

Any vehicle 1968 or newer needs to meet certain standards otherwise it is not legal to register it in California. A vehicle model year 1975 or older doesn't need a smog(in use test) in California. So there is actually a 1 year gap between the two rules. 1968 to 1974 needs to meet USEPA requirements in effect on the specific date of 11/15/1972 .1967 and older no smog and no modifications or testing are required to register the vehicle in California. 1975 would need to meet direct import requirements(FTP testing), but then would not need to be smogged after the initial direct import requirements are met. Frustratingly confused with dates yet?

1976 or newer needs to be smogged in California every 2 years
1975 or newer must meet Direct Import requirements(FTP testing)
1968 to 1974 exempt from smog but still needs to meet USEPA requirements in effect on the specific date of 11/15/1972
1967 and older no smog and no modifications or testing are required to register the vehicle in California

For the NHTSA any vehicle over 25 years old is FMVSS exempt. For the EPA, any vehicle over 21 years old, and in its original configuration is EPA exempt, however California has its own requirements.

When you start on the process of obtaining a California title, at some point you will get a letter from the Foreign Titling Division in Sacramento, informing you of what has to happen in order to get California registration. In the case of the vehicle below, it was just for "title only" as the vehicle is going out of state.


There are just a few testing labs that can actually do the work, and test the car to California standards.
R33 GT-R on the FTP dyno in 2006


Direct Import (DI) (a.k.a. "Gray Market") Vehicles
  • New DI "California Certification and Compliance Test Procedures for New Modifier Certified Vehicles" (PDF - 316K)
  • Used DI "California Certification Procedures for 1975 and Later Model-Year Used Modifier-Certified Vehicles" (PDF - 3746K)
  • Used DI "Licensing Requirements for Motor Vehicle  Emission Test Laboratories" (PDF - 498K)
  • Used DI Laboratory Questionnaire (PDF - 435K)



R33 GT-R on the FTP dyno in 2006

Once you run it though the FTP cycle, then you take the car to the smog referee  where they then do an inspection, and smog on the car (pointless as it just passed FTP), and they issue you a BAR label.

Porsche 959 BAR Label from California

1967 model year vehicles and older: no modifications and testing are required to register the vehicle in California.
1968 model year to 1974 model year vehicles: California does not recommend the purchase or importation of these years of NON-USA vehicles, even if currently registered in another state. These vehicles require compliance with USEPA requirements in effect on the specific date of 11/15/1972. This provision when written, was considered by the California legislature as a gradual phase-out of very dirty "non-collectable" types of imports, as this specific requirement was understood to become increasingly difficult to meet. Today, this requirement, while not impossible to meet, would require testing expenses and modifications that far exceed most vehicles value and would make little sense from a collectors standpoint to attempt. Some limited exemptions apply to individuals moving to California with vehicles of these years registered in their home state for at least a year before moving to California. Contact us for more information.
1975 model year vehicles to the present: (EXCLUDING any vehicle obtained by a California resident within two years of its date of production) require a "Certificate of Conformance" issued by the ARB after a successful laboratory test. This test is administered to the same standards required of new vehicle manufacturers, and for the model year of the vehicle . However, unlike new vehicle manufacturers, as an individual you are not required to meet the full range of additional testing and equipment standards such as On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) requirements, durability testing, low emission fleet averaging, or Zero Emissions Vehicle testing (LEV and ZEV requirements). So while these standards reference what a manufacturer must do, when required by the Direct Import requirements they apply to individuals importing a used motor vehicle. Some limited exemptions apply to individuals moving to California with vehicles of these years registered in their home state for at least a year before moving to California. Contact us for more information.
Motorcycles and heavy-duty engines (used in trucks and buses) are required to comply with CA or USEPA from the date of manufacturer, no after-the-fact modification is permitted for products first sold outside the US market.
Diesel vehicles: 1979 model year and older vehicles with original-equipment diesel engines are exempt from Direct Import lab testing requirements. Please note that any vehicle converted to operate on diesel fuel is subject to lab testing requirements if it is a 1968 model year vehicle or newer.
From the ARB site

These requirements apply to ANY and ALL direct import vehicles that are 1968 or newer and to be registered in California. It doesn't matter how many states the car was registered in before you are bringing it to California. Doesn't matter how long ago the car came into the country. If you are trying to get registration in California today, be prepared to write a pretty big check to a testing lab.

Welcome to California, we hope you enjoy your stay. 

2 comments:

Charles Evans said...

What about a diesel? It's my understanding that diesels older than a 1993 are exempt. True?

Sean Morris said...

Diesel is in there. Listed in the last line.

"Diesel vehicles: 1979 model year and older vehicles with original-equipment diesel engines are exempt from Direct Import lab testing requirements. Please note that any vehicle converted to operate on diesel fuel is subject to lab testing requirements if it is a 1968 model year vehicle or newer."

 
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