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
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
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