Jim McFarland
October 27, 2010

There have also been concerns for owners of specially-built or kit car enthusiasts, pertaining to various titling issues and other state-based challenges in numerous locations across the country. Particularly in California, where a significant number of specially built vehicles were identified by regulators as either improperly or illegally registered (approximately five years ago), a major threat to the street rod industry appeared. Because such violations were considered a felony offense, car owners were targeted for arrests and the probability of confiscated vehicles. It has required a major effort on the part of SEMA, working in conjunction with the California Attorney's Office, CARB, Bureau of Automotive Repair, Department of Motor Vehicles, and state legislators to craft a solution to this critical issue. Whereas five years ago there was no clear path to obtaining legal registration and emissions-compliance for these vehicles, today there is a means for accomplishing it.

Concurrently, SEMA has continued working with states outside California to configure laws and regulations to enable legal registration of street rods and custom cars (including kit cars and replicas). The SEMA model legislation, enacted in 20 states to date, also provides for special license plates for these vehicles. The bill defines a street rod as an altered vehicle manufactured before 1949 and a custom as an altered vehicle at least 25 years old and manufactured after 1948. The bill allows kit cars and replica vehicles to be assigned a certificate of title bearing the same model year designation that the body of the vehicle was constructed to resemble.

Most recently, there have been concerns about the regulation of carbon dioxide emissions and how performance parts relate to so-called greenhouse gases. After a review of data gathered during emissions compliance testing of specialty aftermarket products that successfully passed these tests, the levels of CO2 that exceeded baseline emissions were quite low. In fact, although increased air/fuel charge enrichment in and of itself can somewhat increase CO2, if combustion efficiency levels associated with improved fuel economy and acceptable emissions are maintained, little or no unfavorable impact has been observed. So it would appear that performance products, when designed and used in a way that enables fuel economy equal to or better than that obtained with stock components, create a negligible effect on CO2 output.

Looking ahead, it is clear that OEM technology and ways it can be improved by enthusiasts or made compatible with specific performance objectives is a further challenge. The car companies build vehicles with technologies that must be understood and addressed, not only within regulatory requirements that include safety and emissions, but also as the platform on which the aftermarket must operate. This challenge has included increased pressure from regulatory requirements, largely dealing with emissions performance and compliance. Gone are the days when performance parts manufacturers could simply expand on the dimensions or specifications of an OEM part or system to produce more power. Aftermarket parts manufacturers are required to upgrade their own technical capabilities and be prepared to meet new challenges to integrate emissions-related parts to regulatory test methods.

Looking further into the future, it is abundantly clear that Federal and State governmental regulations will continue to affect the performance aftermarket, ranging from parts manufacturers to enthusiasts. Historically, it is not a matter of "if" regulations will impact this industry but "when" and to what extent they will do so. An integral part of working toward the prevention or reduction of such actions is the combined ability of SEMA to identify and confront heavy-handed legislation potentially damaging to the performance enthusiast community while working directly with government regulators to address mutual concerns. By linking and integrating these critical elements, the high-performance industry and enthusiast landscape we know today will be ensured a viable future.