"n order to be lawfully manufactured or imported for sale in the U.S., a motor vehicle must comply with all applicable FMVSS issued by NHTSA. It is possible for a right-hand drive (RHD) vehicle to be manufactured in compliance with the FMVSS.
A motor vehicle that was not originally manufactured to comply with all applicable FMVSS, and/or was not so certified by its original manufacturer, in the form of a label permanently affixed to the vehicle, cannot be lawfully imported into the U.S. unless it is determined eligible for importation by NHTSA. The agency makes these decisions on the basis of a petition from an RI. These are business entities that are specifically approved by NHTSA to import nonconforming vehicles and to perform the necessary modifications on those vehicles so that they conform to all applicable FMVSS. The petitions must specify that the vehicle is substantially similar to a vehicle that was certified by its original manufacturer as conforming to all applicable FMVSS and is capable of being readily altered to conform to those standards, or, if there is no substantially similar U.S.-certified vehicle, that the vehicle has safety features that comply with, or are capable of being altered to comply with, the FMVSS based on destructive test information or other evidence the agency deems adequate.
As previously indicated, an import eligibility decision can be based on the substantial similarity of a non-U.S. certified vehicle to a vehicle manufactured for importation and sale in the United States, and so certified by its original manufacturer. If the vehicle you are seeking to import is a RHD, even if there were a U.S.-certified left-hand version of that vehicle, it might not be considered "substantially similar" for import eligibility purposes. Our experience has shown that the safety performance of RHD vehicles is not necessarily the same as that of apparently similar left-hand drive vehicles offered for sale in this country. However, NHTSA will consider the vehicles "substantially similar" if the manufacturer advises the agency in writing, on the manufacturer’s letterhead (and not that of an authorized dealership or other such entity affiliated with the manufacturer) that the RHD vehicle would perform the same as the U.S.-certified left-hand drive vehicle in crash tests. Absent such evidence, the petitioning RI would have to demonstrate that the vehicle, when modified, would comply. In this case, you might want to contact one or more of the RIs listed on our website to obtain their opinion on the feasibility of conforming the RHD vehicle to the FMVSS, and the costs involved in conforming the vehicle and petitioning NHTSA for a determination as to whether the vehicle is eligible for importation."