Importers are using a loophole in the law to sneak in cars that the U.S. government deems unsafe for American roads. Under the law, cars 25 years or older can be brought to the U.S. without adhering to current safety and emission standards. The Defender doesn't even have airbags.
The Land Rover Defender, sold in the U.S. from 1993 thru 1997, was discontinued in 1998 because it did not meet new safety standards. Automotive News (subscription) reports that shady importers have been putting older VIN numbers on newer Land Rover Defenders and then trying to sneak them past U.S. border control agents.
For importers, the move is worth the risk. Land Rover Defenders are worth much more money in the U.S. than they are in other parts of the world. You can buy a used Land Rover Defender in Europe for about $5,000, import it for $2,000, and then sell it in the U.S. for between $35,000 and $70,000, Automotive News says.
Customs said this particular Land Rover Defender could have been sold in the U.S. for about $150,000.
When Border Patrol agents seized this late model Defender coming into the US illegally they made an example of it, shooting video of the car being destroyed. The claw gleefully tore the rugged SUV apart and deposited it on a heap of similarly disgraced cars. It is surprisingly fascinating to watch.