Why Are Nissan Skylines Illegal in the USA | Autance

The Nissan Skyline is an incredibly popular car, yet it is not often seen in the USA. In fact, it…

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Why Are Nissan Skylines Illegal in the USA | Autance © Why Are Nissan Skylines Illegal in the USA | Autance

The Nissan Skyline is an incredibly popular car, yet it is not often seen in the USA. In fact, it is largely seen as illegal in many of America’s states. It’s a great shame as it receives rave reviews from so many of its users. It looks sleek and has some of the best handling and power out on the roads these days. For this reason, it has become an iconic car. Here, we look at why exactly it is that this world renowned car is never really seen on American shores.

So what are the perceived reasons why the Nissan Skyline is illegal in the USA?

It Failed Some Essential Safety Tests

This is true to a certain extent, but it is not really the full story or the full truth.

In short, the Nissan Skyline is not often seen in the US as Nissan has never gone through the long list of requirements that are deemed necessary for a car to undergo before it is seen as safe to go to the general US market. These requirements can be pretty basic, and can be viewed at the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards website, but they are to do with testing the seat belts, windshields and air bags. So some pretty standard stuff that we all want to be safe these days. In addition to these safety features, the authorities in the US also want cars tested for their emissions and crash safety. To pass the crash safety tests, four cars have to be given to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulator for their own independent testing. Car manufacturers cannot simply submit past test results from other test centers. This is an obvious cost to the manufacturer, and one that Nissan chose not to undertake.

One of the reasons perceived as to why they chose not to send their cars for testing was that they never designed the car with export in mind. This will come down to the profits that they foresaw as possible on the export market and Nissan would not have seen it as worthwhile. This could have been for a number of reasons but a glaring one would be that the Nissan Skyline was produced initially as a right hand drive. Nissan would have had to go back to the drawing board to produce a left hand version of the Skyline, which in all likelihood would have not been economically beneficial given the amount of units that the Skyline was predicted to sell.

Nissan’s choice not to have the Skyline in the US is therefore partly economically based from their own doing. With the extra costs involved to get the car ready for the US market, the Japanese company did not see it as a worthwhile concept. This is not the first time that this has happened to a great car – the Porsche 959 is another example of a fantastic vehicle that was never meant to be driven on US soil as the manufacturer did not send the required four car samples to the US testing authorities.

The GTR’s Power Is Simply Too Powerful

One of the reasons that the GTR version of the Nissan Skyline is largely believed to be illegal in the US is that it is simply too powerful. Whilst it is not the power itself that the authorities take a strong aversion to, it is actually the fact that it is seen as too powerful for police cars should they have to be used in a chase of any car – including the Nissan Skyline GTR. Police cars are mostly all rear wheel drives in the US and yet the Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R is a four wheel drive. Its maximum speed is 200 miles an hour when at full pelt on a highway. It feasibly makes anyone in Skyline far too difficult to almost impossible to catch by the police.

In practice, this is not a hard and fast truth. The GTR is sometimes sold on what is known as the grey market to US citizens as long as they then bring it in line with American standards set by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. This is true of both the regulations and crash testing that Nissan never undertook as well as the power of the car itself.

The US Government Wanted to Support the US Car Market

This is perhaps the strongest reason why Skylines are not seen in the US. In the past, cars from abroad were imported to the US at a vast discount to buying a US made car by US citizens who were overseas. In 1988 the US government past the Motor Vehicle Safety Compliance Act which had the result that car imports fell considerably. The act set the above testing standards that Nissan decided never to undertake.

However, now that the act has been in place for almost 30 years, it is starting to see a slight increase in car imports owing to the slight loophole that it has. It allows immunity for imports for cars that are over the age of 25. This means that any Nissan Skyline that was made before 1991 is allowed to be imported to the US – though those that are doing so may want to look at the tests that the car would otherwise not have been put through at an earlier date in America. Just to be on the safe side.

Therefore the mystery of why Nissan Skylines are illegal in the US is not strictly true – they can be driven legally in the States, but it is the legislation and the costs involved in overcoming the legislation that inhibits it being more widely seen.


  1. Importing a Nissan Skyline – nhtsa
  2. Imported Vehicle Safety Compliance Act of 1988 – congress.gov
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