I looked into importing a Toyota Hi-Lux turbo diesel pickup from Argentina. It seems that our govt has an outrageous import duty on small light-duty diesel pickups. I could import a motorcycle or gas car for a 3-5% import duty, but a diesel light duty truck is 35% (applies to new and used vehicles). If the US automakers don't want to build one, they make sure we can't import one...
Just not on diesel but on all... it is called the Chicken Tax.. LBJ put it into place.
A few years back me and friend; who use to have a van conversion business, were looking to bring in the Volkswagen T-5 Transporter and convert them to Westfalia campers. We felt there is a market for this as Sportmobile is doing well, and there are a bunch of Baby Boomers looking to relive the good years. VW Norte Merica doesn’t feel the numbers are there to justify it, but we felt it could be a great cottage business.
In our doing our due diligence here is what we found out:
Because this would be new vehicle to the US market it would need to go through crash and roll testing. I believe it was Germans…. more specifically Mercedes Benz who developed this testing back in the late 50’s. And they have already been tested in Germany to meet their standards which I feel are better that ours. But, they need to be tested here and this was at the cost of a few sacrificial vans which we would have to pay for.
Secondly it would need to pass the emissions stuff. We felt this wasn’t going to be a problem due to these vans using the same “drive trans” as some of the current VW vehicles in the US… But, it would need to get through the California standards and the required an additional battle with getting this through CARB… In starting this conversation, let’s just say I was better off talking to the wall.
Thirdly, because we were looking at bringing in the “cans” as they call them in the trade, this was considered a light duty truck and was subject to a large tariff ala Chicken Tax which put an additional 20 plus percent to the cost. We could have brought in passenger version, which is what Ford is doing with the Ford Transit Connect, dumped the interior and gone from there, but why! We are converting these to passenger use anyway…
But wait, that’s not all…. There is also liability insurance that added about $3K to each vehicle.
In the end once converted we would need to sell them for $95K plus and turn them in 18 months to break even. That price point is well addressed with the glut of RV’s currently out there, and even though there was the novelty of the VW Camper with a few modern accoutrements like, power seats, solar, hot water, and satellite tv/internet the numbers just didn’t work.
Here you had two guys looking to start a business to realize a dream and got a first class beat down by government regulations… Sometime I see why these Tea Party people are bat shite crazy