The dilemma of Mitsubishi Delica in Maine is awkward

The Mitsubishi Delica is one of those quirky right-hand drive four-wheel drive vans from Japan. They are popular with outdoor enthusiasts, 80’s / 90’s “Rad era” car enthusiasts, and those looking for a competent camper without spending a VW sync dollar. But in Maine – Pinetree – at least the Automobile Department doesn’t welcome Delica. The state has sent a letter to the owner who cancels the registration.

Thanks to 25 years of import rules, suitable vintage Delicas can be brought to the United States with little problem and can usually be registered with minimal hassle in most states (I’m looking at you, CA). ). However, it has recently been revealed that Maine has sent a letter to Delica owners notifying them that they have canceled their registration, not because they did not do the paperwork correctly.

The first person I heard about this issue was Facebook’s MDOC: Mitsubishi Delica Owners Club USA group, and I’m an administrator. (Full disclosure, I’m not in Maine, but I own the 1994 Delica Space Gear). Some Maine citizens of MDOC USA have a photo of a letter sent by the state on how maine rules do not allow “mini trucks” to be registered and how it takes three weeks to remove and return a van plate. I posted it. This, of course, leaves the owner with a £ 4,500 JDM paper weight in the shape of a Delica. This didn’t seem to be correct. Perhaps the main BMV simply never saw the Delica.

I read more explanation about what this is happening. First from May 2021. The owner of the Main Delica is now marketing vans as they are no longer considered road legal. I needed to know more and revealed this on my website, Crankshaft culture..

I asked Emily Cook, Assistant Secretary of State for Media in Maine, some questions about what was happening. The answer is very interesting, a little confusing, and potentially bad – and not just the Delica owner.

Lots of turmoil about mini trucks … maybe

A letter from the owner of Delica in Maine stating the reason for the cancellation was that the vehicle was a mini truck (eg a light truck) and did not meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards. It was for. Maine is not the only state that does not allow light trucks to be used on the road. However, the Mitsubishi Delica, which is as big as the 2021 Toyota Sienna, is not a light truck.

I asked about the definition of a mini truck in Maine and whether the state considered the Delica to fit that definition.

Cook rewrote the definition of Japanese mini trucks, light vehicles, and how they are right-handed and / or have few safety features or emission controls. Cook further writes that both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the EPA have determined that light vehicles do not meet US safety and emission standards and can only be imported for off-road use. As a result, Maine does not register light vehicles. Cook initially made no mention of whether the Delica would be considered a mini-truck, even after mentioning the dimensions of the Delica.

I also asked if Maine could shed light on state guidelines for vehicle registration and why Delica did not meet these requirements. Cook replied again. “The EPA and NHTSA allow these vehicles to be imported into the United States, but they are intended for off-road use only. Maine considers these vehicles to be ATVs and off-road. Can only be legally used for use. 29A See Section 354. “

Cook explained that Maine follows the policies of the United States and the American Association of Automotive Managers (AAMVA). They also said that both BMV and Maine police have consistently ruled on mini-truck registration based on EPA and NHTSA requirements and decisions. “BMV states our policy in hearings and official reports on the bill,” Cook wrote.

Finally, when asked if Maine is working with a safety or insurance organization, Cook referred to the NHTSA document, which contains a best practice guide for dealing with mini trucks that BMW follows. Cook also said the Maine BMV is working closely with the Maine state police responsible for the inspection. It also details the guidance from AAMVA and following the published recommendations for handling off-road vehicles.

Details of mini trucks and off-road vehicles

As you can see, the term goes back to “mini truck” or “light car”. In Japan, light vehicles must be equipped with an engine with a displacement of 660 cc or less, 11.2 feet or less, 4.9 feet or less, and a maximum height of 6.6 feet. Most Delica vans imported into the United States have 2,400 engines. From cc to 3,000cc, it’s much larger than what Japanese regulations consider to be a “light” car. This didn’t make sense, so I asked for further explanation.

A few days later, Cook replied: 29-A (Recently updated LD 1433 Sections 1-8) What are off-road vehicles, and that they cannot be classified as antique cars for on-road use. “

However, Cook then said, “While the language around the Delica and’mini truck’should have been more accurate, the basic decree should still be followed.”

Well, after all, isn’t it a mini truck? In other words, it’s an off-road vehicle.

If my logic is sound, the main reasoning would be:

  1. Vehicles that do not meet (or have not been FMVSS tested) and / or do not display FMVSS decals or meet EPA standards cannot be registered for use on the road.
  2. Vehicles that cannot be registered for road use are off-road vehicles.
  3. Off-road vehicles cannot be registered for on-road use.

Main conclusion? Delicas that have not passed the FMVSS or EPA tests are like off-road vehicles and cannot be registered on the road.

How about other vehicles?

The main seems to be determined by mini truck and Delica. However, states brought in under 25-year import regulations and registered by enthusiasts must have dozens (if not more) vehicles.In fact, I have had direct contact with other JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) vehicle owners, including owners of Toyota Hiace and Nissan Cedric, and None I received the letter from them. FMVSS and EPS are not just related to JDM vehicles. There are many other cars from Europe and perhaps elsewhere that do not meet these criteria.

So I asked Cook a daunting question: what about other cars?

Other manufacturers and models registered in Maine are also non-FMVSS or EPS compliant, many of which are imported from Japan (not mini trucks). Can owners of these vehicles expect Maine (regardless of country of origin) to cancel their registration as well?

Cook simply replied, “Vehicles found to be misregistered will receive a letter similar to the one recently sent by the Automobile Authority.”

Be careful, car enthusiasts.

Delica owner’s feelings

The US Delica community (which I participate in) is undoubtedly armed with the actions of Maine. There are multiple accounts with the same description as the other representatives of the main BMV, such as the director’s assistant. Most of that person’s language is similar to what I heard from Cook. This includes descriptions of FMVSS and EPA. Some have been instructed to contact individuals in the Maine Police Inspection Unit who are “very familiar” with Delicas and mini trucks.Thread I started on July 1, 2021 This ordeal is characterized by multiple explanations of the interaction between the owner and the BMV and state authorities.

Summary: Import and registration

The federal government’s 25-year import rules allow vehicles to be imported into the United States even if they have never been FMVSS and EPS tested. However, the federal government is not involved in vehicle registration. It’s a state issue. Therefore, the state seems to have the ability to say what can and cannot be registered for use on the highway.


I haven’t heard of a solution to this problem right now. Maine has three weeks to allow owners of these Delicas to remove the plates and send them back to BMV, leaving van owners with £ 4,000 of lawn ornaments (or really small Airbnb). It states. It could be a serious inconvenience if someone uses the Delica as a daily driver. It may seem that there was some provision that allowed the currently registered Declias to retain their license, but future Delicas will be banned from registering. But that wasn’t the direction the main went.

A slippery slope?

As a car enthusiast (and an avid JDM vehicle enthusiast), the main stance on this is awkward. Will Toyota Hiace owners begin to receive these letters? What about the owners of vintage Rolls-Royce and Land Rover brought from the UK to the US? And let’s face it: The 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air probably can’t stand the FMVSS or EPS standards. Is their registration next? Oh, it was originally sold here, so you probably have a vested interest. But if all this is done in the name of safety and emissions, why stop by Delicas? Why stop by a vehicle with a 25-year rule? Why are antique cars, motorcycles, mopeds and special vehicles not taken off the road?

If Maine sets a precedent, how can we stop other countries from adopting this stance? This can leave vehicles unusable by thousands of owners. And that’s something that every car enthusiast shouldn’t underestimate.

[Images © 2021 Andy Lilienthal, Mitsubishi]

The dilemma of Mitsubishi Delica in Maine is awkward

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