5 Questions: MIC's Vitrano discusses CPSIA lead-ban remedies

Publish Date: 
Jul 28, 2011

IT HAS been two years since the industry took a broadside hit from Washington when it was determined that the Consumer Product Safety Information Act would have consequences beyond its original intentions. Created to regulate the amount of lead in toys and other products that could be ingested by a child, the language of the CPSIA applied the regulation broadly — and youth off-road motorcycles and ATVs were caught in the mix.

Congress has been working to apply remedies that would do everything from giving the Consumer Product Safety Commission greater leeway in enforcing the rules to doing away with the lead-ban regulation entirely. Dealernews asked MIC/SVIA general counsel Paul Vitrano for an update.

DEALERNEWS: How is current lead-ban enforcement impacting the market, and what have the powersports OEMs done to date to cope with the regulations?
Vitrano: The lead ban has resulted in very limited availability of youth-model dirtbikes and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), particularly the smallest models. This limited availability is impacting dealer sales, the safety of young riders and the availability of training that is dependent on those models — like the ATV Safety Institute’s programs with 4-H and the Boy Scouts.

Some OEMs have continued to sell “affected” youth models during the stay of enforcement by providing the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) with the required reports and information. All OEMs that are members of the Motorcycle Industry Council and the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America have supported efforts to convince Congress to “Stop the Ban,” and have made those efforts a priority for the two associations.

DN: Since the CPSIA lead-ban restrictions came to light, how much business has been lost, and/or will be lost if a remedy is not approved?
Vitrano: It is difficult to quantify the losses that are directly attributable to the lead ban, but there is evidence that the losses are significant.

Youth-model sales have decreased 14 percent more than the drop in total off-highway vehicle (OHV) sales. Over half of the major ATV manufacturers have stopped selling Y-6+ ATVs.

What’s at risk? The MIC estimated in 2009 that a complete ban on youth model vehicles would cost the industry more than $1 billion in terms of the value of the retail marketplace every year.

DN: You, as a representative of the MIC and SVIA, have been quite visible in Congress as it debates the issue. What are you proposing?
Vitrano: Our primary message has been the same for two and one-half years: Youth ATVs and motorcycles should be categorically excluded from the CPSIA’s lead content provisions.

DN: What are the various remedies working their way through Washington, and which one is preferable from the MIC’s and SVIA’s viewpoint?
Vitrano: A categorical exclusion is our preferred remedy, and we are optimistic that one will be enacted, since there is widespread bi-partisan support for it.

There are any number of alternative remedies that would provide substantially similar relief, however. For example, the Enhancing CPSC Authority and Discretion Act [see sidebar]offered by Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) would set the lead content limits for our vehicles at the same level as those set in the stay of enforcement, and would eliminate the need to provide third-party tests to those limits. The combination of those measures would provide OEMs with essentially the same relief as a categorical exclusion.

Our approach has been to evaluate each alternative both in terms of the scope of relief that would be provided and the likelihood of that alternative passing. We support those alternatives that provide substantial relief and have a good chance of success.

DN: What are the next steps, and what can a local retailer do at this point?
Vitrano: Retailers have been critical to our success in persuading Capitol Hill to take action to “Stop the Ban” and, fortunately, we are at the top of the list of industries to be addressed. We thank them for their support and involvement and ask them to be on the lookout for calls to action as one or more bills move through Congress over the next few weeks.

In addition to keeping up to date by visiting www.stopthebannow.com, retailer principals and personnel should register at www.arra-access.com to receive action alerts that will allow them to easily send electronic messages to their legislators.

The Enhancing CPSC Authority and Discretion Act of 2011 (ECADA), sponsored by Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) reforms parts of the CPSIA in order to give the CPSC the ability to ease the lead ban on youth motorcycles and ATVs.

ECADA would exempt youth off-road motorcycle and ATV battery terminals from the lead-content limits of the CPSIA. It also may allow exemptions to the lead-content portion of the law for off-highway vehicle parts under certain conditions.

About the Kids Just Want to Ride Act
The Kids Just Want to Ride Act (House Resolution 412) attempts to exclude youth off-road vehicles entirely from the CPSIA lead ban. It includes a number of supporters on Capitol Hill, including Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), Rep. Tim Wahlberg (R-Mich.) and Rep. Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.). More than 70 members of Congress have signed up to co-sponsor H.R. 412, which has received special support from the American Motorcyclist Association.

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews August 2011 issue.