19.8.2016   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

C 303/86


Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the ‘Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the approval and market surveillance of motor vehicles and their trailers, and of systems, components and separate technical units intended for such vehicles’

(COM(2016) 31 final — 2016/0014 (COD))

(2016/C 303/11)

Rapporteur:

Mr Jan SIMONS

On 4 February and on 11 February 2016, the European Parliament and the Council respectively, decided to consult the European Economic and Social Committee, under Article 114 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, on the:

Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the approval and market surveillance of motor vehicles and their trailers, and of systems, components and separate technical units intended for such vehicles

(COM(2016) 31 final — 2016/0014 (COD)).

The Section for the Single Market, Production and Consumption, which was responsible for preparing the Committee’s work on the subject, adopted its opinion on 10 May 2016.

At its 517th plenary session, held on 25 and 26 May 2016 (meeting of 25 May), the European Economic and Social Committee adopted the following opinion by 157 votes to 2 with 2 abstentions.

1.   Conclusions and recommendations

1.1

The EESC welcomes the EC proposal and its aim to improve the effectiveness of the legal framework for achieving economic, environmental and social goals, contributing to foster independence and accountability in the system. However, the importance of creating well-balanced legislation should be stressed, as well as the need for establishing effective cost- efficient measures.

1.2

In order to reduce the differences in interpretation and strictness in application across Member States, the EESC supports the proposed shift from a directive to a regulation. The EESC strongly suggests doing the same in future with all internal market rules, where appropriate.

1.3

This revision exercise involves adopting a range of legislative acts and synchronising a number of deadlines. The Commission, the Parliament and the Council are urged to adopt a suitable and ambitious timeline for adoption of the delegated and implementing acts, which is currently absent.

1.4

Detailed market surveillance prescriptions aim to effectively exclude non-compliant products from this specific market. However, it is necessary to put in place effective and cost-efficient measures, especially those impacting on market operations and product cost. An effective and straightforward system for coordination and cooperation between all the parties involved, especially the Member States’ activities, is essential.

1.5

Improvements to the designation, periodical verification and functioning of technical services are positive elements, but a number of onerous and redundant requirements are proposed which would increase costs and delays both to the administrations and manufacturers without yielding any real benefits.

1.6

More detailed procedures should be established to introduce the new concept of time validity for approval certificates more efficiently.

1.7

The EESC welcomes further clarification and simplification of the procedures and requirements impacting on small and medium enterprises, together with niche markets, spare parts and components. It also recommends that the type-approval of aftermarket products impacting on safety and environmental performances be duly considered and regulated.

2.   Introduction and background

2.1

The automotive industry is a major player in the EU economy. It provided 2,3 million direct jobs and 9,8 million indirect jobs in 2012. About 75 % of the original equipment components and technology for vehicles comes from independent suppliers. The turnover totals EUR 859 billion, which represents 6,4 % of the EU gross domestic product.

2.2

The legal framework for the EU type-approval system is Directive 2007/46/EC (1), setting out the procedures for the approval of new vehicles, trailers and their systems and components to ensure safety and environmental standards. Seventy specific technical regulations are required, many of which are international regulations established by the United Nations.

2.3

General provisions concerning market surveillance apply in accordance with Regulation (EC) 2008/765 (2).

2.4

The Commission started reviewing the legal framework for motor vehicle type-approval already in 2010.

2.5

The current framework has come under particular criticism since September 2015, after it was revealed that Volkswagen had used ‘defeat devices’, a special type of software to circumvent the emissions requirements. In 2016, the Commission indicated that ‘the mechanisms for ensuring a harmonised implementation and enforcement of the current legal framework are not sufficiently robust’ and ‘that, as a result of divergences in the interpretation and application of the rules’, by Member States, ‘the Directive’s main objectives have been undermined’.

2.6

The Commission’s impact assessment on this proposal identifies a huge cost for non-compliant vehicles and parts that may total up to EUR 12 billion annually.

3.   Commission proposal

3.1

The main results of a public consultation (carried out in 2010), an impact assessment and a fitness check (2013), together with the conclusions of the Communication ‘CARS 2020: Action Plan for a competitive and sustainable automotive industry in Europe’ (2012), call for a revision of the procedures for the surveillance of the automotive products on the EU market to make sure that all vehicles and parts meet the regulatory requirements, whilst at the same time limiting the administrative burdens, supporting research and the development of innovative products, encouraging international harmonisation and considering the needs of small and medium enterprises.

3.2

The proposal will help to achieve three objectives:

to reinforce the independence and quality of the testing of vehicles to be placed on the market,

to improve the effectiveness of the market surveillance system by controlling new vehicles and parts or those already on the road,

to reinforce the type-approval system with greater European oversight.

3.3

Amongst other measures, the Commission proposes to modify the remuneration system to avoid financial links between testing laboratories and manufacturers, which could lead to conflicts of interest and compromise the independence of testing. The proposal also provides for more stringent performance criteria for these technical services, which should be regularly and independently audited to obtain and maintain their designation. National type-approval authorities will be subject to peer reviews to ensure that the relevant rules are implemented and enforced rigorously across the EU.

3.4

This proposal establishes a scheme for managing and coordinating spot-checks on new vehicles and parts and those already on the road, and gives the Commission power to carry out checks and initiate recalls.

4.   General comments

4.1

The EESC welcomes the EC proposal as a whole, and stresses the importance of achieving well-balanced legislation. The effects of this proposal will result in establishing cost-beneficial measures able to:

allow for a better level playing field where market operators would benefit from fair competition,

improve protection for consumers and the environment against non-compliant products which are contributing to road accidents and poor air quality,

carefully consider the needs of small and medium enterprises,

help restore consumer’s trust in this market sector.

4.2

One aspect requiring attention is the timetable for the introduction of new requirements and procedures which will give administrations and manufacturers sufficient lead time to adapt. This timetable should also be fully synchronised with all the related delegated and implementing acts to be adopted in the near future by the Commission.

4.3

Renewed emphasis is placed on market surveillance and dedicated new prescriptions are being introduced to address the specific situation of this market sector. However, steps must be taken to avoid the proliferation of comparable controls and the multiplication of requests for similar information to avoid market distortions and excessive burdens or costs, and objects related to market surveillance should be obtained at market prices; in this respect, a robust and effective system for coordination and cooperation between all the parties involved (market surveillance authority, market operators, manufacturer, type-approval authority) must be put in place also taking into account best practices existing in and/or outside Europe.

4.4

The EESC supports the aim of fostering the effectiveness of the type-approval framework by reducing the differences in interpretation and strictness in application across Member States and to make the whole legal system more robust. A first step forward is the proposed shift from Directive 2007/46/EC to the legal instrument of an EU regulation which is deemed most appropriate. The EESC strongly suggests doing the same in future with all internal market rules, where appropriate.

4.4.1

The proposal places great importance on improving procedures for the designation and periodical verification of the technical service(s) appointed by a type-approval authority as a testing laboratory. This can be considered as a positive feature. However, the proposal runs the risk of establishing onerous and redundant requirements that may increase costs and time delays without any real benefit, which would probably result in inadequate implementation. Moreover, excessive verification of the technical services qualifications, including double or cross-checks between authorities from different Member States, as well as the proposed frequency of verifications, do not seem cost efficient and can be in contradiction with the UNECE approval system.

4.4.2

The considerably more rigid and tighter principles for the invalidation of type-approval certificates, especially in the case of minor or administrative non-conformities, seems to go against the principles of ‘better regulation’ and should not lead, as now proposed, to the interruption of product sales.

4.4.3

The proposed scheme for a national fee structure, stipulating how the Member State should collect and manage the revenues deriving from type-approval activities seems disproportionate and threatens to make smaller authorities incapable of offering valuable services.

4.5

A completely new concept relates to the time validity of a type-approval certificate, which would expire after 5 years, with the possibility of being renewed if the type-approval authority certifies that it still complies with the applicable rules. This new measure can effectively help to reduce the number of ‘invalid’ certificates, but the extreme complexity and extensive nature of such certificates, which include hundreds of sub-certificates with different expiry dates, each linked to a different supplier of parts or components, requires more detailed and robust procedures than those described in the proposal.

4.5.1

It should be made clear if and how these procedures also relate to component or system approval, for which, in any case, type-approvals granted under the framework of the United Nations (UNECE) can only be regulated under the corresponding legal framework.

4.6

In order to raise the profile of vehicle strategies and specific functioning parameters that may influence safety and environmental performances, the proposal obliges the manufacturers to grant full access to any software or algorithm to the type-approval authority. These requirements are quite broad and need more detailed prescriptions, targeting the different cases and making clear that industrial confidentiality must always be respected.

4.7

The proposal intends to revise procedures and requirements impacting on small and medium enterprises and on niche products. The EESC welcomes the intention to further clarify and simplify procedures concerning:

‘multi-stage vehicles’ built by two or more manufacturers in subsequent stages,

individual approvals, for one or more particular vehicle(s),

national small series, for limited production at national level,

EU small series for buses and trucks for limited production at European level (passenger cars and vans already qualify for EU small series approval).

4.7.1

The EESC also recommends that the type-approval of aftermarket products impacting on safety and environmental performances be duly considered and regulated.

5.   Specific comments

5.1

‘End-of-series’ is a procedure needed to allow the registration of vehicles that remain unsold for commercial reasons while their type-approval expired due to technical obstacles to upgrading to new requirements. This procedure is already in place, but gives each Member State the right to act independently. The EESC particularly welcomes the proposal to harmonise the procedure at European level, but the proposed text still gives Member States the right to reject or limit the procedure. Only a truly European procedure can provide the certainty and stability needed to sustain the EU single market.

5.1.1

The ‘end-of-series’ text needs further clarification and editorial corrections, while time constraints could be further simplified in order to reduce the economic impact on sales volumes that are relatively marginal compared to the whole market.

5.2

The electronic ‘Certificate of Conformity’ exists already in some Member State and a Europe-wide project, ‘EReg’, is about to finalise a procedure for vehicle ‘electronic registration’ without paper documents. Two systems, the European Type-Approval Exchange System, ‘ETAES’, and the United Nations Database for the Exchange of Type-Approvals, ‘DETA’, deal with electronic archiving of type-approval certification. It would have been appropriate for the Commission to include in its proposal an incentive for the prompt introduction of European harmonised procedures for electronic submission and exchange of type-approval information and registration data to one common EU electronic database with public access as far as industrial confidentiality allows, which would result in the reduction of red-tape and costs and time savings for administrations, manufacturers and consumers, together with environmental benefits.

5.3

The revision of the legislative text is not consistent with the current system for numbering and item identification, which has been in place for many years. A change in the numbering system is not justified and would be a huge complication and create additional red tape for both administrations and manufacturers and it is reasonable to envisage several mistakes occurring for this reason, leading to higher costs and delays. A type-approval dossier can easily contain hundreds of pages of information, with thousands of numbered lines.

5.4

In the new ‘end-of-series’ procedure, it is proposed to print some specific information on the Certificate of Conformity (CoC) of each single vehicle in question, but this is impractical because the CoC is generally printed before the vehicle enters the market so it is neither possible to add further data at a later stage nor effective, because vehicles that are not sold cannot be identified from the outset. Should more information be needed for a selected number of vehicles at a certain time, then a separate document can be provided by the manufacturer, in line with the current procedure.

5.5

It is proposed to give type-approval authorities a three-month period in which to draw up an application for national small series approval and decide whether to accept it or not. This seems to be an excessive delay, especially for small businesses, and could be reduced to two months.

Brussels, 25 May 2016.

The President of the European Economic and Social Committee

Georges DASSIS


(1)  2007/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 September 2007 establishing a framework for the approval of motor vehicles and their trailers, and of systems, components and separate technical units intended for such vehicles (Framework Directive) (OJ L 263, 9.10.2007, p. 1).

(2)  Regulation (EC) No 765/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 July 2008 setting out the requirements for accreditation and market surveillance relating to the marketing of products and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 339/93 (OJ L 218, 13.8.2008, p. 30).