You know what sucks? The twenty-five year non-USA vehicle import rule that cuts both ways.
It is that double-edged sword that entices us to import older Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions and Nissan Skyline GT-Rs. However, this importation business penalizes us with prices that are higher than market levels. Someone is profiting from our desire to get something we wanted badly some three decades before.
Not all importers do not practice price gouging of desirable non-USA vehicles. Nor do they renege on promises on importing certain models. Top Rank is an import company that does a reputable and solid business with some of my fellow enthusiasts. You might want to check them out.
Importing a non-USA vehicle is risky, but it is doable. You just have to do the leg work on filling out the proper paperwork for the countries involved and pay for everything from shipping, insurance, and customs fees.
Over the course of nine years, I did a few My Favorite columns that gave me the license to play with Monopoly money in importing several vehicles here. I must’ve covered a lot of ground, from Australia’s iconic Holden HQ lineup, the Toyota Crown we almost got, to the Hyundai Pony that kicked off the Korean automaker’s run in North America.
Let me flip the script for the moment. There are a lot of new vehicles that are still not sold in the USA that would serve as great choices for our consumers. Forget the twenty-five year rule of waiting for a rare vehicle that would be easier to modify for our regulations! Let’s have vehicles that would sell well here – already modified for our market!
Ah, but which ones? Here are my suggestions – rather, a My Favorites list of vehicles that should be sold in the USA (and Canada, as well), that would fit several segments for greater competition and choice for the consumer.
VOLKSWAGEN T-ROC/T- CROSS: Word has it that Volkswagen will bring a vehicle to play in the subcompact/small SUV segment. That rumor has it built at the Puebla, Mexico plant alongside the Tiguan. The same rumor points to a small SUV, called the Tarek, to fill that space here. However, every report I read and watched shows that the German-developed T-Roc and T-Cross are better in many ways than the Tarek. Volkswagen in Mexico sells the T-Cross, as does most of the brand’s operations worldwide. The T-Cross fits in the growing segment that includes the Hyundai Kona, Nissan Kicks, Chevrolet Trax/TrailBlazer, and Jeep Renegade. For our market, the 1.4-liter turbocharged TSI would be the perfect engine for this vehicle, as well as the T-Roc. Speaking of which, if the USA gets a T-Roc, imagine the enthusiast community calling for the sale of the T-Roc R and its 2.0-liter turbocharged engine from the Jetta GLI…
DS 9: No one really knows what will happen with the next generation Chrysler 300 when the entire LX2 platform is integrated onto the upcoming Alfa Romeo-based rear-drive one. If the idea is to supplant FCA’s North American lineup with vehicles from the Groupe PSA side of the house, Stellantis may have to choose wisely as which ones would work to help continue the Chrysler brand in its key markets. The upcoming DS 9 seems like a good fit to bring Chrysler back into the sedan market. The current specifications, with a hybrid four-cylinder driveline called eTense, might have to be altered somewhat. That is, if Stellantis are going to push the eTense driveline worldwide, including North America. Although, it would be easier to put a sedan-based version of the 2.0-liter eTorque driveline underneath the DS 9’s hood. Keep in mind that this sedan would be sold alongside the successful Pacifica minivan – and, maybe, a luxury crossover? Or, should Stellantis have all of its SUV/Crossover products for North America line under the Jeep brand? Stay tuned…
MITSUBISHI PAJERO SPORT/MONTERO SPORT: When it comes to off-road ready vehicles, we often forget that Mitsubishi has been in that segment since it began building military Jeeps in Japan. The latest SUV designed for high capability has been a hit in the markets it is sold in – especially in South East Asia and Australia. With potential growth in this segment of highly capable SUVs – thanks to the Ford Bronco family – why not bring over the Pajero/Montero Sport? Sure, it may have polarizing design elements, but the interior appears to be premium and you have three rows of seats. As for a power plant, Mitsubishi may still have ties to Nissan to perhaps drop the new 3.8-liter V6 that is currently in the Frontier pickup truck. That way, it would pass emissions quite easily.
TOYOTA YARIS CROSS/COROLLA CROSS: Simply put, Toyota needs a proper small SUV to supplant the C-HR. While the angular crossover that was supposed to be a Scion filled a needed niche, Toyota really needs to go after the Hyundai Venue/Kona, Nissan Kicks/Rogue Sport, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport/Eclipse Cross…and so forth. The Yaris Cross could do the trick as a Venue fighter, but with only one problem: Toyota nixed the Yaris in North America. But, who’s to say that it wouldn’t work here. The 1.5-liter three-cylinder Hybrid driveline could be coupled to an all-wheel-drive system that would be good for all climates. However, the Corolla Cross may be the right move for the sub-RAV4 segment. It would use the Corolla’s 1.8-liter engine, along with the Hybrid version, plus all-wheel-drive. Between these two, Toyota would expand its lead on SUVs in this market quite easily. Perhaps with new names…
NISSAN JUKE: Bring back the Juke? Have you seen the next generation model? It is available in other markets outside of North America, but Nissan improved the model to not only retain most of its shape, but to modernize it for today’s drivers. You will find a more corporate nose and an easier-on-the-eyes rear end. You will also see a more contemporary cabin that is aligned with current Nissan design trends. They even swapped out engines for more fuel efficient ones that meet European emissions standards. Even with the Sentra’s 2.0-liter engine, the Juke could make a comeback. Or, should it?
SSANGYONG KORANDO: Last month, Mahindra & Mahindra lost the case against them by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles over the Jeep design trademark. After all, the Roxor did look like a Jeep, despite being a side-by-side utility vehicle that FCA does not have an entry in. While they shut down Roxor assembly in Michigan, there is another way back into the USA market for Mahindra – SsangYong. The Indian industrial power controls the Korean automaker that you might not have heard of. So, why not import this highly improved version of the company's "bread-and-butter" compact SUV? A colleague of mine in Australia reported how much this vehicle has reached the level of quality and reliability of Hyundai and Kia from five years ago. Perhaps we need another well-priced model in a crowded market. Perhaps, maybe just in time after the pandemic is declared over worldwide.
Cover photo by Randy Stern