Starting September 1, 2020, a new European vehicle type-approval framework will be in place, as European Regulation (EU) 2018/858 (the “Regulation”) has entered into force. The Regulation significantly raises the quality level and independence of vehicle type-approval and testing, increases checks of cars that are already on the EU market, and strengthens the overall system with European oversight.
The new Regulation aims to strengthen the role of the European Union in the automotive sector, which is still largely the responsibility of national regulatory authorities, by increasing the quality of vehicle approval and increasing checks on vehicles already in circulation.
The new rules were proposed by the European Commission in the wake of the Dieselgate scandal and a compromise with the European Parliament and Council was reached on December 7, 2017 (more information available here). This reform is only one part of the European Commission’s wider work for a clean, sustainable, and competitive car sector as set forth in the European Commission Communication “Europe on the Move” (accessible here). European Commission initiatives include air quality and CO2 standards, improvements in emissions testing for cars, and support for alternative fuels and battery production.
The Regulation repeals the previous Directive No. 2007/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of September 5, 2007, establishing a framework for the approval of motor vehicles and trailers and of the systems, components, and separate technical units intended for such vehicles (“Directive”). In this regard, the Directive was crafted through the viewpoint of the European Commission, which means, among other things, that it strongly stated the necessity of (i) introducing new market oversight measures; (ii) harmonizing procedures for homologation and oversight of manufacturing compliance applied by the authorities and technical services of the Member States; (iii) clarifying the roles and the responsibilities of the authorities and stakeholders involved in application of the rules; and (iv) ensuring independence by avoiding conflicts of interest.
With regard to the Directive, the Regulation requires each Member State to designate a national authority in charge of issuing approvals for vehicles only and exclusively in accordance with the Regulation itself.
The Regulation also requires Member States to designate national market surveillance authorities, independent and autonomous from those for homologation, vested with oversight powers, such as, among others, the power to carry out compliance checks of samples for vehicles not yet put into service on the market.
In addition, under the Regulation each Member State designates one or more service technicians in charge of carrying out tests and inspections of new models; such technicians must perform their functions independently from the homologation authorities. However, starting September 1, 2020 the technical services will be subject to independent audits that verify whether they are able to obtain or maintain the necessary designation for inspection activity. To this end, national authorities will have to use accreditation bodies, as the possibility of audits is also envisaged as being handled jointly by the Commission and national experts from other Member States. In addition, the national authorities for homologation will be subject to peer review to ensure rigorous implementation and enforcement of relevant standards throughout the European Union.
Moreover, the new Regulation provides the European Commission the power to carry out tests and inspections of vehicles and to respond immediately to any irregularities found by imposing upon manufacturers administrative sanctions up to EUR 30,000.00 per car.
Finally, in order to coordinate practices that Member States will have to implement in order to comply with the new regulatory framework and to facilitate the exchange of information between the European Commission, the approval authorities, and the supervisory authority of the market, the Regulation provides for the creation of a consultative forum where through their representatives Member States will have access to the various approval and supervisory authorities for the relevant market.