Motor vehicles imported legally into the United States from another country are called grey, or parallel, imports. In the past, grey imports usually reached America one by one, driven over the border by the owner or shipped in via container. This practice was essentially outlawed in the 1980s, however, meaning that most cars on the streets today were made in the USA or manufactured specifically for the US market, even if they were produced by a foreign car manufacturer. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), safety issues among grey-market imports include “any defect in performance, construction, a component, or material of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment.” If you’re driving a newer vehicle made by a European manufacturer like Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen, or an Asian manufacturer like Lexus and Infiniti, there’s a good chance that it was made in the United States according to US specifications. Even if it was imported, it was likely fabricated in such a way as to to be immediately sellable on the American market, so that it doesn't need alterations or modifications.
Cars manufactured for the US market must meet a variety of safety and performance standards. Cars manufactured for foreign markets may not be built according to the same standards; they may provide less protection during a crash, and pollute more than the per-vehicle limit allowed on these Colombian shores. The companies that make cars for the US market discourage parallel imports, since they cut into investments such as distribution networks and can expose manufacturers to liabilities if anything goes wrong. Often, foreign manufacturers alter a popular overseas model and release it under a different name while keeping as many of the handling and performance characteristics that were attractive to US drivers. There are few parallel import cars driving on American roads today, but the cost of making the necessary changes as well as the possible risk of criminal charges are simply too great for most drivers to accept. Exceptions exist, of course, for show cars, which aren’t allowed to drive around in traffic. Other exceptions are made for the US Postal Service, which uses right-hand-drive sports utility vehicles designed for countries where they drive on the left.
If you’re driving a newer car made by a foreign manufacturer, rest assured it will keep you and your family safe while out and about. To gain full peace of mind about the overall safety of your import vehicle, however, visit Revolution Motor Works for an inspection and a tune-up, today! Trust us - our combined decades of experience will help us spot anything that might be wrong with your car, regardless of whether it is domestic or imported.