Ever since the birth of the automobile, people have developed an obsession with modifying cars. America has an overflowing history of customizing and modifying cars dating back over a century. With everything from NASCAR to lowriders, the United States has become a melting pot of car culture. However, American car culture as we know it is under fire. The EPA's decision that the CAA (clean air act) does not allow vehicles designed for street use, including cars, trucks, and motorcycles, to be turned into dedicated race cars. In 2015 the EPA decided that converted vehicles must remain emissions-compliant, even though they are no longer driven on public roads. Although the EPA did not settle on the proposed rule, the agency still maintains that modifying the emission system of a motor vehicle, even when converting it for off-road or racing purposes, is still federally illegal. As well as further putting restrictions on manufacturing, selling, and installing parts for the conversion of road vehicles would also be a violation. The EPA has also declared that enforcement upon performance parts like superchargers, aftermarket tunes, and exhaust systems "is a top priority" Although some argue these new restrictions are necessary, they would without debate deal a massive hit to the automotive aftermarket industry. These changes could potentially shut down hundreds of businesses and has gathered opposition from both sides of the aisle in Washington DC.
SEMA (specialty equipment market association), along with bi-partisan support from Republican and Democrat members of Congress, is trying to pass a bill called the Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports act or simply the RPM act. The RPM Act aims to preserve a person's right to transform any car, truck, or motorcycle into a dedicated racing vehicle; Along with the aftermarket motorsports-parts manufacturers keeping their ability to sell the products that provide racers with the parts they need to build their race cars. The bill maintains that it is still legal to make changes to a vehicle's emissions system if the street vehicle is being converted for the sole purpose of using the car in motorsport or off road. Most of the vehicles raced on the estimated 1,300 racetracks operating across the U.S. are converted vehicles that the EPA considers to be illegal. The EPA made this a "national priority," putting almost all motorsports and the businesses that support them in the same type of category as non-compliance of public drinking water standards or waste emissions from hazardous waste facilities.
The RPM act will still allow aftermarket parts manufacturers and speed shops to produce, market, and install racing equipment legally without the threat of criminal charges or heavy fines. Retail sales from motorsport parts make up approximately $2 billion in market revenue annually, simultaneously providing tens of thousands of jobs in the United States alone. Still, the EPA sent a strong message to several aftermarket parts manufacturers, hitting Rexburg, Idaho's Premier Performance with fines totaling 3 Million dollars, along with filing a total of 31 civil enforcement cases against Performance Diesel, Punch it Performance, Freedom Performance, Diesel Power Products, plus several other shops the EPA did not believe were deserving of a public announcement but were also hit with harsh warnings and fines. The Chagrin Falls, OH exhaust pipe company, Stainless Steel Works, had said the EPA had visited their company and warned them not to sell any off-road versions of their header, exhaust, or downpipe systems without a catalytic converter. Stainless Steel Works has agreed and is now complying with the EPA's request.
The EPA has said they support motorsport culture at its core; however, on the other hand, they clearly can’t overlook aftermarket parts manufacturers and retail companies that sell parts and software that bypasses or deletes factory emissions technology on modern-day cars, trucks, and motorcycles even if those vehicles are being converted for the sole purpose of being used for off-road or at private institutions. EPA leadership refers to “nonroad vehicles and engines,” which might sound like a racecar or off road vehicle. Although that is not really the fact with CAA;
CAA clearly outlaws road vehicles being used just for high-performance competition or use at private facilities.
The U.S. Code defines a “nonroad vehicle” as “a vehicle that is powered by a nonroad engine, and that is not a motor vehicle or a vehicle used solely for competition.” A “nonroad engine”
can apply to any “an internal combustion engine (including the fuel system) that is not used in a motor vehicle or a vehicle used solely for competition" Therefore, the predicament is; unfortunately, you can’t convert a legally defined road vehicle that is emissions-compliant, to a legally defined, emissions-exempt, competition vehicle build for the sole purpose of being used at private locations without breaking federal law. Congress did pass legislation that exempted the destination of fully purpose build race cars but neglected to exempt any conversion process. SEMA has argued that the EPA's new stance is an scary overreach by the EPA. Not being able to legally convert old road vehicles to purpose-built track or off road vehicles would destroy almost all small grassroots motorsport seemingly overnight. Having to purpose-build a racecar or off road vehicle from scratch is incredibly hard and expensive, putting an abrupt end to thousands of people's amateur racing careers and hobbies as well as leaving them with an unusable high-priced vehicle that they are unable to sell.
The RPM Act is well-positioned to be passed into law in 2021; the bill made it past several major legislative obstacles in the previous Congress, including passage by the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee plus several hearings in the House and Senate. SEMA has also been determined to get the backing of the "car enthusiast community." SEMA
has been heavily focused on promoting their cause through social media and other platforms to draw attention to their petition that SEMA believes will help them persuade Congress into passing the RPM act into law.
Although the EPA nevertheless argues, their new focus under CAA is necessary considering the state of the climate along with harmful and sometimes deadly contaminants floating around inside our atmosphere; the EPA believes this newly heightened focus on profoundly restricting motorsport will help push our society down a greener and healthier path. Many people still believe that motorsports are a very small part of a much bigger problem and that pales in comparison to many other much bigger carbon-emitting industries.