The NHSTA is the reason you can't have a new DeLorean.
Back in 2017, the DeLorean Motor Company announced it would start building cars once again and opened up pre-order applications. The cars would be exactly the same as the ones built in the 1980s, made possible by a 2015 law called the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act). The FAST Act included a provision where low-volume automakers would be allowed to sell up to 325 replica versions of cars built at least 25 years ago.
This provision sounded like a nice concession for American car enthusiasts and small manufacturers but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has completely blown past its deadline of December 4, 2016, to implement regulations for the FAST Act. This inaction has left small automakers like DeLorean in a precarious situation and the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) is now taking legal action.
"SEMA warned the NHTSA in 2018 that it would file suit if companies could not begin production of turnkey cars as authorized by the FAST Act," said SEMA President and CEO Christopher J. Kersting. "SEMA has made every effort to work collaboratively with NHTSA for over three and a half years, although the agency has taken no action to implement the replica car law. Consequently, companies have not hired workers, businesses have lost money, and consumers have been denied their rights to purchase replica cars."
This issue doesn't just impact DeLorean. Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus planned to build replicas of the first-generation Ford Bronco and even UK automaker Morgan planned to use the law to bring its latest sports car, the Plus 4, to the United States for the first time in decades. These companies made investments and financial moves to start producing cars and have now been prevented from starting to sell cars due to the NHTSA's inaction.
The FAST Act requires the NHTSA to "issue such regulations as may be necessary" to implement the law but the agency also has other options such as issuing what is known as a guidance document, which would allow small-volume manufacturers to begin production immediately. SEMA has filed a lawsuit asking the court to compel NHTSA to take action and we hope this finally helps to get some DeLoreans and Morgans back on the road.
The DeLorean Motor Company issued a statement on the matter: "The little work that is legislatively mandated from NHTSA and EPA is approaching three years overdue. The chosen engine supplier has advised that our engine of choice for the low-volume DeLorean will be discontinued in 2022, making the development time and expense undertaken to date, wasted. Initially, enthusiastic suppliers have grown weary of waiting, potential staff have moved on to other jobs, and interested buyers and possible dealers have made other buying choices."
"In late 2016, DeLorean Motor Company formally wrote NHTSA with a request for a favorable interpretation regarding this legislation that was acknowledged as received but otherwise completely ignored without a response. This is government at its worst. The Low-Volume Manufacturing legislation is really a 'win' for everyone. A 'win' for buyers of the cars, because it gives them a better car than what they could typically get with a 25-plus-year-old car. It is a 'win' for the environment, as these cars are equipped with modern, low-emissions engines installed within a regulatory framework. Finally, low-volume manufacturing creates skilled jobs here in America and opens up new export markets."