Car Industry

The government shutdown could prevent new cars from landing at dealers

When the EPA is back up and running, it'll have a backlog of new cars to deal with.

Getty Images

The government shutdown hasn't really taken hold of the automotive industry, at least not in ways that will immediately affect consumers. However, if it continues to stretch on, it could spell trouble for automakers trying to push new metal to dealerships.

Automotive News pointed out in a story published Thursday that new vehicle certifications are halted during a government shutdown. This means the EPA can't process and certify new vehicles as being road-legal, resulting in automakers waiting to get new cars on lots, possibly missing estimated launch dates in the process.

The EPA doesn't even do all the testing itself, AN says, but that doesn't mean it keeps operating during a shutdown. Automakers can submit self-test data to the EPA for evaluation, but it still needs to be evaluated. From the roughly 1,200 compliance requests it fields each year, the EPA randomly selects and tests about 200 on its own.

While a number of new vehicles debuted at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show this week, many are slated for arrival at dealerships several months from now. AN talked to representatives from both General Motors and Ford, and while both said they had certifications in the queue, both also signaled that the shutdown hasn't yet affected their plans.

FCA, on the other hand, has certifications for gas variants of the 2019 Ram 2500 and 3500 that debuted this week, but the big-boy Cummins diesel variant (with its 1,000 pound-feet of torque) is still awaiting the green light from the feds. However, a representative for FCA told AN that "shipments are not being delayed by emission certification," at least for now.