NHTSA approves Michigan request to buy foreign-made motorcycles

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has approved a request by the state of Michigan to buy 20 foreign-made motorcycles using government grants, waiving federal rules that require U.S. vehicle purchases.

The government in a notice posted Tuesday approved a waiver “for the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning to buy 20 Suzuki training motorcycles using grant funds” for training, as well as to purchase a portable data projector, a wireless remote control presenter, DVDs and high-visibility motorcycle vests.

The waiver means Michigan doesn’t have purchase more expensive U.S. made motorcycles produced by Harley-Davidson Inc.

Buy America rules say NHTSA “shall not” award any funds “unless steel, iron, and manufactured products used in such project are produced in the United States.” NHTSA can waive the rules if they are “inconsistent with the public interest” or such materials and products are not produced in the United States in reasonably available quantities or “the inclusion of domestic material will increase the cost of the overall project contract by more than 25 percent.”

NHTSA found “that a cost waiver is appropriate for the twenty training motorcycles because domestically produced motorcycles would increase the cost by more than 25 percent.

Michigan plans to buy 20 2015 Suzuki TU250X motorcycles.

The starting price for a Suzuki TU250X is $4,169. Michigan wants to use the bikes for its “motorcyclist training program because they are designed specifically with smaller engine displacement, less unladen weight, and smaller seat height.

‘Michigan is unable to identify any training motorcycles that meet the Buy America requirements. (Michigan) researched motorcycle models made by the two American motorcycle manufacturers, Harley Davidson, Inc. and Victory Motorcycles,” NHTSA said.

Harley Davidson plans to produce a 500 CC motorcycle called the Street 500, with an estimated price between $6,700 and $7,500. Victory Motorcycles produces much heavier and larger engine displacement than 500 CC, with the lowest price of $12,499, NHTSA said. The Street 500 will start production sometime this year. NHTSA said it is asking for public comments on its decision. The public can comment until Oct. 1. Michigan can buy the bikes starting Oct. 16.

NHTSA awarded Michigan grant funds to reduce traffic accidents and deaths, injuries and property damage. The federal funds let state offices of highway safety “implement effective programs to reduce the number of single and multi-vehicle crashes involving motorcyclists that, among other things, includes supporting resources and training of motorcyclists.”

NHTSA rejected Michigan’s request to lease a foreign made copy/printer/fax machine.