Maine is actively deregistering imported Mitsubishi Delicas — but why?

Some strange things happen in Maine. The Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) is actively deregistering Mitsubishi Delicas that have been imported into the United States and previously registered in Maine under the well-known 25-year federal import rule.
The folks at Crankshaft Culture brought this news to our attention and released a fairly detailed report earlier this month. Since seeing this, we've tried to get more responses from the Maine BMV and the office of the Maine Secretary of State.
Here is a recap of what has happened so far. Crankshaft Culture dug up the Mitsubishi Delica Owners Club Facebook page and found that Maine was mailing letters to people in the state who currently own Delicas. These letters clearly state that "this vehicle is not eligible for vehicle registration in Maine and cannot be used on public roads." She then asks the owners to remove the plates from the delicas and return them to the BMV. It also states that “the registration may not be used as proof of ownership to sell this vehicle as an automobile”.
So no, Maine doesn't exactly play with words.
The question naturally arises here: why? Why is Maine deregistering Mitsubishi Delicas? These vans were imported under the federal government's 25-year import law. We know this rule, but here's a quick refresher from the Customs and Border Protection website: “A motor vehicle that is 25 years or older can legally be brought into the United States regardless of whether it is all applicable DOT Federal Motor Vehicle Safety is standards. ”In theory, this would mean that all Delicas that are over 25 years old can be imported here, along with pretty much any other device you might want to bring that is old enough. Maine told us that it only targets Delicas before 1995 so there is no time offset.
We went to the Maine Secretary of State to see what was going on. The answers are a bit confusing, so be patient. In short, Maine regards the Delica as an "off-road vehicle". Maine's Law - Title 29-A - is very clear on "ATVs". It says: "Off-road vehicles may not be registered under this title."
OK. Next question. What does Maine mean by an "off-road vehicle"? And how does Delica qualify? This is where a brand new modification (LD 1433, Sections 1-8) of Title 29-A comes into play. The Secretary of State's office announced that Maine passed law on June 15, 2021 to resolve this issue. The definition of an "off-road vehicle" in Maine is as follows:
"" Off-road vehicle "means a motor vehicle that, due to the design and configuration of the vehicle, original manufacture, or intended use, does not meet the inspection standards of Chapter 15, the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, the United States Environmental. meets the pollution requirements of the Protection Agency or the crash test standards of the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration and this is not a moped or motorcycle.
The State Secretariat also gave us more information about the Delica.
"Given that these vehicles are typically right-hand drive and have few, if any, modern safety features or emissions controls, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the EPA have decided that this class of vehicle should only be used for off-road farming (or similar). use. Maine regards these vehicles as ATVs. "
Stop now. We know what you're thinking. Maine thinks the Delica is an "ATV?" The Delica is a minivan. From the time we're talking about, you could buy delicas that were almost the length of most of the new minivans sold today. You can either take in a lot of people or a lot of things. It's nowhere near an ATV, and while the vehicle is a competent off-roader, the Delica isn't an agricultural vehicle either. We explained to the Maine Secretary of State that the Delica was sold in some forms (both passenger and cargo configurations) in the US in the late 1980s, but that did not provoke further discussion on the matter.
Maine gave its answer, and it seems final.
However, this definition of an “off-road vehicle” raises another question. It is extremely diverse. Right-hand drive and not meeting U.S. safety or emissions standards are categories that many vehicles fall into when imported under the 25-year rule. Crankshaft Culture considered the same question.
We asked Maine about specific models that could theoretically fall into that bucket - older Nissan GT-Rs, Nissan Silvias, Toyota Hiaces, and so on. Would the (certainly few) owners of these unique, imported vehicles in Maine also revoke their registrations? Again, Maine's answer is vague and a little worrying for owners of these vehicles.
"Any vehicle found to be mistakenly registered will receive a letter similar to the one recently sent out by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles."
This is how it was designed for us. Maine kept saying that it believes the Delicas have been inappropriately registered for road use because of their state-defined status as off-road vehicles (when they were even registered). The Foreign Minister's office confirmed that the same would apply to other vehicles that are in this wide "off-road vehicle" bucket.
That doesn't guarantee that other cars will be safe. Nor does it guarantee that they will not be signed out. Without clear answers on specific models, the future of these 25-year-old imported vehicles in Maine is shaky at best.
To take this definition a little wider (just for the sake of simplicity): No classic car sold in America decades ago will not meet current crash safety or emissions standards. A Delica crashes worse and messes up more than a brand new Toyota Sienna, but the same could be said of a 1990 Oldsmobile Silhouette or a 1929 Ford Model A, the old cliché of slippery slopes.
All of this is also due to the state. Go elsewhere in the country and as long as you follow state regulations to legally import the vehicle, you can buy a Mitsubishi Delica and drive it on the road. Maine, however, appears to follow its own rules, not federal laws.
One last thing
You will find that the Crankshaft Culture report refers to Maine's designation of Delicas as "mini trucks." This is almost as confusing as referring to the Delica as an "ATV", but we asked Maine for clarification. The state responded with the words: "We should have been more precise in our language around the Delica and mini-trucks." A similar backtracking by the state can also be found in the article by Crankshaft Culture. It sounds like the state used that "mini-truck" designation as a way to opt out, and now it totally depends on them calling the Delica an "off-road vehicle" instead.
We'll be watching Maine and this room for more news, but right now it looks like the owners of Maine Delica are just out of luck.
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