Ask The Editors: Production 3-Wheelers Illegal?

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Dear ATVC:

My friends and I are diehard 3-wheeler supporters and have been since the 1980s. We’ve been kicking around the idea of making a small production run of 3-wheelers powered by modern 4-stroke engines.

What we’re wondering is does the CPSC ban apply to us considering we weren’t in business back when the OEMs signed the decree?

We have some good news in that you need not worry about the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s three-wheeler production bans but not for the reasons you have stated.

Well documented safety issues, or more accurately, high reports of bodily harm, associated with the operation of 3-wheel ATVs resulted in all manufacturers switching to 4-wheeled models in the late 1980s.

Of course a deeper look at the cause for these measures reveals that rider negligence and poor decision making had more to do with these reported injuries than actual flaws in vehicle design but regardless, 3-wheeled model production ceased in 1987 due to consensual decrees between the major manufacturers and the Consumer Product Safety Commission after a slurry of legal battles.

However, the fine print reveals that the duration of the ban would last 10-years and thus since 1997, manufacturers were free to once again manufacturer and market 3-wheelers. Most do not on account of the popularity of the 4-wheeler coupled to the less than favorable reputation associated with 3-wheelers but the option to do so remains for the major manufacturers, small fabrication operations such as yours and anyone in between.

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