“You’re talking about 60 to 75 models that I can’t sell, and those are a big part of our customer base,” said Atlas Honda of Bristol, Va., manager Dwayne Leonard.
Lead content provisions of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 that became law on Feb. 10 contain strict guidelines for toys and other products marketed toward children 12 and under that have products that contain lead or lead-based materials.
According to information published in the New York Times’ blog “Wheels,” industry advocates say there is enough lead in brake parts, battery terminals and other internal components in these specific youth motorcycles and all-terrain vehicle models to warrant a withdrawal from the market under new government guidelines.
In response to the law and after failing to achieve an emergency stay filed by a group that included the Motorcycle Industry Council to delay implementation of the law on Feb. 5, major manufactures such as Honda, Kawasaki and Suzuki sent corporate directive letters to dealerships for immediate withdrawal of bikes and ATVs specially designed for youth 12 and under.
“The vehicles are stored away, and if a parent comes in to buy one, I can’t sell it. And if they’ve already bought (a youth model) and need parts for it, I can’t sell them any,” said Leonard, describing the double-whammy the dealership faces.
“These types of bikes are the kind where kids learn to ride and they can learn to develop things like hand-to-eye coordination, motor skills and balance, which can help them in their growth. For some, a parent can buy them a motorbike to teach them responsibility.
“If an adult who has been riding for years has a child that wants to start riding or has decided to teach them to ride, they don’t have anywhere to purchase them because if they’re new or they’re used, we can’t even show them what one looks like. This is going to have some serious consequences in several ways.”
One consequence Leonard mentions is part of a campaign being stressed by the Motorcycle Industry Council and Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, which says more younger children will begin riding larger ATVs and bikes not suited for their abilities, leading to a risk of needless injury.
“The thing is, this law was drawn up because of the lead scare in toys made in China and the ability of a child to put these toys in their mouth. I don’t think a child is going to put a kick-start or a battery terminal in their mouth, are they?” said Leonard.
A statement sent to dealerships by American Honda Motor Co. says: “Our shared belief is that Congress never intended the lead content provisions of the act, which originally were aimed at toys that can be mouthed by children, to be applicable to small ATVs and motorcycles.”
Currently, the Atlas staff and other Tri-Cities dealers only have two Yamaha youth dirt bikes and one youth ATV that they can offer customers.
These are the only models that the consumer advocacy groups have deemed acceptable under current laws, Leonard said.
“We’re doing all we can to survive this economic market right now, and then the government goes and does something like this. It makes it tough on everyone in this business,” said Leonard, who was anticipating a pickup in sales due to tax refunds coming in, a particular part of the year when parents decide to invest some of that money into a present for their young ones.
The MIC estimates powersport dealerships across the country could lose upwards of $100 million if a compromise or total exclusion of motorbike and ATV youth models from the lead law aren’t adjusted by Congress.
“The dealers can complain, but if the consumers don’t help get the word to our elected officials and other cycle riders and enthusiasts, this is not going to end and the whole sport will suffer,” said Leonard.
A letter-writing campaign has been started by the MIC, including a form letter addressed to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission that can be downloaded from the agency’s Web site: www.mic.org.
Those wishing to contact USPSC Commissioner Nancy Nord by phone to voice their opinion on the issue can call (301) 504-7901, according to information posted on the Web site of Missouri congressman Tom Selfe, who is a proponent of ending the act’s inclusion of ATVs and motorbikes for kids.
Any e-mail comments can be made at the agency’s Web site: www.cpsc.gov. Click on the “Contact Us” option.