SEMA Isn’t Interested In Helping People Cheat The System, But The EPA Is Still Looking To Squeeze Racing

Chevrolet Camaro 1Lap1LE Race Car racecar 1 lap of america SEMA EPA RPM Act
Camaro 1Lap1LE

For as long as there have been cars, folks have been finding ways to tweak them, tune them, and race them. Especially race them. And over the last century and a bit, we’ve witnessed the aftermarket industry grow into a $48 billion a year business. Whether you’re looking for ways to boost performance on your street car or build an all-out racer, the aftermarket has solutions for you. Recently however things have looked somewhat bleak for the aftermarket as a whole, as encrypted ECUs and tightening emissions regulations come down the pipeline. The EPA has been more active lately too in their efforts to crack down on illegal activity as it relates to the Clean Air Act. Folks have decried these actions as the death of the industry, particularly as it relates to diesel tuning. As such, TFLTruck has recently sat down with SEMA Vice President Mike Spagnola to discuss the ramifications of the EPA’s actions, as well as the RPM Act.

SEMA made headlines recently when they filed an amicus brief in the EPA’s lawsuit against the diesel tuners at Gearbox Z. The case centers around the company’s manufacture and sale of emissions defeat devices for trucks. These devices are legal for use in off-road only applications, but not for street-driven machines. Spagnola notes in the video interview that SEMA is on the same page as the EPA when it comes to the legality of these devices on the street. To point, the organization has $6 million worth of emissions testing equipment in its lab to help get aftermarket companies get parts certified for road-legal use. The reason SEMA filed the brief, however, has to do with how the EPA is now interpreting the Clean Air Act. More specifically, how it relates to racing vehicles.

The EPA has taken a stance that says owners cannot turn road-legal cars into racing cars, due to their factory emissions control systems. This interpretation has the possibility to utterly wipe out grassroots motorsports, which SEMA is, rightfully, utterly opposed to.

This is why they’ve designed the RPM Act, or the Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act. This piece of legislation is aimed at protecting your ability to build a race car for off-road use only out of a former street car. Unlike what some people are saying about the RPM Act, it isn’t arguing for your right to modify your vehicle in any way you’d like. Spagnola was clear that SEMA doesn’t support owners or companies that want to utilize illegal parts on the street. SEMA does support your right to go racing, however.

Roadkill Nights 2019 Highlights
Photo Copyright Manoli Katakis, Muscle Cars & Trucks.

That is a clear distinction that needs to be made about the RPM Act. According to the interview, Spagnola doesn’t believe that the tuning industry as a whole is going to be made illegal by the EPA’s actions. SEMA works closely with CARB and the EPA to certify parts for road use, all of which meet the standards the two entities have put in place. Spagnola went as far as to say that CARB-legal tuning is not in danger. Amateur motorsports however, is in clear danger.

This is why the RPM Act matters. Everyone online has put tuning at the center of the issue, when it’s really racing that we need to be concerned about. That’s what those aftermarket diesel emissions devices were “actually” designed for, after all.

It’s undeniable that a lot of these off-road only racing parts end up on street cars. SEMA understands this, and is frustrated that these folks have created a problem for the industry as a whole. They want to protect the folks who use these parts as their intended, but not those who are breaking the rules. Build a tractor pull truck all you want, but take it on the street and you’ve opened up a world of problems for the rest of us. Everyone should certainly go and sign the RPM Act, but it’s best to understand what we’re fighting for. Or better yet, what we’re not fighting for.

Roadkill Nights 2019 2020 2021
Image Via Roadkill Nights.

Written by Lucas Bell

Lucas holds a journalism degree from Wayne State University, and is a Automotive Press Association scholarship recipient. While an American muscle fan through and through, he once wrote a fascinating comparison review about eScooters.


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  1. blah blah blah blah. We all know why you want the RPM Act passed – it’s so that you can keep peddling your pollution devices for road-legal vehicles. This has NOTHING to do with racing. We don’t want your pollution. You should be ashamed of yourselves but that would be asking too much of you.

    Time for you to die off like the dinosaurs.

  2. The EPA and SEMA provide the right information! But you have to keep in mind that EPA and SEMA answer totally different technical specifications. It must be possible to convert a street vehicle into a racing vehicle and this is correct! Dismantling from a racing vehicle to a road vehicle is possible if the components that are used for racing are replaced with series parts and the racing vehicle corresponds to the series again.
    I give YOU a hint that in Europe / Germany you have a legal possibility to drive racing vehicles on the road again after the race. Now the emission requirements are relatively the same in Europe / Germany and USA / California. So the EPA can also approve this with SEMA. It is legal if serial parts are installed in the vehicle! Hope this is understandable to EPA and SEMA agents. I’m happy if it works!

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