Toward mutual recognition of whole-vehicle type approval

A shift from country-based vehicle type approval (N-WVTA) to UN-unified approval (IWVTA)


1. What is an International Whole Vehicle Type Approval (IWVTA)?

 An automobile must meet many safety and environmental regulations before it can be driven on roads. Motorized countries such as Japan and Europe (EU) have safety and environmental regulations in their laws regarding vehicle approval for driving automobiles on their roads.

 Many rules have been prepared and are operated today in those motorized countries to reflect local characteristics and historical backgrounds. Those that intend to sell and register automobiles must prove that the automobiles meet all local regulations and that such compliance is guaranteed of all production vehicles (vehicle approval). This requirement is called the national vehicle type approval (VTA).

 There has been a move to shift from a national approval to an internationally unified approval (IWVTA: International Whole Vehicle Type Approval) where, for instance, if certain automobiles are being sold under vehicle approval in Japan, the Japanese vehicle approval should be as good as their German counterpart when selling the automobiles in Germany (mutual approval).

 Actually, there has been a move in the United Nations to unify regulations in consideration of the globalization of production and use of automobiles (harmonization of regulations) before whole vehicle approval was envisioned. This goal is being pursued by the World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (UNECE/WP29).


Figure 1. Regulations for vehicle approval and reciprocal recognition of approvals under the United Nations
Figure 1. Regulations for vehicle approval and reciprocal recognition of approvals under the United Nations

 The Forum's activity extends from the harmonization of regulations to the mutual recognition of approvals (MRA) granted on the basis of the harmonized regulations. This mutual recognition is guaranteed in the framework provided by the UNECE 1958 Agreement (*1) which dictates that a certificate of approval issued to a part or system that meets a specific UNECE regulation in one of the contracting parties to the 1958 Agreement is accepted in all other contracting parties without additional tests (a total of 58 countries and areas are contracting parties and there are 127 regulations today under the Agreement).


Figure 2. An example of mutual recognition of approvals
Figure 2. An example of mutual recognition of approvals

 In other words, where a number of technical regulations must be met for a vehicle approval in its home country, and the vehicle has received a certificate of approval for one of the regulations in another country, the vehicle no longer needs to seek a certificate for that specific regulation in the home country. The applicant (the manufacturer of the automobile or parts) may apply for certificates in any contracting country under the Agreement at its discretion.

 For instance, assuming that UNECE regulations regarding tires (R30) has been adopted in Japan and the EU, as shown in Figure 2, the regulation must be met in both countries/areas. If a certificate of approval is obtained for a specific regulation in one of the contracting countries to the 1958 Agreement (Japan, EU or any other country), then the certificate is valid in any other contracting countries as well. The tire manufacturer has full discretion as to where it will obtain its certificate. A Japanese tire manufacturer may export its certified tire to any of the EU member countries/areas without being asked to submit additional certificates.

 This arrangement contributes to simplifying government or testing procedures and reducing the development and production costs for the parts and automobile manufacturers which, in turn, lead to mitigation of costs for the end users. This is why the 1958 Agreement is said to be a global agreement that mitigates trade barriers rather than being just a tool for drawing international regulations.

 More recently, however, there has been a new move within UNECE/WP29, especially among Japanese and other governments, to unify regulations that are necessary for the approval of the whole vehicle so that the part- and system-based approvals realized by the existing 1958 Agreement may be raised to a whole-vehicle approval level.

 Such a move toward the establishment of "mutual recognition of IWVTA" was presented by the Japanese government in the fall of 2009. The proposal is now being studied in detail by the informal working group (IWVTA-IG) formed under the UNECE/WP29.


Figure 3. Overview of the reciprocal recognition of IWVTA
Figure 3. Overview of the reciprocal recognition of IWVTA


2. Summary of IWVTA activities at the United Nations

The Japanese government presented the need to start necessary work (*2) to the following effect at the 149th session of WP29 held in 2009:
  1) IWVTA be established under the Agreement to upgrade the mutual approval of parts- and system-based certificates to that of the whole vehicle, and
  2) Work be initiated to define study themes needed for the establishment of IWVTA.

 The proposal classified the necessary elements of the targeted mutual recognition of approval by IWVTA as shown in Figure 4.


Figure 4. IWVTA work elements
Figure 4. IWVTA work elements

The work elements in the proposal are roughly divided into two groups:
  1) Those related to the vehicle type approval (so-called IWVTA)
  2) Those related to mutual recognition of approval between countries

1) The constituents of IWVTA procedure include the following in the order they appear in the approval process:
  1-1) Application of the vehicle
  1-2) Conformity of the vehicle to technical requirements
  1-3) Approval requirements of parts and systems that constitute the vehicle
  1-4) Quality control requirements (applicant's qualifications, product quality control requirements - COP)
  1-5) Certificate of conformity (COC) etc.

2) The constituents of mutual recognition of approval include the following:
  2-1) Process of rule making
  2-2) Responsibilities of Contracting Party (CP) accepting type approval
  2-3) Responsibilities of CP issuing type approval
  2-4) Obligations of the applicant
  2-5) Qualification of technical service
  2-6) Designation of technical service
  2-7) Safeguard clauses
  2-8) Recall provisions

 Among the constituents falling within the scope of the 1958 Agreement (indicated by hatched lines and vertical lines) and those that fall outside, the Japanese proposal suggested that those related to 1) IWVTA be tackled first as a first step to addressing compact cars (M1) exclusively (Figure 5).

 The first step covers 1-1) through 1-4) and 1-1) (Application of the vehicle) is sub-divided into:

i) Information needed to specify the vehicle being applied for approval - Definition of vehicle type, definition of categories, dimensions and masses (*3) and other vehicle specifications
ii) Application documents
iii) Treatment of procedures for modification (*4)

With regard to 1-2) Conformity to technical requirements as the vehicle and 1-3) Approval requirements of parts and systems that constitute the vehicle, the proposal suggests that the following and certain other issues need to be addressed:

i) Technical requirements necessary for IWVTA to be developed as regulatory items under the 1958 Agreement
ii) Regulatory interpretation issues (*5)

 The proposal contains that 1-4) Quality control requirements may be addressed as part of the discussion regarding the existing 1958 Agreement.


Figure 5. First step work items toward IWVTA
Figure 5. First step work items toward IWVTA

 The need to establish an informal group, IWVTA-IG, to draw a roadmap (detail planning) for the activities in the first step was discussed by WP29 in November 2009 and March 2010. The need was approved by the 150th session of WP29 held in March 2010 and necessary work started accordingly. The IWVTA-IG refers to the roadmap drawing session during the remainder of this report.

 The IG is to submit reports to the 155th session of WP29 being held in November 2011 regarding the work items, work responsibilities and draft work schedules.

(Note) EU-WVTA

 The EU-WVTA is a vehicle approval system in EU that was put into operation in 1981 initially with passenger cars (M1). Today it applies to two-wheeled vehicles as well and necessary regulations are being prepared for commercial vehicles etc.

 The EU-WVTA contains regulations addressing automobile safety and environmental performances (the UNECE regulations are adopted as a principle). It also contains a vehicle type approval system to guarantee that such performances are met by vehicles being produced and sold in the market. This system not only covers unified regulations, requirements and mutual approval of parts and systems mentioned in the 1958 Agreement, but also guarantees (certifies) performances of all vehicles produced and sold using such parts and systems and realizes mutual approval of such certificates within the EU regions.

 The system obliges all EU member countries to assure that a certificate of a vehicle approved in one of the member countries is accepted in any other parts of the EU.


Figure 6. Timeline of work through 2016
Figure 6. Timeline of work through 2016

 Japanese auto industries, especially the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA), are supporting the Japanese government's activities with a clear understanding that the IWVTA determines the future of vehicle approval systems. IWVTA-TF (Task Force) has been formed under the technical committee of the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA). JAMA chairs the TF while playing a leading role in the IWVTA-IG's activities from the industrial viewpoints.

 It has been decided that the future image of the IWVTA be discussed in reference to the framework of the existing 1958 Agreement.

 However, it was found, during the course of discussing issues and their timelines, that a moderately clear future concept was necessary to continue.

 As a result, JAMA led a group to draft the future image of the IWVTA regulations (IWVTA ECE0 Concept). The "future image" drafted by JAMA was discussed by OICA and presented by OICA to the third session of IWVTA-IG held in November 2010. After three sessions, it was approved as the future image of the IWVTA configuration at the fifth session of the IWVTA-IG held in March 2011.

 The ECE0 Concept is helping those concerned to understand more easily that the IWVTA is to be discussed as an extended concept of the existing framework rather than as a separate one from the 1958 Agreement. Put in other words, the IWVTA is an initiative to draw a new regulation, ECE0, regarding vehicle type approval, including a set of technical requirements regarding the parts and systems having direct impact on the vehicle approval that also guarantees mutual recognition of vehicle approval while maintaining the framework of the UNECE regulations under the 1958 Agreement.


Figure 7. Draft configuration of the vehicle type approval requirements in the ECE0 Concept
Figure 7. Draft configuration of the vehicle type approval requirements in the ECE0 Concept

 Figure 7 shows the ideas behind the ECE0 Concept having the following and certain other elements:
1) The methods of vehicle type approval and the concept of reciprocal approval under the UNECE regulations in the existing 1958 Agreement will be left intact,
2) Technical requirements of the vehicles are to be organized and the existing list of UNECE regulations extended,
3) Some of the technical requirements necessary for vehicle type approval to be cited from the list of UNECE regulations (initially those affecting M1 category) in the ECE0 vehicle type approval regulation,
4) The ECE0 vehicle type approval regulation to include constituent requirements regarding the vehicle type approval as shown in Figure 4,
5) The existing operational regulations by WP29 to be organized and included as Annex to the 1958 Agreement to operate the concept of the new ECE0 vehicle type approval regulation, and
6) Amendment to the 1958 Agreement to be considered to encompass those new concepts.


Figure 8. Draft items of the ECE0 vehicle type approval regulation
Figure 8. Draft items of the ECE0 vehicle type approval regulation

 Although the details of the ECE0 vehicle type approval regulation are the subject to discussion, work is under way referencing the framework of the vehicle type approval system provided for in EU-WVTA already established in Europe (EU) (Figure 8).

 With the Concept having been approved by the IWVTA-IG, discussion will focus primarily on two activities, revising various texts needed for the operation of the 1958 Agreement according to the configuration of the IWVTA as shown under "Annex" in Figure 7, and defining individual technical requirements needed for vehicle type approval as shown under "List of Necessary ECE Regulations" in Figure 8.

 Activities addressing technical requirements are initially limited to those governing compact cars (M1 category) and work is already in progress to sort out regulations affecting this specific category (*6). For instance, Japanese indigenous regulations that are required in vehicle type approval in Japan are being reviewed and new ones may be drafted as deemed necessary for international application.

 The existing UNECE regulations (127 regulations) are being reviewed for their validity subject to decisions as to whether some need to be revised or deleted. Such revisions of the existing regulations will be presented to WP29 along with new draft regulations for further discussion by WP29 working parties.

 Government and industrial representatives of the contracting parties sitting in IWVTA-IG are now expressing their views and obtaining consent of those present in the session has become an important matter.

 The short-range goal at hand is to sort out the UNECE regulations governing "compact cars" (M1) category and include them in the ECE0 vehicle type approval regulation. The long-range goal is to establish regulations that affect safety and environmental performances in international application and draw a list of UN-unified regulations. Also under way in parallel is discussing the necessities of attached documents for operating the mechanism of the IWVTA and of amendments to the 1958 Agreement for presenting to WP29.

Table 1. Roadmap to IWVTA


3. Issues

 The current work of Japanese origin is a huge undertaking that could change the course of WP29's activities focused on harmonization and mutual recognition of approval that extends more than fifty years. It is so huge that there are not a small number of those who are somewhat skeptical about the undertaking. On the other hand, the auto industries and the ways vehicles are used have become so globalized that geographical borders seem meaningless. This trend of globalization is likely to progress at a faster pace.

 The concept of the IWVTA is based on the recognition that technical requirements and methods of vehicle type approval must be globalized to provide safety and environmental assurances in consideration of their global significance.

 National regulations have their unique historical backgrounds and it will not be easy to revise or delete some of them. This is why the first effort of the present undertaking is to prepare a list of UNECE regulations in the ECE0. The very act of approval by respective countries has been built upon the decisions and judgments of the certifying authorities in those countries and much need to be discussed before their operational rules can be established to a global effect.

 In fact, much discussion was necessary, and much is left pending today, to implement the harmonization and mutual approval of parts and systems under the existing 1958 Agreement. Nevertheless, discussing the IWVTA is expected to promote the harmonization of regulations and mutual approval of certificates at least at the parts level, and set a realistic goal for ASEAN, Latin American and other countries and areas that are currently in the process of building their vehicle type approval systems.


Figure 9. Moving from national approval (NTA) to mutual recognition of parts and systems approval under the 1958 Agreement and reciprocal approval of vehicle type approval (MRI of IWVTA)
Figure 9. Moving from national approval (NTA) to mutual recognition of parts and systems approval under the 1958 Agreement and reciprocal approval of vehicle type approval (MRI of IWVTA)

 The undertaking in question will certainly benefit those countries in their process of adopting the UNECE regulations. The developing countries shown in Figure 9 (left side) must first establish regulations regarding parts and systems and operate the vehicle type approval systems (NTA) accordingly. Adoption of certain internationally agreed, persuasive regulations is desired in this process and the UNECE regulations are the best means to improve safety and environmental performances of transportation systems in those countries. By becoming contracting parties to the 1958 Agreement and realizing mutual approval of vehicle type certificates, they will not only improve safety and environments in their own countries but also produce many other desirable effects that include industrial development and internationalization of certifying authorities (realization of MRA).

 For the contracting parties to the 1958 Agreement to operate those effects efficiently, it is important that they have met pre-requisites that include regulatory and approval systems governing automobiles (establishment of governmental approval system - VTA). This is because the national vehicle type approval system has a direct connection to the IWVTA.

 All sessions of the UN's WP29 are open to non-members of the 1959 Agreement as well, including international NGOs with automotive concerns. Actually, government and industry representatives of ASEAN nations have participated in IWVTA-IG sessions.

 The activities introduced in this report, slated for completion in 2016, are aimed at defining constituent elements for building the IWVTA starting with the relatively easy category, compact passenger cars (M1), as the first step in the entire image of the IWVTA.

 Once the short-rage goal is achieved in 2016, continuing efforts are needed for the perfection of the system and its operation as intended. This, too, requires a large number of elements to be discussed over many months and years. When the vehicle type approval system (IWVTA) is completed, it must be followed by the completion of the mutual recognition of approvals (MRI of IWVTA) and the introduction of the new system in contracting parties.

 Fortunately, the current undertaking of Japanese origin is supported by government and industry representatives alike. It will take many years before its completion, but it is hoped that the activities will bear the expected result at the United Nations with the continued participation of all concerned.


*1 United Nations documentation
ECE/TRANS/505/Rev.2"Agreement concerning adoption of uniform technical prescriptions for Wheeled Vehicles, Equipment and Parts which can be fitted and/or be used on Wheeled Vehicles and the conditions for reciprocal recognition of approvals granted on the basis of these prescriptions" ( The 1958 Agreement )

*2 United Nations documentation
WP29-149-11 - Toward Realization of the "Mutual Recognition of International Whole Vehicle Type Approval (IWVTA)" under the United Nations

*3 United Nations documentation
TRANS/WP.29/78/Rev.1 - Consolidated Resolution on the Construction of Vehicles (R.E.3)

*4 United Nations documentation
TRANS/WP.29/1044 - General Guidelines for UNECE Regulatory Procedures and Transitional Provisions in UNECE Regulations

*5 United Nations documentation
ECE/TRANS/WP.29/1059 - Resolving interpretation issues and requirements for the Technical Services in the framework of the 1958 Agreement

*6 United Nations documentation
IWVTA-05-03 - List of National Regulation and Sorting

All above documents are published in the United Nations website at:

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