35 Foreign Cars You Can’t Own In the USA
If you’ve ever been to Europe or Asia and taken a good, hard look at the vehicles driving around – you’re bound to notice there’s some cars you’ve never seen before. Sure, some styles just don’t sell well in the States and so they are not marketed. But there’s also a select amount of cars that are not allowed to be sold or are banned entirely from U.S. soil. Which is odd, but interesting. Check these out, some of the reasons why might just shock you!
35. Saab 9-5 Sportcombi
The Sportcombi made quite a splash at the 2011 Geneva AutoSshow. Since it was the crowd darling it subsequently became one of the most sought after cars in the United States. Saab promised to make it happen as soon as production finished. However, they ended up in bankruptcy with a very few Saab 9–5 Sportcombis being produced. Still, enthusiasts looked for them everywhere (even auction), yet were met with challenges because Sportcombis had such a low production run. An extra layer of difficulty was added when United States banned the Sportcombi for reasons unknown. Today it’s impossible to procure one at all.
34. Honda Beat
OK, so technically this one isn’t banned in the United States. Consider it a ban of technicality because it’s just not produced for the North American market. People in Japan love the Honda Beat because of its unique look, comfortable drivability and compact set up. Add to that a lower price point and you have a hit with people who live on limited or fixed budgets. And yes, you could try to get a Honda Beat shipped if you have a lot of connections and money. Import taxes, container fees and shipping alone would probably triple the price of the vehicle. So unless you are really sold, and financially wanton, just find something similar and drive that instead.
33. Vauxhall Astra
With a base price of right around $23,000, the Vauxhall Astra is really quite affordable. It’s described as being “very nimble on the road”, which is something all of us appreciate in a vehicle. Later models feature front facing cameras that sense traffic patterns to aid driver and passenger safety for the whole family. Also the Astra comes equipped with features like park assist and keyless entry. It’s one of the few small hatchbacks Europeans are in love with. Maybe that’s because the name Vauxhall means “pleasure garden.” However, you won’t fall head over heels for the pleasure garden. It’s not available in the US.
32. Mercedes-Benz Unimog
What we call a “side-by-side”, Europeans refer to as a Mercedes-Benz Unimog. At least, that’s what we can gather. The Unimog is popular in Europe because it handles the roughest terrain with ease. Plus, different options are available depending on what you want to use the vehicle for. Need a wilderness rover? No problem. Want a commercial transport vehicle instead? Accessories can help you convert it for those purposes too. Perhaps the coolest feature is the tire pressure control that self adjusts during trips to ensure smooth driving over varied terrain. With sheer force and solid engineering, the Unimog is one of the best all purpose, utility vehicles you will never own in the United States.
31. Rover Mini Cooper
So you may think you have a Mini Cooper with bragging rights entitled. And you do, until you see the one across the pond you will NEVER own. Yep, it’s banned in the US. And its a shame because the Rover Mini Cooper beats them all. A bit more macho, it carries the same Mini Cooper DNA and remains one of the most usable and attainable options on the market. UK enthusiasts think of them as a classic every day driver. Plus, owning one means an almost guaranteed return on investment. Collectors have driven values into the stratosphere over the years.
30. Morgan Lemans ’62 Prototype
Many people in the United States own a classic Morgan Lemans. However, if you are looking for a 1962 Morgan Lemans Prototype then you’re out of luck. Seems like we have an unfortunate situation with the auto makers contact in the United States. Their name is “Isis Imports”, so yeah, that’s a no go for the red, white, and blue. And while they only have three different cars under their name (none of them dangerously fast or out of the ordinary), the United States still won’t let you purchase one. Seems like the only way you are going to see this fancy classic is grabbing a passport and traveling abroad.
29. Fiat Panda
Don’t you wish your Fiat came with a 4 x 4 option? The Fiat Panda does. Native to Italy, this car is as popular in Europe as it is in the United States. However, they just never decided to make them available to the United States. Unique features of the Panda include anti-whiplash head rests and Bluetooth through the onboard Uconnect app. We have wanted this car desperately in the states for years because it’s fun and has a can do attitude. It almost looks like a Sprinter van went through a shrinking machine! Give us the Panda!
28. Skoda Fabia
Who knew the Czech people could be such fun? Just saying the name Skoda Fabia makes us smile!. Made in a variety of spring colors, the Skoda features on board navigation and Wi-Fi. It was made for people to have fun and enjoy, just like the name suggests. However, you won’t get one here in the states. It’s simply not available. To catch this head turner in action you’ll have to travel several thousand miles. Oh yeah, you may want to bring a parka should you happen to land in winter!
27. Smart Crossblade
Made in 1992, the Smart Crossblade had a very futuristic design that many said was ahead of its time. However, one close look at the vehicle and you will see why it never made it to the United States. The compact Smart Car has no roof, windows or doors. That’s a big no-no for United States automobile safety regulations. Our smart car vehicles are a bit more insulated. However, it’s wild to look at this vehicle and see how much it resembles a modern-day Smart Car even though it was made in the early 90s.
26. Lotus Elise Series 1
When it first debuted in 1996, the Lotus Elise Series 1 was designed to carry an extremely low curb weight and equally low center of gravity. The genius of designer Julian Thompson lay in its well thought out design. The Lotus is significantly faster then similar cars with larger engines. In fact, their cars are so expertly designed they should be illegal (oh wait, this one is in the US). Interestingly enough, the Elite Series 1 is the base model, proceeded by the Lotus 340 R, which is also banned in the states.
25. Renault Mégane R.S.
While many regard Renault as a has been classic French import, they are alive and well, just not in the states. The Renault Megane R.S. Is one of their more modern vehicles with a base price hovering around $40,000. The reason it’s illegal in the states? The Megane is made for race track driving. In fact, hydraulic compression is used as a second shock observer when braking, thus it handles the road like a supreme champion. Don’t fret though. You can find extra features on board like automatic braking and lane departure to keep drivers safe on the track. Too bad it’s not available in the states. We would love to see it scream wide open across the Bonneville Salt Flats.
24. Peugeot 3008 SUV
Here’s another sad tale from Peugeot. And no, we don’t mean the string of failed automobile designs from the mid 70s to mid 80s. We’re talking about the 3008 SUV. It’s only available in Europe and Europeans love it for the same reasons Americans love SUVs. It’s family friendly and has a sleek design. Plus, now that Peugeot has caught up with technology there are more creature comforts. Expect to find features like navigation and park assist for smooth moving all the way to your destination. Oh yeah, another neat thing about this 3008 is the roof. It’s made completely of glass. This means even backseat riders get a spectacular view of the sky no matter the time of day.
23. Porsche Carrera 964 RS
The Carrera 964 is almost identical to the Porsche Carrera 911 RS. The 964 features incredibly light weight construction. Most of the non-essential features have been stripped giving it an unimaginable power to weight ratio. In other words, this is one hell of a speed demon! And while you can’t get one in the states, they did make an RS version of the Carrera 964. It was produced between 1993 and 1994, based on the Porsche Carrera 2. So, while there is an RS version for the American market, it’s not based on the original 964 concept. That one is restricted to European markets only. Good thing there are plenty of Porsche products available in the US.
22. 1994 Toyota Supra
Take hope Toyota fans. While the 1994 supra is still on the ban list for the states, there is a countdown clock. As it happens, foreign models that are younger than 25 years are barred from entry to the US. That means the 94 supra falls just short of that specification. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t own a Toyota Supra. There are numerous other year models to be had. And there is a light at the end of the tunnel. By 2030, all Americans should have access to any of the JDM legends because the ban will expire. This gives us all a reason to keep living.
21. Dacia Duster
Never heard of the Dacia Duster? It’s a sharp little SUV produced by a Romanian car manufacturer. The name is taken from the historic region now known as modern-day Romania. Founded in 1966 it was independent for decades until falling under French manufacturer Renault in 1999. The Duster features multiple cameras throughout for safe driving, a hill start assist feature and navigation to keep your grill pointed in the right direction. Base models start at between $15,000-$17,000, but alas, you won’t find one in the states.
20. Citrogën C3
Calling all foreign markets only. The Citrogen C3 has one of the most unique designs we’ve seen for a small compact car. She has plenty of curves, bumps and interesting color schemes. Yet, the design is purposeful. For instance, those trendy little square bumps on the side of the vehicle are filled with air. They serve to protect the car in case it is hit, so it bounces back after absorbing door shock. Throw in all of the nifty color combinations and you have an envious compact vehicle. However, you can’t find one on United States soil. They simply aren’t sold here.
19. Lamborghini Diablo
18. Porsche Carrera 911 RS
Here’s another Porsche you won’t find in the US. The reason is it does not conform to the NHSTA’s conformity standards. The 911 RS was built with the 2.7 L engine capable of producing 210 horse power. And while the horse power may not not seem like much, it’s enough to propel this tiny little racer to the head of the pack in terms of speed. Many say the Carrera 911 RS is a testament to the type of quality Porsche puts into their vehicles. Find somebody overseas with a 1973 to 1974 model. If you’re lucky enough to get behind the wheel enjoy it because you will never get that experience stateside. Push the pedal to the floor, and instantly, you will have a cosmic understanding of the brand.
17. León Cupra R
Here’s a fun fact. The Leon Cupra R is a limited edition hatchback vehicle only sold in Europe. You may have never heard of it unless you are a banned car list enthusiast. The engine produces an astonishing 310 hp which makes it incredibly fast. Plus, the color scheme is unique. It’s a blend of matte black carbon fiber accented with copper. It draws your eye across every angular detailed edge. The Leon also has an insane sound system that truly immerses you into an audio experience while driving. Heated seats provide extra warmth on cold start days. However, since it’s not available in the US we just say that’s plain cold hearted.
16. Nissan Qashqai
Surprisingly, the Nissan Qashqai has been around since 2006. The first rendition sold under a different name, Nissan Dualis, and was available in both Japan and Australia. The second generation released in 2014 under the new name. If it looks familiar, there’s good reason. In the states we know the Qashqai as the Nissan Rogue Sport. So the Qashqai proves a rose by any other name smells just as sweet. It’s off-road capability, handling and beefy infotainment system make it a standard among vehicles in its class overseas, while the Rogue Sport sets the bar pretty high for us US imports.
15. Bentley Azure Mark II
Volkswagen snagged Bentley at a time when the Azure was in its first generation. That run stretched all the way to 2003. In 2006 they did a reboot, calling it the Bentley Azure Mark II. It was an attempt to breathe life into the vehicle. Part of doing this involved a beastly 450 horsepower engine. It’s the ultimate marriage of high end luxury and power. It’s also banned. The Mark II was only released to the Middle East, Russia, and Europe. In the United States it earned a spot on the NHSTA’s nonconforming list. Hence, it’s banned.
14. Volkswagen XL1
The Volkswagen XL1 is the third rendition of the popular auto manufacturers one liter car. Essentially, it’s a diesel hybrid plug-in. When it made an appearance at the 2011 Qatar motor show people were more excited about the three wheel aspect then anything else. You would think gas mileage efficiency of approximately 260 miles per gallon would get you excited, but that third rear wheel was the real player. They certainly weren’t excited about the engine. It’s a two cylinder turbo diesel pump generating 47 hp. Yet, with a production run of only 250 units, it became an instant classic. Too bad it ticks more than a few boxes on the NHSTA import checklist. Because of that, the XL1 won’t be on any new dealership parking lots in the US.
13. TVR Tuscan
What do you get when you have a front mid engine, rear wheel drive super car made from the early 90s to mid two thousands? Banned in the USA, that’s what. Such is life for the TVR Tuscan. The in-line six cylinder engine generates 350 brake horsepower which isn’t really that impressive for supercars. What makes it a beast is the incredibly compact design. Low weight and many horses under the hood equal massive amounts of speed. This is exactly why it was banned in the US. Tuscan’s were built to elevate performance over everything else, even safety.
12. Aston Martin Virage
11. Wiesmann GT MF5
Before liquidation in May 2014, Wiesmann existed as an independent German auto manufacturer. Their specialty of course was hand built, custom automobiles the likes of which you have probably only dreamed of. One of the more popular designs was the Wiesmann GTMF5. And even though they aren’t legal in the US, you would have a tough time finding one anyway. Only 55 units were produced in 2009. However, if you could score one expect to find a V10 BMW S 85 engine nestled underneath the hood. Put your seat belt on because that engine generates a whopping 547 hp and is specially tuned to maximize track efficiency. That means it will take off like a rocket in layman‘s terms. So to recap, banned in the US, low production run, extremely expensive… Yeah, good luck.
10. Nissan Patrol
The Nissan Patrol looks a bit like the Pathfinder and Cube combined, but it’s a closer relation to the Armada all things considered. The Patrol was produced from 1997 to 2013 and ultimately saw five generations. There were different trim models with engines ranging from 2.8 liter to 4.5 liter. Some of these engines were standard gasoline while others were diesel. Many changes were made after 2000, including cosmetic facelifts and deeply involved mechanical overhauls. Then, production was halted in 2014. Well, for most countries at least. You can still buy one in the Middle East, Paraguay, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines. Notice a country missing on the list? Yep, the United States.
9. Toyota Hilux
While we like our Toyota Tundra’s and Tacomas, other countries enjoy the Toyota Hilux. Look at the design closely and you notice it’s a rather unique pick up truck. For starters, the exhaust pipe lives on the passenger side of the vehicle and stands over the top to allow driving in wet, boggy conditions. There are a range of engine sizes as well. Customers can choose from a 2 L – 4L (diesel powered of course), with horsepower ranging from 139 to 235. Tack on a brush guard, crew cab seating and roll bar to tackle any terrain. And while it’s not available in the states, it is available with optional 4 wheel drive for overseas customers. The only reason it’s not available here? It’s age for newer models puts it squarely on the ban list.
8. Lotus 340R
Lotus engineered an iconically interesting supercar in 2000. The Lotus 340 R features a Very High Powered Derivative (VHPD) four-cylinder engine from the Rover-K Series and turns out 177 brake horsepower. However, don’t let horse power fool you. Because it’s so light weight (designed that way on purpose), and has incredible weight distribution, it clocks 0 to 60 in 4.4 seconds. This is an incredible feat considering engine size, which also happens to be the reason we can’t get one in the United States. Due to it subcompact design there’s no way the Lotus 340R could meet all of the safety regulations. It’s just barely road legal in great Britain, however, most drivers reserve them for track racing.
7. Noble M600
Such a shame we will never be able to find a Noble on American soil. The Noble M600 is hand built and made for speed. It features a twin turbo V8 engine which spits out an amazing 450 horsepower! And this is just the base feature. Opt to engage the Garet AiResearch variable boost module and you can switch between 450, 500 and 650 horsepower. This means the car can increase its speed by close to 50%! You may remember the Top Gear Episode where the Noble beat out a Bugatti Veyron and Pagani Zonda Roadster. The only thing it can’t beat is garnering a spot on the list of US imports. It’s not legal to own one here.
6. Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Tommi Makinen Models
These are actually sixth generation Lancer Evos. They are named for Finnish rally driver, Tommi Mäkinen and feature a special Mitsubishi trim in honor of him. You can choose between the RS and GSR, with plenty of mods, tweaks, and upgrades to choose from. Included on the RS are features like a shortened shift ratio, rear limited slip differential and Brembo brakes (optional). The GSR is equipped with Yaw Control, Anti-Lock Brakes and cool bucket seats. Throw in a turbocharged, 276 horsepower, 2L 4-cylinder stock Evo engine and you have an incredibly fast Mäkinen Evolution to contend with. It’s the ultimate special edition rally car you will never own stateside.
5. Toyota Sera
4. Nissan Pulsar
Looking at the Nissan Pulsar you would be hard-pressed to tell it dates back to 1978. It’s a historic model for Nissan and has quite a change history since the first run of production. For example, horsepower jumped from 78 to 227 and now customers have the option of front wheel drive or four-wheel-drive. Model Numbers include the GA 13DS, GA 16D, GA15DS, SR20DET, SR18DE and the CD17. Thus, there’s a lot of variety within the Pulsar family (almost as much as some Lexus models). Too bad we will never see one stateside. They look like a lot of fun to drive.
3. Land Rover Defender
Walk through Land Rover forums online and you notice people either love them or hate them. Yet, they are one of the prize vehicles of British manufacturing. Dating back to 1983, the Land Rover Defender saw release of a 4 wheel drive version based on the original Land Rover design. That design scheme is legendary. It first appeared at the 1948 Amsterdam Motor Show. In the 90s model expect to find a 2.5 L turbo diesel engine under the hood, otherwise known as a 200 TDi, which spit out 107 hp. Later, the 300 series engine pumped out a bit more. However, even with all of the improvements like turbo charging, direct injection, intercooling and an alloy cylinder head, it’s still banned from US entry. That’s why we have all of those other Land Rover models we suppose.
2. Volkswagen Polo Blue Motion
While this car looks new to us, the Polo Volkswagen has seen a four generation span. The latest rendition, a Blue Motion model, decreases the vehicle’s overall environmental footprint. Volkswagen kept the ongoing name as a badge for it’s more eco-friendly vehicles so customers would take a note whenever they saw that particular trim model. As for the Polo, the 1.4 L engine underwent a modification or two as an effort to squeeze out longer gear ratios. In addition, the body style was also changed to be more aerodynamic. And stock tires? They are a thing of the past. Low resistant rolling tires were added instead. The end result is 74.3 miles per gallon with a carbon footprint of 100 g/ kilometer of CO 2. That’s impressive, but we still can’t get one in America.
1. Alfa Romeo Giulietta
Say the name Giulietta overseas and Alpha Romeo customers might be confused because it actually refers to three separate models. The one seen here is the Alpha Romeo Giulietta Type 940. First noticed at the 2010 Geneva Auto Show, it’s claim to fame is elegant performance experienced through a small family hatchback. It has a 1.4 L engine (later upgraded to a 2.0 L diesel cranking out 148 hp). Overall, it’s considered to be a luxury, high-end family vehicle because after all, it’s an Alpha Romeo. Too bad we can’t get that kind of luxury here in the states. Seems like we will have to opt for classic versions of the car instead.