At least five car brands are exploring pulling their business from the UK’s government-backed body that approves vehicles for sale in Europe, raising questions over the future of the agency.
Under European rules, cars authorised for sale by one authorisation agency in an EU country can be sold across the bloc. Brands are free to chose any country in the EU to approve their vehicles, even if they do not manufacture in that country. For instance, Mini cars, though mostly made in the UK, are approved in Germany, while cars from the Czech Republic brand Skoda are certified in Britain at the Vehicle Certification Agency.
The VCA is an arm of the Department for Transport financed by charging manufacturers for its services. Documents released by the European Commission on Friday stated that “the United Kingdom approval authority will cease to be an EU type-approval authority” from the withdrawal date of March 30 2019. It adds that “the United Kingdom approval authority will no longer be in a position to perform any of the functions and activities of an approval authority” for cars sold in Europe. While the commission said it was working on allowing current certificates to remain in force, it was clear the VCA would be unable to issue any warrants after the Brexit date.
Car manufacturers require fresh certificates for new models, which are released roughly every seven years, but also for significant design or engine alterations, which can happen more frequently. This means that all of the car manufacturers that use the VCA will have to find a European alternative within a few years of Britain leaving the EU. Several major brands, including Jaguar, Land Rover, Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Skoda, Peugeot and Citroën use the VCA, each paying several hundred thousand pounds for each new model that is approved by the agency, according to industry estimates.
Two of the brands involved are already in discussions with another European agency to do the work, while another has decided to leave the VCA, according to several people. Two other brands are also considering leaving the VCA though have not selected another European operator, according to one person familiar with the process.
A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: “The Vehicle Certification Agency is internationally recognised and respected, and we are confident it will remain one of the world’s leading type approval authorities after we leave the European Union. “We are committed to securing the best deal for Britain, and will work hard to ensure the UK motor industry and authorities continue to thrive following EU exit.” Aston Martin, which also uses the VCA, has already warned that being forced to switch to a new approval body in Europe may force it to stop production lines as it waits for new certificates.