Automaker lobbyists are calling for the U.S. and the European Union to seek common safety regulations into one overarching standard.
Car company lobbyists claim that automakers are charged the equivalent of a “25-percent or more” tariff when exporting cars across the Atlantic due to the higher costs of meeting standards in one or both regions. “The U.S. and Europe have the most advanced auto-safety regulations in the world, and in many cases, the differences between the standards are very modest,” Rob Strassburger, a representative of lobbyist group Auto Alliance, said in a statement.
Automakers are hoping to unify crash tests and thousands of similar laws that could work in both Europe and the U.S. Seeking common safety regulations, they’ve commissioned a study between the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute and its Swedish counterpart at Chalmers University.
Outside of the U.S. and E.U., automakers have been selling cars with substandard or deleted safety equipment in the name of higher profits. Unified regulations could help stop such practices if a free-trade agreement could also be developed.
A single set of regulations for Europe and U.S. will be very difficult to put into place. For instance, European crash tests require automakers to meet standards for pedestrian impacts, whiplash, and infant protection—even infant dummies and car-seat installations are evaluated for each car. The U.S. government necessitates these tests but their performance in them isn’t even scored. The Feds can’t agree on how to test active safety features, but the IIHS is mirroring European tests for evaluating auto-braking systems.
Competing interests among automakers, governments and the insurance industry are hampering efforts to standardize safety requirements worldwide. That means extra engineering to make different versions of vehicles for different markets.
“Each party negotiating this has their own views about their own standards being better,” said Ronald Medford, senior associate administrator of vehicle safety at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which sets U.S. standards. “But as long as we can show we’re not lowering safety and we’re lowering cost, we’re all interested in that.”
Perhaps if they can agree on safety standards automakers just might pass on the savings to consumers, if not at least shareholders would reap the benefits.
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