SEMA News - March 2010

First Quarter 2010 International Regulatory Update  

By Linda Spencer

Selling Specialty Products Throughout Europe: Reality or Still A Dream?

From left: SEMA Director of International and Government Relations Linda Spencer; Mathias Albert, German Association VDAT; Renato Gallo, Italian association ASCAR and president of European Tuning Organization (ETO); and Peter van Mol of the Belgian association FMA participate at a recent ETO meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, to discuss national and European-wide legislative and regulatory developments.  

Below is a roundup of proposed or recently enacted legislative and regulatory developments affecting the specialty-equipment industry in key overseas markets. For more information on overseas developments, SEMA members are invited to contact SEMA Director of International and Government Relations Linda Spencer.

Specialty-equipment companies have begun utilizing new tools made available to businesses to ensure that the sale and use of accessories and performance products currently marketed in Europe are allowed to be freely sold throughout the continent. Concerned that national governments were either banning products or adding local requirements in violation of the Mutual Recognition Treaty, the European Parliament implemented measures in May 2009 to promote a single market for automotive specialty equipment. The measures would restrict national decisions that prevent products lawfully manufactured in one member state from being sold within the borders of the others. The new regulations also created resources—including designated points of contact in each country—for businesses to use in case of problems.

In early tests of the system, performance suspension manufacturers seeking to sell their products in Austria and Spain have been in touch with their designated points of contact. While the three companies attempting to use the system received written responses, the information was often incomplete or erroneously stated that companies needed to comply with local laws. The European Tuning Association (ETO), of which SEMA is a member, is working to gather evidence of difficulties faced by specialty-equipment companies. In initial discussions, several key European parliamentarians expressed interest in following up on any problems encountered and urged additional companies to test the system to see where it works and where further education and/or clarification of  the process is required.

New faces on both the European Commission (EC) and European Parliament are providing good political momentum. The nomination of a new EC—and specifically of a new internal market commissioner—provides the opportunity to increase attention on these issues. The relaunch of the single market has been presented as one of the top priorities for EC President José Manuel Barroso.

New Tests Being Proposed for American and Other Third-Country Vehicles Imported Into Europe

European officials are considering the adoption of a new draft Harmonised [sic] Individual Vehicle Approval. The American Import Agents Association (AIAA), a group based in the United Kingdom, is opposing these new requirements, stating that they will greatly increase costs to those seeking to import vehicles through this low-volume channel because the proposed regulations are much more complex than existing national regulations. AAIA describes its group as micro-businesses that typically employ two to six people and offer assistance to consumers in the United Kingdom who wish to import an American vehicle not offered for sale by the manufacturers in Europe.

The group noted that most of the cars imported are new vehicles ordered in advance by enthusiasts who wish to drive vehicles produced overseas. These vehicles are imported at very low levels: AAIA estimates that fewer than 500 new American vehicles are imported into the United Kingdom annually through this channel. These vehicles, the association notes, are not built to European standards but are built to broadly equivalent U.S. or Canadian safety and environmental standards.

The current process allows these vehicles to be registered in any of the 27 countries in the European Union (EU) by submitting the vehicle to a national homologation process called Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA). The new, more extensive regulations being proposed result from a problem that occurred several years ago with some substandard Chinese vehicles being imported into Europe. These vehicles erroneously received German IVA even though they didn’t meet German requirements. AAIA notes that new American vehicles have been independently imported into Europe for more than 50 years, yet the commission has never documented any problems with an American vehicle. AAIA states that importers will face problems that include U.S.-spec headlights not passing European inspection. In addition, a full European emissions test and noise test will be required, which will cost thousands of dollars.

French Wheel Stamp of Approval
Fédération des Importateurs et Constructeurs de l’Accessoire et du Tuning (FICAT), a French association, is in the final stages of creating a framework for a voluntary quality stamp program for specialty wheels sold in France—a label which evaluates precise requirements regarding over-sizing rules, reliable vehicles correspondences, product quality standards (such as impact, cornering, rolling and corrosion resistance) and so on. The privately issued quality seals were to be considered only for wheels that meet Japanese wheel standards for measuring impact strength and radial load resistance,
among others.


From the left: Eric Rommerts, Dutch Association RAI; Andrea Pinkerton, secretary general, European Tuning Organization (ETO); Gerrit Huysmans, Belgian association FMA; Mathias Albert; Renato Gallo; Peter van Mol; Linda Spencer; George Fonsos, Greek association HATA and ETO technical adviser; and Joao Patricio and Helder Blues, both from the Portuguese association ANECRA.  

Following concerns raised by the European Tuning Association, FICAT amended its language to also consider the designation for specialty wheels that have been tested to other than Japanese wheel standards if they are equivalent or more stringent. Translated into English, the proposed language states:

The strength rating for these three criteria must be equal to or greater than that of the Japan Light Alloy Wheel (JWL) standard. All of the wheel models listed must pass the strength tests that are carried out according to the JWL standard protocol in respect of each dimension (see attached description): Any positive results obtained in respect of more stringent test protocols (e.g. TÜV—Technischer Überwachungs-Verein or Technical Inspection Association—standard) must therefore be considered adequate and approved.

In order for a wheel model to be recognized by FICAT, the person or company tasked with bringing the model to market in France must be able to provide test results that are readable (in French and English), credible and verifiable. At minimum, the protocol used for the tests must reflect the parameters cited in the JWL standard. Any strength standard based on parameters that are equivalent to or more stringent than those of the JWL standard—the TÜV standard, for example—is also recognized by FICAT.

FICAT reserves the right to request that these results be submitted by any trader selling wheel rims in France that wants to be recognized by the federation. If applicable and at its discretion, FICAT may require additional tests to be carried out at the expense of the applying company and by a laboratory approved by the federation (e.g., TÜV or other laboratories) in order to clarify or confirm certain data.

While the quality seal would initially be a tool for manufacturers to market their products, FICAT is likely to urge the French government to make quality seals mandatory in order to sell wheels in France. The European Tuning Association is in continuing discussions with FICAT.
European Tire Labeling by 2012

Energy efficiency labels for aftermarket tires (also known as low rolling resistance tires) will be required in Europe as
of November 2012, according to new regulations recently approved by the European Parliament. Tires will be rated from A to G, a classification system that is used on European energy labels in a wide range of applications from appliances to buildings and aircraft. The most efficient tires will be awarded an A rating, and member states will only be allowed to legislate purchasing incentives for tires with an energy efficiency rating of C or better.

The regulations were developed as part of the efficiency action plan (COM(2006) 545), which seeks a 20% reduction in the total energy consumption of the European Union by 2020. Tire makers are being “encouraged” to comply with the regulation before its formal introduction in 2012.

Following an outcry from businesses concerned over the expected costs, the new label does not have to be mounted on the tire as long as the seller shows it to the consumer prior to purchase and includes the label with a proof of purchase. More specifically, the rating must be displayed at the point of sale and on technical advertising literature, such as catalogs, leaflets or web marketing. In addition to the tire’s energy efficiency, the label will be required to include information about the tire’s performance in wet conditions as well as the tire’s rolling noise in decibels.

One Product at a Time

Italy currently bans all specialty-equipment products unless an EU-wide or global harmonized standard exists for the product. The only other avenue for bringing non-harmonized products on the market is to obtain approval of the vehicle manufacturers. Since very few specialty products are regulated by European or international standards, the result is that consumers have few possibilities to personalize or upgrade their vehicles. The Italian government recently agreed to work with industry stakeholders to develop standards on a product-by-product basis. Regulations for performance brakes are expected to be discussed first. The new regulations—for brakes as well as a range of other specialty products—are likely to draw heavily upon or be based exclusively on German regulations.

Switzerland: Proposed Ban on Specialty Wheels Dropped

A proposal to ban aftermarket wheels that were sized differently from original equipment has been dropped following complaints by the Swiss specialty-equipment association. The ETO has been working closely with the Swiss aftermarket association on turning back this proposal, which threatened to devastate this niche.

Australia’s Anti-Hoon Laws

A $200,000 Lamborghini was impounded after the car was taken for a drive, without the owner’s knowledge or approval, while at a repair shop for routine maintenance. The joy-rider was clocked driving at 70 mph over the posted speed limit, resulting in a mandatory impoundment of the vehicle for 28 days under Western Australian laws. There are no exemptions in the law even when a vehicle is driven out of possession of the vehicle’s owner. Lawmakers imposed the measure to serve as a warning to “hoons.” Wikipedia defines a hoon as “a derogatory term used in Australia to refer to a younger person who engages in loutish, anti-social behavior.”

Proposed Ban on Suspension Abandoned

The Australian Motor Vehicle Certification Board Working Party had proposed a ban on suspension modifications if a vehicle is fitted standard with electronic stability control or an equivalent system. The Australian industry association, the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) has been able to halt the implementation of this provision, made without consultation with the industry, and has elicited a promise from government officials that the industry would have a chance for input regarding any future deliberations affecting member products.

Roo Bars to Be Banned in Australia?

Australian officials have proposed adopting the European Directive (2005/66/EC) that would ban so-called rigid bullbars, aka roo bars. The AAAA doesn’t believe it is possible to design and manufacture any form of an effective and a commercially viable bullbar that would meet the EU standard and says that it would be irresponsible for the Australian government to implement similar restrictions on bullbars. The association notes that the Australian Transport Safety Bureau is on record as stating that “there is a dearth of scientifically based studies of the effect of bull bars on road safety.”

Bull Bars to Be Banned in East Africa as Well?

A regulation has been proposed covering the East African Community (comprised of Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi and Kenya) calling for a ban on bullbars as of June 2010. The proposal cites discussions in Australia to ban these front-mounted products, citing concerns over pedestrian safety in case of an accident. The proposed law states that “no person shall manufacture, import, distribute, sell or fit bull bars” in the Community. The law calls for a prison term for offenders of no less than 12 months and/or a fine.  






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