Customs Grabs $1.5 Million in Powersports Units

Publish Date: 
Sep 3, 2009
By Joe Delmont

U.S. CUSTOMS officials in Dallas last week grabbed more than 1,400 motorcycles and scooters, claiming they violated EPA regulations. About 400 hundred of those units belong to CFMOTO Powersports Inc., the distributor based in suburban Minneapolis. They’re worth about $1.5 million at retail.

The move by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) people has cost CFMOTO more than $100,000 in storage fees alone, and the company also could be hit with penalties and legal fees, says Lev Mirman, president of CFMOTO’s operations in the U.S. “This is absolutely crazy at a time when scooter sales are down 75 percent from last year and cash is very tight,” says Mirman.

When I spoke with Mirman this week, he was really hot, pointing out that his vehicles all have passed EPA certification tests at EPA approved labs. He says he holds four certificates that cost him more than $20,000 each. “We follow every EPA rule,” he says.

Mirman claims the grab is a move by the feds to block the sale of Chinese-made products. “They had a big push in the Dallas port to get as many Chinese bikes arrested as possible, so they made issues out of nothing just to get their numbers up,” he told me.

Apparently, the EPA claims the machines have an illegal idle air mixture screw in the carburetor. Mirman maintains that there are no testing requirements for this in the official EPA procedures, nor are there any issues from increased pollution from this. “The EPA and CBP are grasping at straws to halt any shipment from China,” he says.

“It would make no sense for us not to comply with such silly things that EPA is nitpicking on,” argues Mirman. “If only EPA let us know exactly what it is that they want. Instead of giving us guidelines, they are playing a “gotcha” game, where all of a sudden they would start enforcing some obscure regulation that they never cared about in the past. Our bikes have been inspected by enforcement agents multiple times in the past and at no time did they tell us about any issues with the idle screws.”