Tesla motors did effectively block the importation of used model S into Canada

Tesla motors did effectively block the importation of used model S into Canada

I learned today that Tesla motors did ask the Transport Canada to remove from the admissible vehicle list of the Canadian Registrar of Imported Vehicles the Model S. The model S was in this list since june 2014.

This creates an effective administrative barrier against the possibility to import in Canada a used Model S originally purchased in the States.

As the US and Canada has tightly coupled economies, and movements between the borders are quite common, blocking the importation of the model S is not a good news for any owner.

The RIV website does not indicate any more the model S as an admissible car, and has the following Notes were I cut and paste their text:
Note-1: Please contact the manufacturer prior to importation to determine the exact nature and cost of modifications required. Possible modifications may include: daytime running lamps configuration, electronic immobilization system [EIS], metric odometer and speedometer configuration.

Note-2: Tesla Motors has informed Transport Canada that Tesla service centers are currently not in a position to support the substantial modifications required to bring U.S. Model S vehicles into compliance with Canadian requirements. Contact the manufacturer for further details.

Note-2 is disturbing: Tesla service centers cannot support the modifications required to bring US model S into compliance. Does also that means that they could not offer a proper warranty support?

Note-1 indicates that the modifications required would be the DRL (software), EIS (software), metric odometer (software or owner configuration).

Note-2 terminates with "Contact the manufacturer for further details."
Could Tesla provide further details, to help their customers understand what is this matter about?


EdwardG.NO2CO2 | July 28, 2014

I am asking my contact if this is true as shown on the tc,gc website. I have been perusing an import of my Florida car since April, and so far no luck. Very disappointed they have not been honest with me from the start!

frankydude | July 29, 2014

The Model S WAS on the admissible importation list from the RIV from the month of june 2014.
Tesla Motors did ask Transport Canada to remove it.

It is effectively disappointing, to say the least.


lunknugget | July 29, 2014

That's great, because an American purchased MS would never pass the strict emissions standards of Canada. And switching the speedometer over to metric is impossible!!!

Volleyguy | July 29, 2014

Too funny!

I think it has more to do with Canadian MS's will get jealous of the U.S. MS that has been SC'ed and get quite upset.

EdwardG.NO2CO2 | July 29, 2014

Yah no SC'ed vehicles, we only allow virgins into Canada since we are all virgins up here so far whether we like it or not!

vgarbutt | July 29, 2014

For heavens sake, switching to kilometers is a software update no?

AmpedRealtor | July 29, 2014

@ vgarbutt - it's called sarcasm :)

Haeze | July 29, 2014

I'd imagine it has a lot more to do with the incompatibility of cellular carrier capability between US and Canadian cars.

Jgdixon | July 29, 2014

There is also a gov't mandated vehicle mobilizer on our Canadian cars.
Not sure how easy that would be to add.
I for one have no problem that a US car can't be imported.
I seriously doubt there is much of a price difference although availability would be better in the states.

jordanrichard | July 29, 2014

Ok, so what everyone is saying is that the specs are different for Canadian cars? I can see a difference between a US car and say the UK or Germany, but Canada?

Does anyone know what the differences are?

Larry@SoCal | July 29, 2014

Bumper standards?

sule | July 29, 2014

@vgarbutt: sarcasm, not even software update. You can choose it in settings.

I can only imagine this may have something to do with daytime running lights (I think they are optional in US) and cellular carrier plans / hardware. Everything else I thought of can be handled in software updates or may be a business issue.

Tesltoronto | July 29, 2014

Hey - Tesla is being considerate. MS cars in the US are used to the luxury of Superchargers. If they come to Canada they will be lost and feel deprived!

Seriously though is it correct that the US cars do not have:

1) Daytime running lights (I thought this was required in some of the states)
2) EIS
3) What else?

Also since the price difference between the US and Canada is negligible what is Tesla fearing since unlike some other cars - where there is a huge price difference between the two countries, there is no real incentive to import the cars into Canada.

Tesltoronto | July 29, 2014

Cellular phone are not the issue since the 3G connectivity works in seamlessly in cars that are driven between the two countries.

NKYTA | July 29, 2014

@Teslatoronto, I drive with my DRLs on constantly, here in CA.

Tesltoronto | July 29, 2014

Thanks NKYTA.

I guess this will remain one of Tesla's mysteries.

Or may be Tesla manufactures better quality cars for the Canadian market. :)

cerjor | July 29, 2014

What if I move to Canada with my US Tesla?

Tesltoronto | July 30, 2014

That's exactly the point I wanted to make. Since there seem to be no other reason why anyone would want to import the car from the US (no price difference, no major changes - unlike other cars, etc.) why this? Only Tesla's can answer this.

jordanrichard | July 30, 2014

What is the difference between a MS being imported into Canada and driving to Canada with a US spec car, which is what we plan on doing once the route is lined with SCs.

EdwardG.NO2CO2 | July 30, 2014

@jordanrichard, this is about importing and registering a Tesla in Canada. There is no restriction on an American driving into Canada on vacation or business as long as you plan to take it back int the USA. However if you are a Canadian Resident you can't even do that even if you intend to return it to the USA. That is my issue (I am Canadian and own a Tesla in Florida) and it's not getting resolved!

jordanrichard | July 30, 2014

So as a Canadian, you can not drive your U.S. spec Tesla from FL to Canada, but I can.....?

Has anyone asked the government in Canada as why that is? I don't see how a company can tell a government not to allow a "version" of their product into their country.

I can see Tesla saying that they won't honor a warranty, not that I would agree with it, but that would be a less evasive way to discourage the importation of US spec cars.

EdwardG.NO2CO2 | July 30, 2014

@jordanrichard, that's right! It's the Canadian gov. rules that insist I import the car when I cross the border because I am Canadian and driving a foreign made car across the border. The only justification I can come up with is it stops people sneaking cars across the border then falsifying paper to get it registered without paying sales tax or getting them upgraded to Canadian Spec.

In my case I just want to drive home (from Florida) for a few weeks then back down for a few weeks then fly home for the summer. Not allowed!! Could have bought a Canadian version registered in Canada then drive to Florida register there put on Florida Plates and then back to canada would be OK???? Of course who would have guessed that!

Andrzej1 | July 30, 2014


The added qualifier is being a Canadian resident. The expectation is that a Canadian resident would bring their car into Canada and register it here, which would include bringing it up to Canadian spec and paying Canadian sales tax and any applicable duty. A Canadian with US residency would of course be exempt.

As for why Canada has a Registrar of Imported Vehicles and its ridiculous requirements one can blame the triumvirate of the Unions, the Big Three and the car dealers who do not want to compete in any way with US dealers. The RIV is strictly a protectionist measure.

As for Tesla voiding a North American warranty for people crossing the border with their vehicles, it would be problematic for Tesla and most likely illegal. German car manufacturers have tried this route in the past and were sued and they lost.

For Tesla to effectively ban individual importation of its vehicles into Canada by not allowing it to be placed on the RIV admissibility list but going to the trouble of qualifying its car for Canada’s Pre-clearance list so it can import it itself with minimal bother is really troubling. To my knowledge no other car manufacturer has attempted this since it is a restrictive trade practice which violates NAFTA and I am confidant will be reversed with penalty by Court order at some future date when some pissed of owner with deep pockets is stranded at the US/CAN border with his Tesla. It has happened before and the car manufacturers with their assorted restrictive trade practice have lost every time.

Finally it is also troubling in that Elon has claimed that Tesla is different from all the other car manufacturers and is pro-consumer. Why then engage in restrictive trade practices that punish the consumer? This is a sensitive issue for many Canadians in that car manufacturers have used restrictive trade practices to try to keep much cheaper (at times) US vehicles out of the Canadian market. Price discrimination is not an issue as they are equivalently priced, but Tesla must realize there are millions of Canadians that live south of the border and if they return to Canada any time in the future (or until this policy is reversed by Court order) must leave their Tesla behind.

EdwardG.NO2CO2 | July 30, 2014

@Andrzej1, thanks for taking the time to add your comments. I am one of the frustrated and annoyed Tesla Owners with cars on both sides of the border. I am going to persue my concerns with Tesla and fortunately have the time and resources to push for fairness in this matter. I can't believe there are any significant upgrades necessary to bring it into compliance so the SC resource excuse is not credible!

Andrzej1 | July 30, 2014


You're welcome!

I too find it incredulous that the USA Tesla Model S has insurmountable issues with the Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS) rules. Has Tesla or Transport Canada told you which specific regulation(s) is/are being violated?

CMVSS rules were considerably more onerous in the past and made personal importation prohibitively expensive in some cases. However after innumerable complaints, CMVSS rules have come more in line with US rules and it it really rare for them to actually make the car totally inadmissible. Many car manufacturers have zero issues with them. Why can't Tesla?

I am sure if enough people complain, the rule making the vehicle non-compliant can be exempted or amended as it has in the past to facilitate individual importation ie. crash bumpers, provided of course that Tesla cooperates in the matter.

I wish you the best of luck! I am confidant that with your determination in this matter you will be victorious in the end!

EdwardG.NO2CO2 | July 30, 2014

@Andrzej1, there are only two items I have been told about but nothing official. The seat belt latch must have a red insert where the buckle is locked in, and the fob security protocol needs changes. These were whisper comments so who knows how valid they are. The running lights up here are just the led headlight brows so can't see a problem with that either. And the mileage/kilometer setting is user defined right on the main screen. The 3G connections work for all the American Teslas traveling up here! What is left is the safest car in the world that is already being imported into Canada by the Manufacturer.

There has to be some quirky thing no one expects if there is any valid reason for their action.

Thanks for your support!

phebert | July 31, 2014

I just did import a roadster and although the changes were expensive, they were all possible (for some reason they changed a lot of hardware).
I'm sure it would be even easier for the MS as most changes will only be software.

They basically are the following:
- daylights (does exist in the US)
- electronic immobilization system with keyfob (specific to Canada)
- odometer & speedometer in Km
- SIM card change from a US to a Canadian mobile operator
- homelink module is specific to Canada!!!
- bilingual stickers all over the place :-)

No fenders or crash test required!

Really no good reason to block imports to Canada.

Available 'used' Tesla's are so rare in Canada that not having access to the US market is really restrictive!

Red Sage ca us | August 1, 2014

What about the converse? Does a US Citizen, with a home in Canada, have to 'import' a car purchased in Canada, to the US?

AmpedRealtor | August 1, 2014

@ Red Sage,

My partner just had this issue. He has a Canadian purchased Chevy pickup truck. In order to register and license the truck here in Arizona, he had to go through the importation process.

Brian H | August 1, 2014

All cars have a km. option already, n'est ce pas?

Red Sage ca us | August 1, 2014

Interesting. There are people who drive around Los Angeles with British Columbia Canada or Juarez Mexico license plates all the time... Cops don't bother them any more than they do the people who have Washington, Oregon, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, or Texas license plates. That is to say, not at all. I think they only care if a California license plate has its registration up to date. Of course, insurance companies may feel differently...

EdwardG.NO2CO2 | August 2, 2014

@Red Sage, the issues are about importing a Tesla into Canada from USA or vice versa, not driving across the border either way!

bduke | August 3, 2014

Andrzej1: I find it interesting that you want to blame the unions for this. I would wager that it is more about money and the payment of sales tax. But you probably think unions cause most problems.

EdwardG.NO2CO2 | August 3, 2014

"As for why Canada has a Registrar of Imported Vehicles and its ridiculous requirements one can blame the triumvirate of the Unions, the Big Three and the car dealers who do not want to compete in any way with US dealers"
There is nothing more protectionist than a Union, it's what the do!

Red Sage ca us | August 4, 2014

No, I mean there are people who obviously live in Los Angeles, but purchase & register their cars in other states, or Canada, or Mexico. I once worked with a girl who never took the OHIO plates off her car, and never went back to renew registration. There is a pizza shop a block away from my house that has a Ford Ka, with Mexican plates, as a delivery vehicle... Plenty of people are not 'just passing through'. Cops leave them all alone, unless they are speeding, or parked illegally. Technically, they are supposed to register here within 30 days if establishing residency.

Pungoteague_Dave | August 4, 2014

It is mostly the bilingual stickers - Canada is fastidious about protecting and observing French language requirements that are sacred there - at least to a very vocal minority. Every car anywhere in Canada has to be able to be sold in the Montreal region. Warmer, kinder, fueled more by Tim Hortons than kWh. Probably two dozen stickers need modification/supplementation/replacement. You'd also need new visors.

Rocky_H | August 4, 2014

Ah, that's it. Canada requires lights in the vanity mirrors, and Tesla can't possibly do that. :)

Brian H | August 5, 2014

PD is right. It's the burden of prolix French translations, and finding space for them, on important little stickers, like, "Danger! High Voltage", which becomes something like, "Attention! Il ne faut pas mettre le doigt dans cet trou-çi, parçe que on pourrait devenier un crispy critter!" And so on. ®

Andrzej1 | August 5, 2014


Sales tax!?!!? This is a wager I would gladly take in that it is one that you would lose. The RIV has nothing to do with collecting a sales tax on a vehicle. That function is performed by the CBSA and possibly the Province where the vehicle is licensed.

As for the Unions role in the establishment of this protectionist measure, the CAW has always led the charge whenever the Federal government has talked about opening up the car market. They have invariably promised retribution at the polls if the government of the day would go ahead with any further trade liberalization always claiming that this would lead to plant closures and a massive loss of their membership.

Andrzej1 | August 5, 2014

@Red Sage

What would do they do about their car insurance?

I own a vacation property and if I chose to register my car to that address, I would save about 40% in premiums. When I pointed out to my insurance company that I knew of a couple people who did this, they warned me that if they at any time discovered any individual engaged in this practice they would immediately cancel the insurance policy of the offending party deeming this an act of insurance fraud. They hastened to point out that once my insurance had been cancelled by them for insurance fraud, it would be very difficult for me to find another insurer willing to extend me any coverage.

frankydude | August 5, 2014

I did send last week the question directly to Tesla Motors Canada, about the requirements or technical differences between a US specd and a Canadian specd model S.
Unfortunately, I did not receive any answer - radio silence!

Does anybody here had some better luck getting an answer from the company than me?

hpjtv | August 5, 2014

@Andrzej1 I completely agree with what you are saying. When my sister moved to Florida for work, she had to register her vehicle in Florida, when she moved back to Canada, she had to re-register back here. I think most insurance companies will only cover you out of country (not state/province) for no more than 30 days.

@Red Sage now all these people you know who live within a certain state and have their vehicles registered elsewhere, what do you think would happen if they were to make a claim? The police left them alone because how would they know these people are committing insurance fraud. The stickers on their license plates look legitimate and unless they get pulled over for an offense, how would anyone know? Anyways, you should change your insurance within 30 days of moving and your drivers license within 90 days.

Anyways, back on topic, I don't think it has anything to do with the RIV as listed in note-2 of I think us Canadians just need to petition Tesla to change their stance on this. I'd be more than willing to pay for all the required modifications as long as it ultimately does not cost more for the same vehicle from Tesla.

Red Sage ca us | August 14, 2014

Andrzej1, "What would do they do about their car insurance?"

They lie. "Oh, I was on vacation..."; or "Oh, I was visiting my Mom..."; or "Oh, we had a family emergency when Grandma slipped and fell in the shower at Leisure World..."

hpjtv, "now all these people you know who live within a certain state and have their vehicles registered elsewhere, what do you think would happen if they were to make a claim?"

I don't have to know them. All you have to do is leave for your daily commute the same time of day during the week. You'll begin to notice you see the same license plates every day on the 405 FWY. Besides, someone cheap enough to be paying ninety bucks a year for auto insurance on an 86 Ford Escort probably doesn't care too much about claims anyway.

I think that it was December 31, 2011 that a law that had supposedly been passed to combat people from other states bringing their cars to California and never registering or insuring them here was last in effect. See, the fun thing is, cops didn't enforce the law that way. The people from British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and where ever else would never be stopped.

Instead, since the law was poorly written, cops found it easier to enforce the law to pull over people who had California license plates that were expired and cite them. If they were found to not have insurance, or have an expired drivers license, the fine would be higher, and the cars would be impounded for a 30 day minimum period. Since the cars that were in that situation were generally driven by the working poor, the fines and fees amounted to more than the cars were worth. The municipality, county, or state would put the cars up for auction and get their revenue that way instead.

Someone must have noticed that around 99.999% of the people affected by the law in practice were California residents -- not owners of the out-of-state vehicles the law was meant to target. They probably filed a class action suit of some sort, alleging literal highway robbery, not to mention letter of the law vs the spirit of the law, and won. So January 1, 2012 the law was done away with. There was probably something about a Rico Act or a Constitutional Amendment having to do with unfair levy of fines involved as well...

EdwardG.NO2CO2 | August 14, 2014

@frankydude, I started writing last April. 5 emails and So far no explanation at all!

frankydude | August 16, 2014

Thanks for trying, Edward.

Tesla seems that they don't want to answer this question as there are really no good reasons to block importation of model S from USA to Canada.

I am deceived that Tesla simply does not answer our concern.

They are probably more concerned to answer about the Edmund's criticism of the drive train reliability.

EdwardG.NO2CO2 | August 16, 2014

Franklydude, :

"They are probably more concerned to answer about the Edmund's criticism of the drive train reliability

How much did its influence the new warranty just announced?

On the other topic, I am going in to the SC to speak to the manager (in two weeks) who has been involved in my quest. I will ask him to provide the highest contact for the next barrage if he can't help further.

Peter A | October 20, 2014

Is there any update on this? Imports still banned? There is a considerable difference in pricing between used Model S's across the border especially with the recent influx of trades.

hpjtv | October 20, 2014

Still nothing, it is not Canada but Tesla in this case. See notes: