If a manufacturer wants to sell a car in any market, many government regulations have to be met for them to be able to sell it to the customers. If a manufacturer wants to sell a car in the US, the car needs to meet the DOT Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS).
Most car markets are fairly similar when it comes to these regulations, especially the Asian and the European market. But the standards posed by the US differ quite substantially and because of this, some Mercedes models cannot be sold in the US, for a while at least.
Some Mercedes models that can’t be sold in the US are the CLS and CLA Shooting Brake, the E-class All-Terrain, and the mighty Unimog. The same story goes for the majority of the Mercedes A and B-class line-up. The electric version of the B-class used to be available until 2017 and the A-class sedan model has been on the US market since 2019.
Why are these cars not being sold in the US?
There are plenty of reasons why some of these models are not being sold in the US. The first of them being is the financial feasibility as all the models need to pass a variety of different regulatory aspects, and sometimes the brand does not expect the models in question to do well enough in the sales department.
Models like the smaller A or the B class were always targeted primarily for the European market. And it’s not only Mercedes that does this. Some car manufacturers like Audi also don’t offer some hatchback models like the A1 in the US for the very same reason. It’s worth mentioning that Mercedes does now sell the A-class sedan in the US.
In addition, some models like the CLS Wagon (Estate) are not being sold in the US because station wagons are not as popular in the US as they are in Europe. In Europe, some station wagons are incredibly popular, like the A6 or the A4 Avant by Audi, or even the E-class or the C-class estate.
But in the US, it’s a different story. While the station wagon is still a popular family car in Europe, more American families choose SUVs. Many manufacturers opt-out of selling these models because they think that the demand won’t meet the supply.
Car trends in Europe and the US
Another major reason why some models are not sold in Europe and the US is the fact that the automotive trends are fairly different in many aspects. Roads in the US are usually a lot wider and parking lots are bigger. Due to this, the US customer prefers larger cars, especially SUVs, that might not fit as well on small European roads.
It’s because of this that Mercedes and many rivals like BMW are primarily targeting many SUVs for the US market. A clear indication is a fact that the factory for the BMW X5 is located in the US. Even though Europeans also like SUVs, Americans don’t like hatchbacks as much as Europeans do.
The differences in car trends are also very visible in the aesthetics of US cars compared to European cars. Europeans like sleeker and stylish automobiles and the Americans usually prefer rugged and utilitarian designs more than the classic European design language.
Moreover, Americans tend to use their cars as working horses a lot more often than Europeans do. This is why the US is so full of pick-up trucks, and in Europe seeing a pick-up truck is as almost as rare as seeing a super sports car.
The 25-year-old rule and other means of importing a non-US car
The general rule is that you cannot import a car that does not comply with the US car safety import regulations, but there are exceptions to this rule.
The most popular one is the 25-year-old rule that enables you to import a car fairly easily after it reaches 25 years old from the date of production. Through this exception, many car enthusiasts import a large number of performance or classic vehicles.
Cars that are fewer than 25 years old have to be crash tested to meet the regulations, and obviously, this is not financially feasible. But some companies are looking into the market to see if there is enough interest for a specific car that it makes sense for them to be tested and approved in the US.
Additional things to know about the US vs European car markets
Do Audi and BMW have illegal cars in the US?
It is more or less the same story with these two. BMW never sold the 1-series hatchback in the US for the very same reason as the A-class Mercedes. Some variants of the estate 5 series were also never sold in the US.
As far as Audi is concerned, it’s even worse. Audi never sold the A1 in the US or the legendary RS2. Only recently, did Audi introduce the iconic RS6 and RS4 to the US market.
Are there any US carmakers that don’t sell some models in Europe?
These numbers are even worse than European cars not sold in the US. In Europe, the demand for US cars is a lot smaller than the demand for a European car in the US.
American cars have never done well on the European market, and because of this, there are only a few good-selling American cars in Europe.
Some cars like the Ford Taurus are incredibly popular in the US, but are also not sold in Europe as there is no interest in these cars. Furthermore, many of the US popular pick-ups are also not sold in Europe.
How can I import a specific limited edition non-US car to the US?
Importing a specific non-US car to the US is fairly complicated. However, if you think that a car you are interested in meets the “Show or Display” criteria or that it bears technological and historical significance, you might actually be able to import it.
This instance is pretty much reserved for incredibly valuable limited-edition cars that are so rare and so valuable that it makes sense for you to go through a lengthy and expensive process. For a car to comply with this exemption, it has to be limited in production and it cannot exceed 2,500 on-road miles per year.