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Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

There's big money to be made in re-selling luxury vehicles to "China's gray market," according to one man who experienced it first-hand, Travis Simpkins.

The big picture: Simpkins writes in Car and Driver that "an enterprising individual can make $10,000 this month buying luxury cars. You need a heartbeat, a driver's license, and that's about it."

"The manufacturers and their dealers have worked to design a foolproof system that will prevent you from buying a car to export to another country. Foolproof never works, though, as it underestimates the ingenuity of the fool."
— Travis Simpkins in Car and Driver
How he did it
  • He bought vehicles from a San Diego company which fronted him the money, he writes.
  • He was a straw buyer — which "typically has the shelf life and career trajectory of a Trump appointee."
  • Simpkins writes: "A single car can earn a straw buyer anywhere from $500 to $7,000 in commission. ... At the beginning of 2014, I did receive a 1099 for $30,500 from the company in San Diego."
What's happening in China
  • Simpkins writes that China's 25% tariff on new-car imports, comined "with car companies charging steeper prices for luxury vehicles there than they do in the U.S....it is easy to see how exporters can turn a profit."
  • "For example, the current base price of a new Range Rover is $88,345 here, but it starts at 1,518,000 yuan in China, which is about $240,000."
  • In 2015, Simpkins writes, "the Chinese government endorsed the gray market by creating a program that makes it easier for Chinese dealers to bring in vehicles directly from foreign markets."

Be smart: It can't last forever. Simpkins writes that in 2015, a Land Rover dealer "refused to sell my mom a vehicle...because our last name set off a DEFCON warning. I haven't bought a car for export in almost two years."

  • The risk: While Simpkins was "lyin' and buyin'," federal authorities got involved at the request of car manufacturers.
  • "Secret Service and Homeland Security agents were using civil forfeiture statutes to impound cars and freeze bank accounts."

Go deeper: Our special report on a new era of global trade wars

Go deeper

"Atmospheric river" swings Northern California from drought to flood

Satellite view of the bomb cyclone swirling off the coast of the Pacific Northwest and the atmospheric river affecting California on Oct. 24. Photo: CIRA/RAMMB

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are delivering historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest.

Why it matters: The atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, was causing Northern California to whiplash from drought to flood, as it slowly moved south overnight. It's triggered widespread power outages, flooding and mudslides.

Updated 1 hour ago - World

U.S. threatens to cut aid to Sudan after military takeover

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok during a 2020 news conference in Khartoum, Sudan. Photo: Mahmoud Hjaj/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Sudan's civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was put under house arrest and several other ministers were detained Monday in what appears to be a military coup in the country, per local reports.

The latest: The head of the military faction of the Sudanese government, Gen. Abdul Fattah al-Burhan, said in a statement that he is announcing a state of emergency, suspending several parts of the interim constitution and dissolving the civilian government and interim sovereignty council — the highest governing body in the country.

Facebook's pivotal week

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

They're battening down the hatches at Facebook headquarters this week as the company faces a trifecta of tumult: a continuing wave of negative press coverage fueled by document leaks, a critical earnings report Monday and a reported name change looming.

The big picture: All this is unfolding as Mark Zuckerberg tries to transform Facebook from a social network into the prime mover behind a new "metaverse" of VR- and AR-driven remote work and play.