SEMA Hits the Reset Button on the RPM Act

SEMA News—March 2017

From The Hill

By Eric Snyder

SEMA Hits the Reset Button on the RPM Act

New Congress Provides New Opportunity to Protect the Motorsports Parts Industry

RPM Reset
2017 marks a new session of Congress, which means SEMA members must again write their congressional officials to request support for the RPM Act.

When racing and the motorsports parts industry came under attack in 2016, SEMA members and race enthusiasts stood up and sent a clear message to Washington, D.C.: Don’t mess with our jobs and our passion!

Racers, fans and the industry rallied around grassroots efforts to stop the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from prohibiting emissions modifications to motor vehicles being converted for racing and to pass legislation clarifying in federal law that this time-honored tradition is legal.

In February 2016, a SEMA-led White House petition opposing the EPA’s proposal to outlaw emissions modifications to converted race vehicles generated more than 100,000 signatures in less than 24 hours. Soon thereafter, SEMA worked with Congress to introduce the Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act of 2016 (RPM Act), a bill to provide long-term certainty to racers and the motorsports parts industry that it is legal to make the necessary modifications in order to convert a motor vehicle for race use only. By years’ end, the association’s letter-writing campaign in support of the RPM Act resulted in more than 200,000 messages sent to Congress.

Motorsports Parts Legislative and Regulatory Timeline

Early 1900s: Americans start modifying their cars for the purpose of racing other vehicles.

1965: Congress issues first emissions laws.

1970: The Clean Air Act becomes law. Congress clarifies that the law does not apply to vehicles manufactured or modified for racing.

1990: Congress authorizes the EPA to regulate emissions from off-road vehicles and engines. The law does not apply to off-road vehicles used solely for competition.

2015: EPA issues a proposed regulation to make the act of converting a motor vehicle into a race car illegal if the emissions system is taken out of compliance from its stock configuration. The prohibition applies even to motor vehicles already converted for racing. SEMA files comments challenging the EPA’s proposal.

February 2016: SEMA launches a White House petition demanding that the EPA remove its proposal to outlaw emissions modifications to any vehicle originally designed for on-road use. The petition receives 100,000 signatures in less than 24 hours.

March 2016: Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) and Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) introduce the RPM Act.

March 2016: SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting testifies at the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Science, Space, and Technology hearing: “Racing to Regulate: EPA’s Latest Overreach on Amateur Drivers.”

April 2016: EPA announces that it will remove the race modification provision from the final rulemaking, but the agency notes that it still considers such modifications to be illegal.

May 2016: SEMA Washington Rally meetings with members of Congress about the RPM Act result in more than 20 additional RPM Act co-sponsors.

July 2016: SEMA forms the RPM Act Working Group, made up of companies and trade associations impacted by the EPA’s new position on race modifications.

December 2016: The House and Senate close out the 114th Congress. The RPM Act finishes with 148 co-sponsors (120 in the House of Representatives and 28 in the Senate).

January 2017: Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) reintroduces the RPM Act in the 2017–2018 session of Congress.

While the shortened election-year schedule in 2016 did not permit sufficient time for Congress to pass the RPM Act, the hard work of SEMA members, racers and motorsports enthusiasts has positioned the bill for success in 2017.

RPM Reset
Although the EPA policy only applies to emissions-related parts, sales of other racing products will also be impacted if vehicle conversions are outlawed.

Thanks to 2016’s momentum, the RPM Act is off to a hot start in the new session of Congress, as SEMA’s allies in Congress wasted no time in picking up where they left off at the end of last year. U.S. Representative Patrick McHenry (R-NC) and 44 co-sponsors submitted the RPM Act of 2017, H.R. 350, for reintroduction on the first day of the 115th Congress.

“Last year, I was proud to lead the fight against the misguided EPA regulation targeting racing, but our work is not done,” said Rep. McHenry. “In the coming months, I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress and the new administration to ensure that the RPM Act becomes law.”

Rep. Patrick McHenry
U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) is interviewed by Speed Sport News after taking a few laps at the East Lincoln Speedway in Stanley, North Carolina.

The bill again enjoys strong bipartisan support, with congressional Republicans and Democrats lining up to help protect Americans’ right to modify street vehicles into dedicated race cars. These members of Congress understand that the RPM Act must become law in order to protect businesses that manufacture, distribute, sell and install emissions-related parts.

For nearly 50 years, the practice of converting motor vehicles—including cars, trucks and motorcycles—into dedicated race vehicles was unquestioned until the EPA published proposed regulations that deemed such conversions illegal and subject to civil penalties. While the EPA withdrew the problematic language from the final rulemaking last year, the agency still maintains that the practice is unlawful.

Save Our Racecars
SCCA racer Michele Abbate (top photo) shows off her Scion race car at the 2016 SEMA Show. The vehicle is now considered illegal under the EPA’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act.

Much of the racing that takes place at the estimated 1,300 racetracks operating across the United States, including oval, road, track and off-road racetracks, features converted race vehicles that the EPA now considers to be illegal. While the EPA has signaled that it doesn’t intend to enforce against individual racers, the agency could change this policy at any moment in the future. The EPA’s position also threatens $1.4 billion annual retail sales of race products and the tens of thousands of jobs that it supports. Accordingly, it is imperative that this issue be settled once and for all in 2017.

“The RPM Act will provide race enthusiasts and businesses with assurances that this time-honored tradition—which is a passion for millions of Americans and a career for many—will be preserved,” said SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting. “We look forward to continuing the bill’s momentum in 2017 and working with the new Congress and the incoming Trump administration to get the RPM Act over the finish line.”

In order to pass the RPM Act into law, SEMA has enlisted the help of other associations and companies. A SEMA-led RPM Act working group was formed in 2016, which includes race-sanctioning bodies, parts manufacturing associations, motorcycle industry and enthusiast groups, tire manufacturers, and off-road associations. However, in order for the coalition effort to be successful, it is imperative that SEMA members again lead the way in contacting their members of Congress. Each and every congressional office tracks the number of times it is contacted on a bill, as members of Congress use these statistics to determine how important a given issue is to the people they represent.

SEMA PAC President’s Club Spotlight: Kellie Colf
Kellie Colf
Kellie Colf (right) at the 2016 SEMA Show with Larry the Cable Guy (center) and Don Colf of Classic Tube at the SEMA Industry Awards Banquet.

Kellie Colf is the President of Colf Creative Resources, which is based in Akron, New York. Colf joined the SEMA PAC President’s Club in 2016.

“Now more than ever, we need to support favorable legislation for our industry,” Colf said. “I joined the President’s Club to help my voice be heard. We need to keep working to ensure the continued success of our industry, not only for our manufacturers and businesses but also for the enthusiasts. A historic way of life could be at stake if we are not vigilant. I believe that the right to modify vehicles and enjoy them safely and legally must be upheld. The SEMA PAC and the SEMA government affairs office work tirelessly on our behalf to see that the concerns of our industry are heard. I am proud to lend my support.”

For more information on SEMA PAC, contact SEMA PAC and Congressional Relations Director Christian Robinson at 202-751-8507, or by email at

In 2016, more than a quarter of the members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives co-sponsored the RPM Act. This strong showing of support was not an accident. SEMA-member companies, their employees and the racing community wrote letters to their members of Congress, made phone calls, and scheduled meetings.

RPM Reset
The EPA now maintains that it is illegal to modify the emissions systems of dedicated race cars that were once stock vehicles like this ’69 Ford Mustang Cobra Jet.

Members of Congress responded to requests that they stop the EPA’s actions that threatened racing by signaling their public support for the RPM Act.

To assist SEMA’s effort to pass the RPM Act into law in 2017, please go to the RPM Act tab at the top right of the SEMA website at It provides talking points on the bill, frequently asked questions, a letter in support of the RPM Act for you to send to your U.S. Senators and member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and other background information on the legislation.

For more information, contact SEMA Congressional Affairs Manager Eric Snyder at 202-783-6007 x39, or by email at




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