Norms and standards

    Type approval for vehicles

    Before a car can drive on the road it has to fulfill various criteria. These are standardized on a European level.

    Before a car can drive on the road it has to fulfill various criteria. These are standardized on a European level.

    Registration only with EU type approval

    Type testing examines whether all EU regulations for new models have been met. With the addition of market surveillance, the EU member states and the EU Commission also have the option of checking the compliance of approved vehicles when new and also those already on the road.

    Type approval is regulated at the European level in Framework Regulation (EU) 2018/858. Article 1 states that the directive establishes a common framework for the approval of vehicles and the systems, components, and separate technical units intended for use in those vehicles. This shows that not only the vehicle as such, but also its components, are subject to type approval.

    The type approval of a new vehicle type simultaneously includes the approval of the vehicle parts installed in the vehicle type—but only for this particular type. Furthermore, if an approval procedure is successfully completed in an EU member state, the manufacturer can market its product throughout the EU and register it in all European countries without further testing. Type approval is therefore an important building block for the launch of new vehicles, as without EU type approval there can be no registration in the European market. EU type approval affects around 13 million passenger cars and two million commercial vehicles each year.

    New jurisdiction for national authorities

    In September 2020, the previous Directive 2007/46/EC, which set the framework for the type approval of vehicles in categories M, N, and O, was replaced by the new Framework Regulation (EU) 2018/858. This represents a fundamental reform of the European type-approval process. Among other things, the market surveillance function has been significantly expanded, considerably expanding the powers of national authorities. In addition, market surveillance by the EU Commission is being introduced at European level.

    Whereas the previous procedure mainly involved the testing of prototypes prior to approval, in the future member states will also have to carry out regular spot checks on vehicles that have already been approved for the market in the countries concerned. The results will then be made publicly available. When new vehicle types are approved, this data is checked by technical services regulated by the respective national approval authority—in Germany this is the Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt (Federal Motor Transport Authority). The European Union has thus further harmonized the handling of type testing.

    New, more comprehensive demands on manufacturers, technical services, and authorities

    Type approval authorities and the technical services must now meet stricter requirements and undergo regular checks or audits. National approval authorities are given the option of initiating follow-up audits if there is a suspicion that a manufacturer has made false statements. Furthermore, type approval for the entire vehicle will be limited to five years if no supplement to the approval is issued. For commercial vehicles and trailers, this period is limited to seven years if no supplement is issued. The plan is also for the software in electronic systems to be disclosed to the approval authorities and technical services as a way of preventing manipulation.

    The basic concept of the existing type approval is retained—albeit with increased transparency throughout all processes. There are far-reaching control and intervention options for the authorities. The new regulation also governs access to repair and maintenance information, the uniform implementation of recalls throughout the EU, and the publication of information on recalls.

    Since there is still little experience with the type approval regulation, a national forum on "Type Approval and Market Surveillance" has been initiated by the BMVI (Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure) to work on the open questions, and also cover software updates. The financing of market surveillance is the responsibility of the member states. In Germany, the Federal Motor Transport Authority plans to inspect 70 vehicles per year in the medium term, rising to 200 vehicles per year in the long term.

    Lack of detailed regulations leading to greater need for consensus

    Although the new Framework Regulation (EU) 2018/858 has been mandatory for new vehicle types since September 1, 2020, numerous legal acts regulating the details of the implementation of the regulation were still missing as of the deadline. This leads to considerable uncertainties and numerous open questions and problems for vehicle manufacturers, who are already adapting their developments to the new legal framework and converting their processes and systems.

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