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Working Catalysts Required on Imported Cars

[EPA press release - July 16, 1975]

The Environmental Protection Agency announced today that any American or foreign automobile that has a catalytic converter and has been driven outside the United States, Canada and Mexico (where unleaded gasoline is not generally available), will have to be fitted with a new catalytic converter before it can be imported into the United States. Canada and Mexico are the only countries besides the U.S. that sell unleaded gasoline.

EPA has found that leaded gasoline seriously degrades the functioning of catalyst emission control systems. A catalyst equipped vehicle that has been continuously operated on leaded fuel is presumed, EPA says, to no longer be in compliance with Federal emission standards.

Regulations governing the importation of motor vehicles currently require labels on the vehicles signaling that they meet EPA emission requirements for the year that they were manufactured. However, if a car was not built to meet emission standards, it will not have an EPA label and must be bonded. The importer is required to post bond equal to the value of the vehicle, plus duty, and have the vehicle modified so that it meets Federal requirements. EPA must approve the modification and issue a statement that the vehicle has been brought into conformity with emission requirements before the Customs bond can be released and the vehicle granted final admission into this country.

EPA estimates that without the new regulations announced today, 35,000 to 40,000 catalyst equipped vehicles in the "labeled" category would be allowed into the United States each year despite the fact that their converters had been deactivated by leaded gasoline, bringing the vehicles out of compliance with Federal emission standards.

The new regulations require that all catalyst equipped imports operated outside Canada and Mexico must be bonded unless they are included in an EPA-approved program for catalyst retrofit.

EPA says it expects most foreign auto manufacturers and U.S. Government agencies that frequently import motor vehicles to establish the catalyst retrofit programs in order to minimize the inconvenience of bonding. An example of a manufacturer's retrofit program would be a system whereby a buyer who intends to import a catalyst equipped car pays a monetary deposit at the time he purchases his car for overseas delivery. The deposit would be refunded by the manufacturer or his agent after the catalyst has been replaced.

Regulations covering labeling and the certificate of conformity with emission standards have also been amended. In addition to the present certification label, all light duty vehicles will be required to bear a catalyst conformity statement on a separate label, or the statement may be included on the Department of Transportation label currently required for all imported vehicles. The joint DOT-EPA label or the separate EPA label will be affixed to the driver's doorpost, and will identify the vehicle as either non-catalyst (not subject to bonding), catalyst equipped and covered by a retrofit program (not subject to bonding), or catalyst equipped and not so covered (subject to bonding). The new labeling system, EPA says, will allow Customs officials to quickly determine which vehicles require bonding and which do not.

Catalyst equipped new vehicles imported by foreign manufacturers for sale in the U.S. will be labeled "catalyst equipped" but will not be subject to bonding.

The new regulations are published in the Federal Register of June 30, 1975.