Celebrate end of lead ban with youth motorcycle, ATV promotions

Publish Date: 
Aug 11, 2011
By Arlo Redwine

IRVINE, Calif. - With President Obama expected to sign legislation ending the lead ban that began two-and-a-half years ago, dealers can look forward to a huge sales promotion trumpeting the re-legalization of dirtbikes, ATVs and snowmobiles intended primarily for kids 12 and under.

Congress in early August approved legislation exempting powersports vehicles from the lead ban provisions of the CPSIA.

“I know some of the OEs were anxiously awaiting this resolution so that they could move forward with [promotion] plans,” MIC/SVIA general counsel Paul Vitrano told Dealernews. “We at the MIC are planning, once the law is actually signed, to do some proactive PSAs and things of that nature to help the dealer body get the word out that the lead ban is over.”

The MIC took the lead in the fight to end the ban at the annual Dealer Expos, during which it collected thousands of signed letters. The council would eventually amass 1.3 million electronic signatures.

“There was so much publicity over this issue,” Vitrano said. “Now that it’s over, people are still paying attention to it, so we have that chance to get that parting message.”

Larry Little, chairman of the MIC board of directors, praised the council’s staffs in both California and Washington, saying they “went above and beyond” in mobilizing the OEMs, the aftermarket and consumers (through the ARRA, an MIC sister organization). “I think we did a stunning job. We’re really the only place that brings all that together,” he said.

Several MIC members, Little added, “stepped up to the plate when needed during the process over the last couple of years. Behind the scenes there was so much more effort going on than anyone is ever going to realize.”

One example: KTM North America president Jon-Erik Burleson, who lives in the district of U.S. Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), principal sponsor of the bill ending the lead ban, "on a last-minute basis ... went to Washington with MIC staff to meet with her and explain to her the importance of this, and that had a big impact,” Little said.

Vitrano said the industry got what it wanted from the very beginning: a categorical exclusion for youth vehicles from the lead content limits. “But I think we were only able to do that because of the good will, for lack of a better term, that we’ve built up over the years with policymakers,” he noted.

Vitrano pointed to the roles played by others, including dealers. “Several times through this process,” he said, “we called on individual dealers to join us at a meeting, to write a letter or make a phone call. Some of them submitted op-eds to papers, and that was tremendously influential to the outcome.”

The end of the lead ban will have varying effects on dealers. Most OEMs have stopped selling Y-6 ATVs, but BRP and Polaris, for example, have continued to sell them by complying with the CPSC’s stay of enforcement (of which other OEMs have been wary as it does not preclude enforcement at the state level). Because small dirtbikes are not age-categorized, the major OEMs have continued to sell them by altering owner’s manuals and warning labels.

Still, the ban has hampered sales. Vitrano said that since the ban began, retail sales of youth-sized vehicles have fallen by an additional 14 percentage points compared to the decline recorded by the off-road vehicle market in general.

A short celebration? Youth ATV production may stop again Nov. 27 when the CPSC begins enforcing its mandate that OEMs use accredited third-party laboratories to certify that Y-6 ATVs meet the ANSI/SVIA standards made mandatory by the same legislation that coincidentally created the lead laws. The OEMs were to have started using the labs last November, but the SVIA filed for and received an extension, then a stay of enforcement, both times, citing the unavailability of accredited labs.

“We’re hopeful that this will not be a crisis,” Vitrano said.

He knows of at least one accredited lab that now exists. The SVIA also is developing a testing protocol for third-party labs to follow, making it easier for them to get started. So the MIC is busy on future issues as it celebrates its current victory.

At press time, Vitrano said he expected President Obama to sign the legislation sometime Friday, Aug. 12. Soon after, dealers can expect to hear about promotion plans.

“We’re not jumping the gun on this,” Vitrano noted. “We want to make sure the bill’s signed and it’s ready to take effect. But we do plan on providing materials to the dealership body to help capitalize on the opportunity to say [to customers], ‘This issue is over — what better time to get out there with your family and ride. Go buy some new units because they’re going to be back in the dealership very soon.’”