WASHINGTON - Walter Huizenga knows some will call him foolish, but he believes that if government and industry are sincere about free, global automotive trade, then the chicken tax on imported pickups must go.
'You can't say it's not a barrier because the number of (imported pickup) trucks being sold is zero,' said Huizenga, president of the American International Automobile Dealers Association.
He insists he is not a stalking-horse and knows of no overseas maker that wants to import pickups. He will fight on principle.
But AIADA officials also point out that the high-profit truck segment is growing, and they do not want import-brand dealers to be denied possible future sales. So, in all seriousness, chicken tax repeal is on AIADA's Washington conference agenda next month.
Imposed in 1963, the chicken tax is a 25 percent import duty on trucks that haul cargo instead of passengers, which has come to mean pickups. It was part of U.S. retaliation for West German duties on U.S. frozen poultry.
The tariff has little impact now. Minivans and sport-utilities are exempt, and former importers build Nissan and Toyota pickups in U.S. plants. The Toyota T100 was the last mass market truck to pay it. A 2.5 percent tariff applies to most imported vehicles.
Gil Bamford, vice president for government affairs of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc., agrees the chicken tax is unfair but also believes that in lobbying, 'You pick your spots.' He urges AIADA members to focus on repealing the estate tax and preventing extension of the car-and-truck luxury tax.
Stephen Collins, president of the former Big 3's Automotive Trade Policy Council, said the chicken tax still has value as a possible bargaining chip in future international trade talks.