The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has put its foot down and blocked the Pagani Huayra from being imported to the United States for not having airbags. The NHTSA has refused to grant an exemption to the company to make a car without airbags.
Boutique supercar maker sells five cars per year in America
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration mandates that cars must have certain safety features, such as airbags. Airbags save lives, and for a carmaker to skip putting airbags in a typical four-person sedan that most people buy would be ludicrous. However, the NHTSA can extend an airbag exemption to a carmaker if adding airbags would be a financial hardship for the company. This exemption is normally given to small carmakers, most often to supercar makers. According to Autoblog, Tesla, Lamborghini and Lotus all had airbag exemptions in effect this year. However, the NHTSA has quashed an application for an airbag exemption for the Pagani Huayra, according to CNN, as the NHTSA says Pagani can afford not to skimp on the five cars it plans to sell in the U.S. in 2012.
Airbags must be standard on a car few can buy
Pagani, according to CNN, applied for the exemption three years ago and was recently turned down. Earlier this year, according to AutoBlog, the NHTSA said that the cost of airbag technology was now so low that no one had any excuses. For a carmaker like Toyota, that would make sense, as an airbag-less minivan or family sedan would be ridiculous. However, Pagani makes supercars. The car in question, the Huayra, is a $1 million car with a twin-turbo 12 cylinder engine that produces more than 700 horsepower. Pagani, a small car company with only 60 employees, can’t make enough cars to sell more than five per year in the U.S., and with a planned factory expansion, could possibly sell 10. Pagani will fit Huayras with airbags and expects to start selling them in the U.S. by 2013.
Boutique makers to feel the sting
Pagani isn’t the only company affected. Lotus, according to Automobile magazine, is losing its airbag exemption and won’t return to the U.S. until the new Lotus Elise debuts in 2015. Lotus sells fewer than 3,000 cars per year worldwide, according to the Telegraph. Though safety is important, targeting supercars seems a little ridiculous. Safety features are not a selling point in a car that goes faster than 200 miles per hour. The Huayra is mostly constructed from a carbon fiber-titanium composite and weighs 3,000 pounds, which is less than a Toyota Prius. Most of the carmakers that are affected by NHTSA airbag rules produce cars that most people will never even see up close and personal, let alone afford to buy one. It seems a little like overkill for the agency to make a fuss.