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Occasionally the rebuilding industry needs to sit back and review what has occurred over the past few years to get some perspective on events that loom on the horizon. This is especially true in the legislative and regulatory arena where past successes or failures often foreshadow future events. The beginning of a new year and the advent of a Republican-controlled Congress to complement the Republican president makes this an ideal time to see where we are.

The last few years have not been very good for most rebuilders. However, during the same time period the industry has done quite well in meeting legislative and regulatory challenges.

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As a direct result of aftermarket efforts, both the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) have recognized the right of automobile service and repair facilities to have the information they need to adequately diagnose and repair the emissions-related parts of vehicles. Both agencies published regulations requiring automobile manufacturers to make that information available at a reasonable price.

California was persuaded to go even further, and it legislated disclosure of the information needed to manufacture or rebuild emissions-related parts. The new California regulations require each manufacturer to have a Web site accessible to any person who needs this information, up and running by March 30, 2003. While it is anticipated that some vehicle manufacturers may not fully comply with the new regulations and may try to continue to deny access to some information, the new California regulations give the aftermarket the right and the framework to challenge such efforts.

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Vehicle scrappage laws were all the rage six or seven years ago. However, except for certain parts of California, the industry has successfully blunted efforts to get older cars off the road. In fact the average age of the automobile fleet is much higher than 10 years ago. Several attempts to increase the parts warranties on vehicles have also been stopped or slowed down, and no new emissions warranties have been imposed.

A bureaucratic suggestion by EPA that engine rebuilders test and certify their products for emissions compliance was demonstrated to be unworkable before it could gain any support. To cement this success, the industry worked with EPA to craft relatively simple rules which allow car, truck, off-road and marine engine rebuilders to rebuild an engine to any configuration as long as there is a reasonable thought that the configuration will not increase emissions. This solution kept EPA off the backs and out of the shops of most engine rebuilders.

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Many provisions of Federal and state procurement laws precluded government agencies from purchasing rebuilt products as replacement parts for their vehicles. As a result of industry efforts, many of these rules were changed to delete this exclusion or to allow rebuilt products to qualify in more situations.

IRS attempts to increase rebuilders

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