Can We Lift The Stupid Ban On Importing Cars Under 25 Years Old?

I recently posted something on Reddit. I rarely do this, largely because I feel that Reddit is the kind of place where people go to a) look at cute cat videos, and b) send dick pics to whoever posted the cute cat videos.

But they have a cars section, and it’s fairly active, so I went there to post photos of my cross-country CTS-V Wagon roadtrip. I figured they’d love it, and I was right, as demonstrated by this sampling of private messages I received just after posting:

“Awesome wagon man! Is it a stick?!”

“Dude! I have a friend with a manual one of those and he loves it! Too bad about yours!”

“I’m eight inches. Here’s proof.”

Anyway: while I was browsing through the other posts in the cars section, I noticed that some enterprising Reddit user had started a petition to end the ban on importing cars under 25 years old. It was one of those WhiteHouse.gov petitions – you know, the kind where you get 100,000 signatures, it reaches President Obama’s desk, and he holds a press conference to announce that if he had a son, it would look a lot like a 25-year-old foreign car.

I’ve decided to devote today’s column to this petition. But before I do that, let’s talk about the law itself.

For those of you who don’t know, the United States has a ban on importing all vehicles under 25 years old. I know what you’re thinking: Does this mean America would prefer that I own a high-powered assault rifle than a Fiat Multipla? And the answer is: Yes. But not for the reason you think.

You see, the ban didn’t come from crash safety advocates, and it didn’t come from the EPA. (This may shock anyone who has ever studied our government, as the EPA’s next round of bans will reportedly target children, music, and sunshine.) In fact, the ban came from the automakers themselves – or, more specifically, from their lobby in Washington, DC, which is so powerful that it recently broke that hook from the Volvo Trucks commercial.

If you’re confused, allow me to explain. Let’s say you’re Mercedes and you’re trying to distribute cars in the United States. The last thing you want is some jackass American travelling to Europe, buying a Mercedes at a discounted price, and shipping it back home. So you get the US government to ban that practice, meaning consumers have to buy from you. Of course, this law was clearly enacted before the exchange rates shifted, since an American buying an Audi A5 now pays roughly the same as a German buying waterproof patio furniture.

So that’s the law. Now back to the petition, which has received only 730 signatures out of 100,000 needed by mid-September in order to reach President Obama’s desk. In other words: it’s not going to make it.

You might be saddened by this. You might wish the petition would succeed, Congress would change the law, and soon we could drive to the assault weapons dealer in a Fiat Multipla. (Presumably, to destroy it.) But I’ve recently realized, after considerable thought, that the lack of signatures on this petition is actually a good thing.

Now, at this point, I know you’re confused. You’re thinking: DeMuro, you idiot! Don’t you want to spend thousands of dollars out-of-pocket to import some cool stuff and write about it on Jalopnik?! And the answer, once again, is yes. But a bunch of signatures isn’t going to get us there.

Here’s my thinking. If we, as car enthusiasts, band together and tell Congress that we want to import a lot of cars, the automaker lobby will once again rise up and quash our cause. The fact that the petition has very few signatures is actually a good thing, because it means lifting the ban would probably have absolutely no impact on the auto industry.

For proof, I turn to Canada, which slots right behind Eritrea as undoubtedly the second-coolest country with a leaf on its flag. In Canada, you can import cars up to 15 years old, meaning that any crazy Canadian could be driving around today in a BMW Z1, making Jeep Wrangler owners jealous by putting the doors up and down with the push of a button.

And guess what? It turns out the people who actually go the trouble of importing cars are the kind of people who would never consider buying a new car in the first place. As a result, the Canadian auto industry hasn’t collapsed. In fact, it’s just like the American auto industry, except with way more Mazda 2s.

In other words: it’s a virtual certainty that we could change our rule from 25 years to 15 years without any problems. Life would go on. Car companies would be fine. The only effect would be that a handful of crazy people may import bizarre vehicles from the early 1990s.

In case you’re wondering, I’m one of those crazy people. Pictured at the top of this story is an Audi RS2, which was recently voted the greatest car ever in a poll that involved me and my stuffed animals. Even if I have to wait until it’s 25 years old, I’ll be importing an RS2. That wagon will be a stick, which means I can post it on Reddit and receive only unbridled praise. Praise, and dick pics.

@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He operates PlaysWithCars.com and writes for The Truth About Cars. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn't work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.