Home » Enthusiasts In Georgia Are Trying To Sue The State DMV Over Kei Car Ban

Enthusiasts In Georgia Are Trying To Sue The State DMV Over Kei Car Ban

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The State of Georgia isn’t proving to be a great friend of the car enthusiast of late. Various states have turned against the humble Kei car in recent years, with Georgia among them. It’s been quite active on the matter, with the Department of Revenue in Georgia issuing bulletins to remind staffers that Kei vehicles cannot be legally titled in the state. In these darkest of days, though, a beacon of hope shines through, as a small group of enthusiasts have banded together to seek justice.

Leading the charge is Tatsu Kazuya, a licensed dealer in Georgia, and a registered importer. He’s behind a group effort to bring a legal challenge to the harsh rules laid down by the Department of Transportation and the Department of Revenue, which are now frustrating kei car owners at their local DMVs. With his business, Jora Imports, directly impacted by the Kei car ban, and seeing many fellow Georgians suffering under the same rules, he decided action had to be taken.

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“The crackdown has affected us in the sense of not just not being able to easily import or register kei cars but also even normal import cars,” Kazuya told The Autopian. “It’s caused a lot of fear in the enthusiast market in general where people are more unwilling to take an even bigger gamble of buying even a regular JDM car because they worry that anything unique will have it’s title revoked.”

As covered expertly by Mercedes Streeter, the matter in Georgia has come down to a frustrating collision of federal and state laws. When it comes to importing a vehicle from overseas, the  Imported Vehicle Safety Compliance Act of 1988, colloquially known as the “25 Year Rule,” is the key piece of legislation. The problem is that just because you can get a foreign car into the country, that doesn’t mean you can register it, because that’s handled by the states. The full explanation is well worth the read, but the long and the short of it is that a non-governmental lobbying association called the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators has been agitating for kei cars to be classified as off-road vehicles and for states to deny them registration. Georgia has gladly followed this recommendation, citing the fact that kei cars aren’t compliant with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards as a supporting reason.

[Mercedes’ Note: To be clear, Georgia did not change its laws like Maine did. Georgia is taking laws that haven’t changed in 15 years and has decided to interpret them differently.]

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As part of his efforts, after initial consultations with several firms, Kazuya engaged local firm Lefkoff Law regarding the matter. He has since set up a GoFundMe page to crowdsource funds to pursue legal action. Over the past two months, his efforts have netted $7,035 from donations chipped in from 57 donors eager to fight back against the state’s legislation. On the fundraising page, Kazuya doesn’t mince words. “I am TIRED of constantly being downtrodden by arbitrary rule making that not only affects me personally but everyone else I share this passion with,” he says, expressing his exasperation at the current state of affairs. He implores his fellow enthusiasts to get behind the cause, and it’s hard not to feel the call to justice. “It’s time to hold accountable public servants who should be focused on more important matters rather than stomping out every harmless thing that we participate in!”

At this stage, Kazuya has reported that the legal effort has already encountered some early roadblocks. According to a post on GoFundMe, he states that they have made little progress in contacting individuals in Georgia’s Department of Transportation, reportedly due to staff being on extended vacation. “Right now we are attempting to make diplomatic contact with the heads of the department of transportation who oversee the DOR,” he says, but notes the “convenient” delays have been a frustration thus far.

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Are vehicles like this really doing so much harm that they have to be legislated off the roads?

For now, the strategy for the legal effort is a work in progress, but Kazuya notes that cracks have appeared in the way the kei ban is being effectively implemented. Official guidance has previously instructed staff to identify imported Japanese vehicles by the length of their VIN numbers in a crude attempt to stop kei-class vehicles from slipping by clerks who are unfamiliar with such models.

According to Kazuya, the scattergun approach by Georgia’s DMVs has been a total farce. “At the beginning of this ruling we couldn’t even get new titles for a Toyota Land Cruiser… The DMV clerk looked me in the eye and said a gigantic J80 Land Cruiser was a Kei car,” he says. “We have since, through the efforts of Lefkoff Law, made the DOR back off [on] mass blanketing all JDM cars but the fight is obviously not going to stop there.”

In itself, it’s not a gotcha, but it suggests that clerks may have falsely discriminated against certain vehicles in a broad attempt to keep kei cars from getting a title. Kazuya has called for anyone that has been denied a Georgia title for an imported vehicle, kei or otherwise, to contact him with details to help support the case.

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Kazuya estimates that affected owners with stripped or denied titles could range into the thousands. “The main negative impacts beyond the obvious… is that the value of people’s personal properties have substantially lowered,” he explains, adding “If you spent any amount of money on a kei car only for it to no longer be road legal, the car will suffer a very heavy value loss.”

For now, it’s early in proceedings, and Kazuya is playing his cards close to his chest when it comes to legal strategy. It appears Kazuya has the support and backing of a small but proud group of Georgia enthusiasts. “The fundraising from the crowd has been humbling and extremely effective and I thank them truly,” he says, noting that he has the utmost concern that the effort is handled appropriately. “We personally paid multiple consultation fees to multiple law firms before we landed on Lefkoff Law and had a strong policy that we wouldn’t touch any of the GoFundMe money until we had a firm direction of where we are taking this fight.”

What happens next is anyone’s guess. We could see long and protracted legal wrangling with an eventual victory, or we could see Georgia crush the kei car movement under heel with new legislation or a win on some obscure technicality. It’s clear though, speaking to Kazuya, that he strongly believes in this cause, and will push as hard as he can to right what he sees as a serious wrong against the car community.

As a car fan myself, I’ve got to back the efforts of those trying to free the kei car. They may not be built to modern standards, but nor is any other vehicle—domestic or foreign—at the age of 25. If there was grand evidence that kei cars were hurting people, it would be a different story, but I’m yet to see evidence supporting that assertion. Indeed, many deaths on our roads can be put down to oversized modern vehicles with poor visibility and pedestrian protection, and those keep getting titled. If you’re interested in helping JDM enthusiasts in Georgia fight the state, click here to view the GoFundMe page.

One hopes that sanity will reign and that the enthusiasts will get their day in court. These little vehicles aren’t hurting anyone, and they deserve their place on the road.

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Image credits: Mercedes Streeter, Tennen-Gas – CC BY SA 3.0

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PL71 Enthusiast
PL71 Enthusiast
2 months ago

The municipality I grew up in started using (new) Daihatsu Hijets recently. Was pretty stoked to see them for the first time.

Scramblerken
Scramblerken
2 months ago

I’d ban lift kits and after market exhausts first. I’d regulate headlights too. Kei cars are 865,574 on the list of things that piss me off.

Last edited 2 months ago by Scramblerken
Vic Vinegar
Vic Vinegar
2 months ago

This kind of thing has made me question whether I would buy a kei car pickup truck. On paper they seem to be the perfect solution for a homeowner who needs a bed every now and then. They also come with dump beds….which is awesome. A comparably priced Silverado has 200k miles on it and rust hole in the bed.

But I don’t want to drop a decent chunk of money only to have the government tell me my car isn’t street legal anymore.

Scaled29
Scaled29
2 months ago
Reply to  Vic Vinegar

This could be exactly what they want. Less foreign cars mean more domestic sales, I imagine

Steve Kilpatrick
Steve Kilpatrick
2 months ago

Rhode Island has also banned the registration of Kei vehicles, on the completely arbitrary ruling that they don’t meet safety standards. But my buddy’s 1985 Citroen 2CV does, somehow? My neighbors 70’s era Super Beetle does as well? No one in their right mind intends to drive Kei vehicles on federal highways. Limit them to local roads, make money for the state with registrations, and move on.

Small Fact0ry
Small Fact0ry
2 months ago

I was casually shopping around for a Kei. Being a Rhode Island resident, I stopped once I heard of what was happening. I decided to get myself a Honda Monkey instead. Apparently a 125cc motorcycle with 12″ wheels is more safe.

Steve Kilpatrick
Steve Kilpatrick
2 months ago
Reply to  Small Fact0ry

Right?! There really is no rhyme or reason to banning them.

Oldhusky
Oldhusky
2 months ago

There’s a white kei truck (i forget what make) here in the West End neighborhood of Portland, Maine which makes me smile every time i go by it. I’m always tempted to leave a note asking if they figured out some loophole or something.

Maybe you’re here, kei truck dude/tte. I wouldn’t be surprised.

Xpumpx
Xpumpx
2 months ago
Reply to  Oldhusky

Meanwhile, they are all over New Hampshire and that place hasn’t…… exploded? imploded? burned to the ground?…. I’m not really sure what they thought was going to actually happen.

Oldhusky
Oldhusky
2 months ago
Reply to  Xpumpx

live free or die

Xpumpx
Xpumpx
2 months ago
Reply to  Oldhusky

yet somehow, NH cant get its marijuana act together! I hear it all the time from my friends in NH that must sneak across the border, lol

Chronometric
Chronometric
2 months ago

Meanwhile, I’m zipping around Georgia in a 2 cylinder 1971 Fiat 500 with 19 whopping horsepower. Most kei cars are way safer, faster, and more reliable.

Last edited 2 months ago by Chronometric
Andy Individual
Andy Individual
2 months ago

This appears to be a conflict of federal and state power, so could easily be cleared up if someone would just take Clarence Thomas on a nice vacation…

Jb996
Jb996
2 months ago

That should be how the GoFundMe gets used. More effective that hiring lawyers and spending years in the system getting beaten down.
Just pay Clarence Thomas to accept the case before the court and to rule in you favor. Easy.

Jmerc
Jmerc
2 months ago

From my understanding on Mercedes’ first article on this bullshit ban it is possible for these assholes to bar any Japanese car from being registered if it doesn’t have a 17 digit VIN, so it is effectively a ban on all Japanese imports. There goes my plan for a Legnum VR-4 🙁

Drad
Drad
2 months ago
Reply to  Jmerc

The New Zealand transport agency just RE-VINs Japanese imports… or at least they used to.

Last edited 2 months ago by Drad
Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
2 months ago
Reply to  Jmerc

That’s such a stupid thing. My VW doesn’t have a 17-digit VIN, either, but no one questions it.

Alec Weinstein
Alec Weinstein
2 months ago
Reply to  Jmerc

Or anything what, pre 1981?

Gottestöter
Gottestöter
2 months ago

So I’ve always been at a loss when it comes to this. How is it they can ban them over safety and speed but keep motorcycles on the road? If safety is an issue then there shouldn’t be any bikes. If speed is the issue do the same as mopeds and make them off highway use only. If under 25mph make them off road only.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
2 months ago
Reply to  Gottestöter

Or old cars, for that record. How on earth are kei cars any more dangerous than ’20s classics with no seat belts, no crumple zones, slow speeds and the impaley kind of steering columns?

It’s pure insanity.

Fuzzyweis
Fuzzyweis
2 months ago

For some reason I picture most Georgia legislators as successful Boss Hog types, with that in mind though, if their intentions are actually genuine for safety, they do have a point, these things on the Atlanta Autobahn probably aren’t the safest.

But as others have said there’s motorcycles, there’s basically any car from the 70s oil crisis times, there’s original VW Beetles, Yugos, Suzuki Samurai’s. I guess it’s easier as these are already grouped in a category.

Maybe if they get classified with neighborhood electric vehicle like limitations so no highway use, that’d be a better fit. Like Jason can drive his Changli here in the the freedom state of NC(just watch what bathroom you use!) all around town.

Last edited 2 months ago by Fuzzyweis
SNL-LOL Jr
SNL-LOL Jr
2 months ago

GA DMV is well-advised that Kazuya is an anagram for Yakuza.

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
2 months ago

Remember that the lobbyists trying to ban Kei vehicles are openly sponsored by UTV and ATV manufacturers. THEY want Kei vehicles banned from the road because road legality is something ATVs and UTVs don’t have, but Kei vehicles in many states do.

And because this is America, instead of lobbying for UTVs and ATVs to have some road legality (as they do in some states), they are trying to kill the market for competitive road-legal Kei trucks, as several farmers and small businesses have bought Kei trucks as work vehicles instead of UTVs and ATVs because road legality is a legitimate advantage.

Everyone should care about this, not just JDM/Kei enthusiasts, or even car people in general. This is yet another case of corporations throwing their weight around and trying to limit your choices so you buy their products instead of something better. Do you really want to give them more control than they already have? We need to fight back.

Vee
Vee
2 months ago
Reply to  Austin Vail

The kei trucks and vans are often superior to the UTVs as well. You get an enclosed cab, air conditioning, sound proofing, quieter engine, quieter tires, a better ride, and better space efficiency than something like a Polaris Ranger or John Deere Gator.

Torque
Torque
2 months ago
Reply to  Austin Vail

THIS is the real reason. We really care about your safety is an incredibly thin Bullshit smokescreen

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
2 months ago
Reply to  Torque

What also sucks is that I would be on board with UTVs and some ATVs being road legal, at least around town, maybe not on the highway. They’re useful utilitarian things in a lot of cases, which would benefit greatly from being able to use the road. And both the recreational and work-focused ones have beefy roll cages and harnesses and whatnot so they’re arguably plenty safe even without airbags. There are a lot of double standards in what we do and don’t allow on the roads in general, a UTV is less dangerous on public roads than the rusty old deathtraps I love dearly, but the less safe option is legal while the safe one isn’t.

It might be controversial, but I really think there need to be changes made to what we can legally drive on public roads. There are too many things that aren’t legal but should be, and are legal but shouldn’t be. And while we’re at it, the auto industry needs just a little deregulation so small, simple, affordable, fuel-efficient cars can exist again.

Torque
Torque
2 months ago
Reply to  Austin Vail

Legalize All the things.
That actually reminds me I bet you could get a 3 wheeled tuk tuk registered as a motorcycle, hmmm Alibaba.com

Iwannadrive637
Iwannadrive637
2 months ago

I love motorcycles but if I’m in an accident I’d rather be in a Kei. How about just issuing a license plate that indicates they can’t be driven on any road with a speed limit over 65 mph?

Sivad Nayrb
Sivad Nayrb
2 months ago
Reply to  Iwannadrive637

NC already does this with Keis being limited to 55mph roads & no interstate road use…

Stop Making Us Register To Comment
Stop Making Us Register To Comment
2 months ago

I plan on getting a Kei car one dsy, glad I recently moved to Alabama. If any of you want, “sell” the Kei car to me, but I will let you drive it 11 months out of the year, let me enjoy it 1 month a year as payment.

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
2 months ago

To me this whole thing just absolutely reeks of Jingoism. Like if they were called ‘Stetson’ or ‘Beretta’ or “Big Swinging Dick’ class cars, they’d pass muster. Kei just sounds too wimpy or something. As countless others point out, there’s otherwise just no sound logic to it at all. Perhaps it’s a marketing problem. Maybe if we start referring to them as KEI! cars thing will get better.

Jb996
Jb996
2 months ago
Reply to  Crank Shaft

BSD cars. I like it.

Turkina
Turkina
2 months ago

The scourge of banning Kei cars and trucks is all over the nation. I see these wonderful videos of rugged little Kei trucks heading to the woods in Washington state, but are illegal in Oregon. They don’t have the nuisance potential of ATVs and UTVs. I would love to see roaming packs of little Keis taking over the streets. Maybe that’s what they are afraid of!

Just let them be registered, insured, and ban them from interstates and limited access highways, and require they pull to the side for faster traffic.
https://motorandwheels.com/mini-trucks-rules-per-state/

Mercedes Streeter
Mercedes Streeter
2 months ago
Reply to  Turkina

Many states placed bans on Kei trucks long before the AAMVA did this. For example, Wisconsin banned Kei trucks at least a decade or longer before this, but you can register a regular Kei car.

It’s my understanding that many (most?) of the prior bans were supposed to target the flood of imported Chinese and Japanese Kei trucks with 25 mph limiters; the ones meant for landscaping or farms. But now that people are importing ones that could go normal speeds, the bans are screwing them over, too.

Last edited 2 months ago by Mercedes Streeter
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