Motor Vehicle Standards Act and vehicle certification

Motor Vehicle Standards Act and vehicle certification

The FCAI supports the objective of the Motor Vehicle Standards Act (MVSA); to set national uniform vehicle standards for vehicles entering the market. This is achieved through the Australian Design Rules (ADRs) and the Road Vehicle Certification System (RVCS).

The MVSA is the Australian legislation that sets the safety and environmental standards for vehicles entering the Australian market. These standards are the ADRs.

The Federal Government’s Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development assesses vehicles against the ADRs to ensure vehicles meet safety and environmental standards, prior to their introduction into Australia.

The FCAI supports the Government’s objective to harmonise ADRs with international standards, specifically, the United Nations Regulations (UN Regs) for light vehicles (L-category and MA, MB, MC and NA category vehicles). The FCAI position is that:

  • UN Regs must be allowed as alternative standards for existing and future ADRs.
  • Australia must apply any UN Reg that is accepted as an Alternative Standard for an ADR.
  • Any new ADRs must be based on a UN Reg and supported by a rigorous Regulation Impact Statement.

The current Government review of the MVSA and review of the Vehicle Certification procedures provide opportunities to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the MVSA and the vehicle certification processes. The FCAI is participating in both reviews.

The Motor Vehicle Standards Act Review

The Australian Government announced in early 2014 that it would review the MVSA, a move welcomed by the industry, including the FCAI. Information on the Review is available on the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development website.

The objective of the Review is to update and modernise the MVSA and seek efficiencies for business.

The FCAI notes that the MVSA is a complex piece of legislation that serves an important community safety function by setting national uniform vehicle standards for vehicles entering the market. The FCAI and members are working constructively with the Department and its review team to meet the review objective.

In addition to updating and modernising the MVSA, the FCAI sees the current review as an opportunity to improve the operation and effectiveness of the concessional schemes that exist for parallel and personal imports.

The FCAI submissions to this review are on the publication page of this website (Supplementary submission to the Motor Vehicle Standards Act Review, Submission in response to the Australian Government’s Motor Vehicle Standards Act Review).

Parallel and personal imports

Parallel imports, or ‘grey’ imports are vehicles imported into Australia by any means other than through the official brand.

The MVSA does not preclude more than one legal entity undertaking full volume certification of a motor vehicle, nor does it preclude the subsequent importation and sale of the same make and model. However, due to the significant costs involved with setting up a parallel supply and distribution channel, parallel imports of new full volume vehicles does not regularly occur in Australia.

Most parallel imports are imported legitimately through the Specialist and Enthusiast Vehicle Scheme (SEVS) or as a Personal Import.  These are concessional schemes, and allow significant concessions to the process of demonstrating how the vehicle meets the ADRs.

The intention of the SEVS is to make available vehicles that are not normally imported by the local representative of the brand and cater for specialists or enthusiasts. For example, US muscle cars or specialist vehicles for people with a disability. The FCAI recognises that there are businesses operating under SEVS which fulfil a niche market need and deliver high-quality products and after-sales support.

The current Personal Import scheme allows migrants settling in Australia, and expatriate Australians returning permanently to Australia to bring their personal vehicle into the country, if it has been owned for the qualifying period of 12 months.

The Government’s decision to allow personally imported ‘new’ motor vehicles is not supported by the FCAI or its members. On 10 February 2016, The Government has announced that the law will be changed so that, from 2018, a consumer will be able to personally import a new car or motor cycle from another country with comparable standards to Australia's, up to once every two years, if specified conditions are met. The FCAI’s concerns on this proposal are detailed in its 10 February 2016 media release, Consumers sold a dud on personal imports.

It is the FCAI’s strong view that the Government cannot change the legislation to allow the personal importation of motor vehicles without establishing significant additional administrative controls (i.e. red tape) to ensure compliance and enforcement of the scheme, in order to protect the over-arching objective of the Act. The decision has many down-side risks, and it remains unclear what (if any) public benefit would be achieved from such a change.

 

Australian Consumer Law

The rights of consumers of all goods, including motor vehicles, is protected by the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). The ACL is the principal consumer protection law in Australia and under the ACL, consumers have the same protections and expectations about business conduct wherever they are in Australia. Similarly, businesses have the same obligations and responsibilities wherever they operate in Australia.

The ACCC has developed a series of guides on the ACL, including a specific guide for the motor car and motorcycle sales and repair industries. The ACL Guide to Motor Vehicle Sales and repairs can be viewed on the ACCC website. The main focus of the guide is on consumer issues related to defects and failures in new and used motor vehicles. In particular it provides guidance on the legal rights and obligations created by consumer guarantees generated by the ACL.

The ACCC website page, buying parallel imports contains guidance to consumers when considering purchasing a parallel import. Importantly, the ACCC highlights that:

  • It may be more difficult to obtain a remedy if something goes wrong with a parallel import.
  • The seller of the parallel import cannot refuse to help the purchaser of the parallel imported good.
  • Although the product may carry a particular or popular brand name, if it is sold to you as a parallel import, the local manufacturer is not required to help you if the product develops a problem.

Questions and answers

Visit The risks associated with personal imports questions & answers for further information on the consumer risk, and explains how and why vehicles are specifically engineered for the Australian operating conditions.

Factsheet

The Australian Government’s decision to allow Australian consumers to personally import new cars into the country will mean that consumers will not have the same protection they have now when buying a car from an established dealer. See the consumer factsheet, Personal imports: think twice, for more information.

Improving the Vehicle Certification System

There are significant opportunities to improvement the Road Vehicle Certification System (RVCS). This includes providing vehicle import and certification approvals, to deliver efficiencies and cost savings.

The RVCS should adopt a risk based approach to assessing applications for approvals. Applications with the lowest risk (i.e. risk to consumers of non-compliance of vehicle) should be subject to the lowest administration burden and therefore have lowest cost (application fee).