New Year Brings Tighter Regulations for ‘Chocolate Cars' in Tamaulipas

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REYNOSA, Mex. – On the other side of the border, the state of Tamaulipas is tightening rules in an attempt to crack down on illegal vehicles.

A new program will be issuing chips for cars coming from outside of the country, impacting thousands of vehicles foreign to Tamaulipas.

Starting Jan. 1, as a way to guarantee a car was acquired legally, a new owner of a vehicle must get a special sticker after paying taxes to import the car into Mexico, according to the director of communications in Tamaulipas.

The rules apply to what is sometimes called “chocolate cars.”

These aren’t just used vehicles. In Mexico, it is a vehicle imported in from a different country.

"They are called ‘chocolate’ cause they're not from here or there,” Alfredo Quintanilla from Saenz Motors explains. “They are cars that have been stolen or acquired through other means."

Quintanilla says they do not sell “chocolate cars” at the McAllen establishment.

"They get to the border in different ways. They don't have a title,” he says.

It's something Erstina Petty says happens all too often in the border towns of Rio Grande Valley.

"They're always stealing cars. Lived all my life here in the Valley," says Petty, “and I hear of so many cars being transferred to Mexico. They automatically disappear."

The Tamaulipas director of communications says the new sticker verifies the driver has third-party damage insurance, a new requirement for all vehicles traveling through Tamaulipas, including thousands of so-called 'chocolate cars' on the road.

The Tamaulipas Undersecretary of Revenue says in Mexico, eight of 10 crimes committed are by people who drive these vehicles. They'll now have an electronic trail verifying the owner.

It’s something like what Petty's friend experiences at international bridges each time she crosses the border to visit friends in Reynosa.

"They put in the license plate. Her car is from San Juan and automatically they know where she's from," she says.

Quintanilla explains the law will not impact vehicles with registration in the U.S.  He says it will only impact vehicles that are staying in Tamaulipas.

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