Quiz America's auto enthusiasts about the vehicles they most want to see in the US market, and for every one that doesn't respond with a French hot hatchback or some diesel-powered offering, there'd be at least three that ask for some small, imported pickup truck. That won't happen, though, and we have the Chicken Tax to thank.
If the 50-year-old Chicken Tax were repealed, there would undoubtedly be an influx of foreign-made light trucks and vans available in the US. In addition to imported midsize trucks like the global Ford Ranger and Mitsubishi Triton, this would also leave the door open for Volkswagen to someday offer its Amarok here.
Ford is in a bit of a pickle for importing and selling Turkey-built Transit Connect cargo vans as passenger vehicles in the US, then converting them to commercial-vehicle specification stateside in an effort to bypass a 25-percent tax imposed on vehicles imported for commercial use. Automakers are required to pay a 2.5-percent tax on imported passenger vehicles.
Mitsubishi's been having a rough time of it lately here in the United States. Last year, sales fell 44.8 percent. Ouch. Even worse, Mitsu's lone U.S. manufacturing plant in Normal, Illinois is way under capacity. How far under? Well, the Normal plant's website lists its capacity at 135,000 vehicles per year. Only thing is, back when that plant was a joint Chrysler/Mitsubishi venture it could pop out 240,000 cars per year. Last year, Normal made just 18,501 vehicles.
According to a report from Automotive News, Mitsubishi's North American CEO Shin Kurihara would like to bring over the Japanese automaker's funky little Delica van (right) and Triton pickup (above), believing that the two work-ready models may fill a desirable niche here in the States. So, why not wave a magic wand and make that happen? In a word: Chickens.
Should a tax on foreign-made pickup trucks that was first instituted way back in 1963 as a retaliation for a European tax on U.S.-bred chickens affect sales of modern and fuel efficient pickups from India in the United States? That's the question that Global Vehicles, hopeful U.S. importers of India's Mahindra pickups, is currently asking policymakers in Washington. The answer they are hoping for would rid the United States of the so-called chicken tax and would allow the importation of Mahindra