Maine is Actively Canceling Mitsubishi Delica Registration

Do you live in Maine? Do you own or want to own a Mitsubishi Delica van? Prepare for bad news. Maine is actively canceling Mitsubishi Delica registration and not allowing future registration of these JDM vans. 

According to posts in the MDOC: Mitsubishi Delica Owners Club USA group on Facebook, owners in Maine are receiving letters from the State’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) stating their Mitsubishi Delica registration is immediately canceled, and the vans are not allowed on public highways. Plates are to be removed and sent back. The state canceled the registrations pursuant to 29A MRSA 354, which appears to be a statute about registering off-road vehicles. We assume this includes UTVs and actual minitrucks, such as kei vehicles including the likes of the Suzuki Carry, Honda Acty, or Mitsubishi Minica, or these that have been turned into campervans in Japan. The letter reads, “So called minitrucks do not meet United States safety and emissions requirements for automobiles …” A member of the MDOC group gave me permission to use their letter as seen below. 

Wait … “minitrucks”? Have you ever seen a Delica Star Wagon or Space Gear? Has Maine’s BMV seen a Delica Star Wagon or Space Gear? They are not minitrucks. In fact, they have similar dimensions to a 2021 Toyota Sienna which is also, clearly, not a minitruck. A minivan, maybe, but there’s not much “mini” about them either at 17 ft. in length. Remember, Mitsubishi Motors North America sold the Van and Wagon from 1987–1990 at its dealers—likely including in Maine. These are the same size and bodystyle as a Delica Star Wagon. Like literally.

Here’s our Delica at a fuel pump for scale.

Our 1994 Mitsubishi Delica Space Gear: Clearly not a minitruck.

Now What?

Of course, the multiple Mainers who received these Mitsubishi Delica registration notes had questions. They reached out to the state’s BMV. However, it appears that they’re out of luck at the moment—enjoy your 4,500 lb. JDM paper weight. Oh, and you can’t sell it in Maine for on-road use. Some of them mentioned correspondence between themselves and BMV representatives. Certain members reported the BMV said the minitruck language is a catch-all phrase used to cover vehicles not originally sold in the US and potentially those that don’t meet FMVSS (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards).

A Suzuki Carry minitruck (white) next to a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van (red).

Wait—hold on a minute. 

Is Maine saying any vehicle that doesn’t meet FMVSS can’t be registered despite the 25-year import rule? This could include pretty much any vehicle imported under the 25 year rule. That means the Nissan Skyline coupe, a Toyota Aristo sedan, or an Isuzu Elf commercial truck is potentially a minitruck and therefore can’t be registered. Or are they just targeting the Delica? And if so, why?

One MDOC USA member reported the BMV stated that the Mitsubishi Delica registration cancellation has nothing to do with the minitruck designate. But rather how most if not all of these imported vehicles do not pass Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, Environmental Protection Agency pollutant requirements and National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration crash testing requirements. 

More Maine members talked about how the BMV says the Bureau does know what a Delica looks like. Then there was talk about minitrucks again. A rep apologized for lumping Delicas into the minitruck category. However, there were more mentions about not passing safety standards and inspections. Then, a reiteration of the fact Maine is not registering Delicas. Period.

Mitsubishi L400 Delica action
Our Mitsubishi Delica Space Gear (L400) in the sand dunes.

About that 25-year rule

I know what you’re thinking: What about the federal 25-year rule on importing vehicles? Well, that’s a federal rule about importing vehicles and has nothing to do with state registration as I understand it. This is one reason why some states allow the registration of those tiny kei vehicles, such as Washington. Oregon, its neighbor to the south, however, does not.

According to Part 1, Group 1, section 7 of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Importation and Certification FAQ’s Directory:

7. Importing a vehicle that is at least 25 years old.

A motor vehicle that is at least 25 years old can be lawfully imported into the U.S. without regard to whether it complies with all applicable FMVSS. Such a vehicle would be entered under Box 1 on the HS-7 Declaration form to be given to Customs at the time of importation. If you wish to see that form, you may download a copy from our website at www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/rules/import. You should note that the 25 year period runs from the date of the vehicle’s manufacture. If the date of manufacture is not identified on a label permanently affixed to the vehicle by its original manufacturer, to establish the age of the vehicle, you should have documentation available such as an invoice showing the date the vehicle was first sold or a registration document showing that the vehicle was registered at least 25 years ago. Absent such information, a statement from a recognized vehicle historical society identifying the age of the vehicle could be used.

I’m no lawyer, but this sure sounds like federal level stuff. It likely has nothing to do with local state regulations. So does a state, such as Maine, have the ability to prohibit the Mitsubishi Delica? What about other non-federalized vehicles? 

Is it just Delicas?

I wonder if owners of other JDM or foreign-market vehicles registered in Maine are getting these letters? Toyota Hiace owners? Nissan Figaro owners? What about owners of JDM Toyota Land Cruisers? What about owners of European classics imported under the 25-year rule?

As a Delica owner, an admin of the MDOC group on Facebook, and an overall JDM vehicle enthusiast, this seems like a big problem that could become a slippery slope.

Crankshaft Culture has reached out to the media contact for the Maine BMV with some questions about this and we’ll report back with their response.

23 Comments

  1. I am one of the Maine Delica owners who got The Letter this week. No advance warning, no nothing that our daily drivers would be deemed illegal. I emailed this article to State Rep. Babbidge and State Sen. Rafferty this morning. I hope they can help us. Maine – focusing on what’s important as we emerge from a pandemic State of Emergency. For shame.

  2. One word: Vermont.
    Simply register in nearby Vermont. Cheap, easy, non-invasive, and able to be done via snail mail.

    1. Or if you have a friend in another state, sell it to them for $1, have them register it in that state, and then loan it to you to use as a vehicle. I happen to know an individual in NM and a LLC in Wyoming that might be willing to do something like this for a fee. 😉

  3. I am also a Maine Delica owner. This is crazy. Someone at the Maine BMV never looked at these vehicles. They have the same chassis as a Montero or Might Max. This decision is absurd.

    1. Not to totally nerd-jack your comment, but they have the same suspension setup (IFS with torsion bars up front, solid rear axle out back), but the Delicas are unibody whereas the Montero and Mighty Max were body-on-frame construction. With that being said, they’re nearly identical to the 1987–1990 Mitsubishi Van and Mitsubishi Wagon which were sold through Mitsubishi Motors dealers in the USA. These were L300s with larger bumpers. Like, that’s it.

  4. What year was the Delica that received the letter?
    Did they have proper importation paperwork?

    It might be easier to get this answer out of the owner before reaching out to the DMV. Get proof of the owner’s paperwork too, a lot of people don’t get the correct forms when importing on their own.

    1. Every Delica (1992 Star Wagon Exceed in my case) in Maine is getting this letter revoking the registration. Nothing to do with import. I got the letter and they claim it is a ‘mini truck’. This is a misidentification of the vehicle by the state BMV. I have the title and import in hand. I paid all the tax and registration on the vehicle.

  5. so let me get this straight,I can drive an all terrain vehicle down the roads of Greenville in town,drive golf carts on peaks island,with zero protection,and zero safety equipment,ie blinkers,drive a motorcycle,with no airbags,and now you want to pullback a registration that the state gave out……just another reason why I left the Democratic Party,and call myself an independent

  6. I’m not buying “safety” as the issue. There’s something else at play here. Behind the loudest criers of safety is likely where you’ll find the first scent of whatever stinks. Who proposed this change to the state? It had to come from somewhere.

  7. This is terrible policy and is essentially stealing someone’s property rights. When some of the Canadian provinces decided to ban RHD vehicles they didn’t take away the current owner’s rights to use or re-register the vehicle, they simply made it illegal for new registrations or transfers of registrations of RHD vehicles.

    I have a 1980 Land Cruiser BJ45 Troopy and a 1984 Toyota Hilux D4D (LN65) that I legally imported 10+ years ago. I’m a Maine resident. I haven’t received any letters yet. But if I do get one I’ll likely hire an attorney to fight it.

  8. Enjoy your Democrat control freak overlords. God I hate bureaucrats. There’s nothing they won’t ruin.

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