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Direct Auto. Imports Ass'n v. Townsley

Citation: 17 ELR 20507
No. No. 85-2773, 804 F.2d 1408/25 ERC 1337/(5th Cir., 12/05/1986)

The court holds that Texas statutes requiring Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emission control certification and approval prior to titling of imported "gray market" automobiles are preempted by §209 of the Clean Air Act, but are not preempted by the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act to the extent they deal with safety requirements. The court first holds that "gray market" vehicles, which are imported cars not originally designed or intended for the American market, are new cars under the Clean Air Act and may be sold in the United States provided they are modified to comply with applicable safety and emission standards. The court holds that a Texas state law requiring evidence from EPA showing that a gray market vehicle conforms to federal emission requirements as a precondition to the vehicle's titling is preempted by §209(a) of the Clean Air Act. Section 209(a) explicitly prohibits states from imposing additional approvals relating to emission controls as a condition to a new vehicle's sale or titling. The court holds that the preemption clause applies because gray market vehicles are new automobiles as defined in §216(3) of the Act, even though they are not purchased directly from the manufacturers. The court holds, however, that the Texas law's requirement that proof of compliance with federal safety standards from the Department of Transportation is not preempted since the preemption clause of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, as amended in 1982, permits states to set and enforce safety standards identical to federal standards. Finally, the court holds that the Texas law does not violate the federal Commerce Clause because it does not burden interstate commerce any more than does federal law.

[A similar case appears at 16 ELR 20988.]

Counsel for Plaintiffs-Appellees
Van E. McFarland
3130 Interfirst Plaza, Houston TX 77002
(713) 650-0150

Counsel for Defendants-Appellants
Elliot Shavin, Ass't Attorney General
714 Jackson St., Suite 700, Dallas TX 75202
(214) 742-8944

Counsel for Amicus Curiae
Richard Frankel
3900 Two Houston Ctr., Houston TX 77010
(713) 759-1234

Before POLITZ, RANDALL and JOLLY, Circuit Judges.