Buying Your Own JDM Car Part 5.5: Hot Importer Nights
A question I often get asked and see a lot on the forums I go to is "Who are legit importers if I want to buy an R32?". If you've read my previous posts on the importation process and made up your mind that you want a nice piece of Japanese hotness you might be asking the same thing now. (Just make sure the Japanese hotness you want is a car, bro - 'cause this isn't an Asian online dating website).
Before I give you a few names, let me clear up the sometimes confusing concept of registered importers (or RIs). It's a common misconception that any importer that wants to bring in a Skyline or other JDM car needs to be an RI. That's not the case. RIs are import companies that are certified with the government to perform modifications and process a car so that it complies with current NHTSA and EPA regulations. So they're really needed more for cars that are younger than 25 years old and so aren't exempt from those federal regulations.
You might be asking why then don't people use them to just bring in a fresh boatload of R34s like everyone wants and make mad profit? Well, that's a whole 'nother huge barrel of government monkeys but suffice it to say a metric $h*tton of cash would be involved plus more emissions and crash testing than even Ralph Nader would maintain sanity with. There's just too much needed (and no guarantee of success in the process) with not enough assured demand or profit for anyone to reattempt it like with Motorex before. especially now that R33s and R34s are pretty old cars that have been replaced by the much higher spec and readily available R35.
Getting back to Skyline importation, basically any company can bring in a 25 year old Skyline as long as they make sure to dot their I's, sign their x's, and spell Obama correctly. Even a private individual like you or me could do it but state regs usually require you to be in business as a dealer or importer to allow bringing in more than a couple of cars a year - so forget about any dreams you might have of a mail-order Skyline resale business run from your mother's basement. Besides, mom probably won't like the exhaust fumes from all those RBs slowly turning the basement into a Superfund toxic waste site.
And so, who are some good importers to buy from? Well, this will hardly be a comprehensive list because I only want to include ones that I've personally dealt with or have good info from other people on. Of course, I'm not going to guarantee your own purchase but at least you can have more peace of mind with these guys than a lot of others. Just know that for every legit Skyline importer there are probably 3 others who are shadier than your email friend who's Nigerian royalty and sells cheap Viagra.
- International Vehicle Importers - I bought my Nismo from them so I can tell you personally they're legit. I've also inspected several of their other cars and met a couple of other people who've bought from them. Best thing about IVI is it's run by Sean Morris who pretty much wrote the book on Skyline importation as I've mentioned in other posts and is a Skyline fanatic himself. He's super cool too about sharing his knowledge on importation and the mechanical side of these cars. You can rest assured your car will be legit and get registered properly with his company. They're based in Ontario, California and are really good about letting people drop by to check out the cars - that's how I ended up getting my R32 - I was just there to look first but they had a Nismo just waiting for a buyer. More recently they've been one of only two importers about to legally import an R34.
- RightdriveUSA - I've bought R32 parts from them (they're Canada-based and sell parts as RightdriveParts) and they ship fast with no issues. I've seen enough people posting online that have satisfactorily bought cars from them that I know they're legit.
- JapaneseClassics - based on the East Coast, these guys probably are the best at marketing themselves right now. Not only did they sell an R32 to a writer from Jalopnik but they've also been featured on Motorweek's TV show for a segment on imported Skylines. I've also seen plenty of forum-goers posting positive reviews of their purchases.
- GTRGarage - I've never dealt with them personally, in fact the only interaction I've had with them was the email I sent them to inquire before I bought my Nismo which was met by the enthusiastic reply of none at all - so you might not have much luck with them either. But I've seen enough customers of theirs posting rave reviews that I can't ignore them.
Expo - I've spoken to two people who've had great experiences
with this company that used to be just a Japan-based exporter but
now has a New York office as well. One of the two happy customers is
a friend of mine who bought a nice 1991 Eunos Cosmo and has had
nothing but praise for the ease of the transaction on JDM Expo's
Good luck and good hunting!