The 28-member European Union and the United States are currently negotiating a free trade agreement that, if successfully concluded, would rewrite the rules of international exchange for 46 percent of global trade. The magnitude of the potential deal means just about everyone is trying to influence parts of the deal, from the Sierra Club and almost 200 other organizations fighting the investor-state dispute clause to automakers aiming to get negotiators to harmonize US and EU safety regulations.

Carmakers aren't asking for total equivalency in US and EU standards. But, according to a report in Automotive News, automakers, who claim to be ten percent of trans-Atlantic trade, say that a common standard for just the fundamental safety issues would save them hundreds of millions of dollars in re-engineering costs for global platforms. Trying to succeed where they failed in the late nineties with the same push, this time the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the American Automotive Policy Council and the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association have asked scholars from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute and the SAFER research group of Sweden's Chalmers University to work on a framework of basic safety standards.

The challenges are that "a mile driven [in the US] is different than a mile driven in Europe," and they'll need to figure out how to account for those differences when determining what 'fundamental' safety is. As well, even if the academic paperwork looks good, policymakers are wary of accepting rules for their own domestic markets that are made elsewhere and don't want to be seen as giving in to weaker standards. On the other hand, the chance of smaller victories means we could get access to Euro-approved tech like Audi's LED Matrix Beam headlights and sequential LED turn signals.

The university researchers are scheduled to have their findings ready by May, with a final analysis due at the end of 2014.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 63 Comments
      JD
      • 1 Year Ago
      Great idea to have the same safety and emissions standards as the E.U., however, I believe the diesel fuel in the E.U. is cleaner than in the U.S. so the U.S. would have to clean it up. Perfect time to get rid of ethanol at the same time.
      Floridian
      • 1 Year Ago
      My only question is: what will this do to automotive freedom typical for most US states? For example, things like rat rods or super duty trucks, they are all illegal in Europe.
      jebibudala
      • 1 Year Ago
      They only way this would help if they also synchronized the US EPA, EU, & Asian emissions standards, as well as eliminating all import duties between countries that manufacture/assemble vehicles. Because if they don't, we still wouldn't be able to get the cars available in other counties and vise versa. I understand this would lower manufacturing costs, but unless the price is drastically lowered for the end user, customers wouldn't gain any benefit.
        dukeisduke
        • 1 Year Ago
        @jebibudala
        This would still only mean more models available, not more makes. But, harmonizing the standards would still be a good thing.
          JohnTaurus
          • 1 Year Ago
          @dukeisduke
          Theoretically, we could see more makes: Renault, Peugeot, Citro├źn, Isuzu, etc. could all enter or reenter the US and Canadian market easily if a lot of regulations were standardized world wide.
      AlBongo
      • 1 Year Ago
      Dear US. Just join the rest of the world. You need to accept higher standards of quality, you are way far behind.
        Indubitably
        • 1 Year Ago
        @AlBongo
        Uhmm... the problem is we have HIGHER standards than the rest of the world in terms of safety and emissions. Not too long ago you could buy a TVR in Europe with no ABS and airbags straight out of the showroom. Try that here in the US.
          aatbloke1967
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Indubitably
          "Uhmm... the problem is we have HIGHER standards than the rest of the world in terms of safety and emissions" Unadulterated rubbish.
          Camaroman101
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Indubitably
          @ Johnnythemoney yes its been mandatory since I think 2012, thats why the new viper has it.
          johnnythemoney
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Indubitably
          ESP is mandatory over there. How about here?
          johnnythemoney
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Indubitably
          Precisely, which shows how much things are moving at about the same speed in the US and in Europe. 2012 was the year ESP was made mandatory also in the EU.
      Hazdaz
      • 1 Year Ago
      I have been saying this for years now. Merge the safety regulations for the US, the EU, and possibly in the future Japan, and not only will car makers save a ton of money, but chances are cars will get safer, but also importing vehicles from different markets could become easier. These are the no-nonsense, smart changes we need.
        aatbloke1967
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Hazdaz
        "Merge the safety regulations for the US, the EU, and possibly in the future Japan" As has been pointed out elsewhere, the only countries which don't adopt the basic UNECE regulations are the US and Canada, which implement their own, although the CMVSS is mostly modelled on the FMVSS of the United States.
        hokkaido76
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Hazdaz
        Such, baloney..........
        Mr.Roadrage
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Hazdaz
        Japan and the EU, along with Australia, New Zealand, and many other parts of the world have been more or less harmonized for some time now under the UN-ECE framework. It's North America that has gone its own way.
          JohnTaurus
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Mr.Roadrage
          You mean "America", as South America is just as askew in some aspects as we are, but in other extremes. Up until recently, vehicles without airbags were available, not to mention other crash protection and emissions requirements. The US has had standard dual front airbags since the mid to late 1990s, on all passenger cars, including the cheapest cars available like the Aspire I referenced above. Most vans and pickups were not far behind, having offered driver airbags since the early '90s.
      4RR4Y
      • 1 Year Ago
      US automotive safety regulators have been playing elitist to the world, which is why many automakers don't go out of their way to re-engineer and sell products enthusiasts want (e.g. older Skylines, Alfa Romeo's, Land Rover Defenders, etc.) If a consumer wants to drive around in a car with no airbags, that should be entirely up to the discretion of the consumer. The United States will continue to trail in automotive technologies and innovations if we continue to live by standards and regulations older than most citizens.
        JohnTaurus
        • 1 Year Ago
        @4RR4Y
        "If a consumer wants to drive around in a car with no airbags, that should be entirely up to the discretion of the consumer. " Um, look at what happens in South America when you let safety regulations get behind the times. A lot of car makers choose to let things like airbags be optional and there for their cars are cheaper than what we would consider a modern car as far as safety features. They're also worse engineered, sometimes with virtually no crumple zones whatsoever. Many times, it may be all the family can afford and they're basically forced to buy a car with no modern safety features out of necessity (or ignorance, I suppose). You can find moderately priced, very safe used cars with airbags, ABS, etc. in the U.S. very easily, because we made them mainstays so long ago, so the level of safety provided by them is open to a lot more people. If you want a car with no ABS, no airbags, and why not add no seatbelts, you can go buy a classic American car. Skylines were right hand drive. Had nothing to do with safety regulations. To my knowledge, Nissan didn't build a left hand drive interior until relatively recently.
          4RR4Y
          • 1 Year Ago
          @JohnTaurus
          Mazda engineered LHD RX-7's, Mitsubishi LHD GTO's (3000GT), Honda LHD NSX's (Acura NSX)... Nissan themselves engineered LHD Silvia's (240SX)! There's no doubt that Nissan could have engineered LHD Skylines for the US market. However, the cost of re-engineering the Skyline [GT-R] to be safety (both emissions and crash) compliant likely would have meant taking huge losses on any sold. To Nissan, it wasn't worth it, and understandably so.
          JohnTaurus
          • 1 Year Ago
          @JohnTaurus
          So your argument that they couldn't do it is proven by a car they did do it with? Look, I'm not denying any of that, but it was Nissan's unwillingness to invest the money into it that was the problem. Obviously the other manufacturer's you referenced decided that building the cars with US regs in mind (or fairly easily modified to pass) was worth their time and money. BTW, you forgot Supra.
          JohnTaurus
          • 1 Year Ago
          @JohnTaurus
          "The COST to build a Skyline GT-R *before* a LHD conversion, and before US-compliant re-engineering, is greater than just about all the listed examples. " My point exactly, why didn't they design the car with North American regulations in mind from the get-go? Obviously they had no intention of getting it certified in the US, and thus built no left hand drive interior nor any other North American specs into the design. Yes, I was a little off base when I said it had "nothing" to do with safety regs (or even emissions, which I didn't say), obviously they played a part, but it was the design in general that wasn't engineered to be sold here from the get go.
          4RR4Y
          • 1 Year Ago
          @JohnTaurus
          ... BTW I forgot the Toyota Celica, Toyota MR2, Mazda Miata, Honda Prelude... The examples are not the point at all. The COST to build a Skyline GT-R *before* a LHD conversion, and before US-compliant re-engineering, is greater than just about all the listed examples. Even among the Japanese, the GT-R was unattainable to most due to its high entry price. The GT-R never sold in volumes like the Silvia, to which there was greater profit in investing in selling re-engineered LHD Silvia's overseas. Nissan isn't the only example of this. The European automakers don't want to deal with re-engineering costs, or imposed tariffs (e.g. the Chicken Tax) by the US regulators. Automakers don't invest money where little to no net profit is foreseeable; this is even truer when severe losses are projected.
        hokkaido76
        • 1 Year Ago
        @4RR4Y
        What a stupid mindset.......lol
      Ducman69
      • 1 Year Ago
      This is a smart move that will result in a greater diversity of vehicles available to consumers in both markets with lower prices to boot. However, there has to be a compromise. The EU can't just say, our way or the highway, as some of the laws they have are stupid and visa versa. A hybrid of NA and EU requirements would be wise.
        aatbloke1967
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Ducman69
        Most of the world adopts the basic UNECE standard, with some variations. The glaring omission is the United States and Canada.
      Cool Disco Dan
      • 1 Year Ago
      Europe may have too much in the way of common sense when it comes to safety. Case in point the mandatory back up cameras. Until America gets it head out of its butt and trying to save every one from every thing there will be no merger.
        Ducman69
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Cool Disco Dan
        Right, because why let the consumer decide if they want a backup camera or not. I sure as hell don't need one on my Fiat 500 or Corvette (I haven't backed up into anything in my life), and I don't want to be forced to buy one by the likes of you. You wonder why cars are constantly getting bigger and heavier? Ridiculous safety requirements are the primary reason. If anything, we need to at some point say that safe is safe enough, not turn every vehicle into a Tiger II battlefield tank that can crash through three buildings without harming the occupants, and make cars cheaper, faster, better handling, and lighter. Deregulating every little aspect of vehicles also gives far greater flexibility to automotive engineers to come up with innovative designs and solutions, so every damn vehicle doesn't look virtually identical.
          hokkaido76
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Ducman69
          Oh, that "let the market decide" BS. Give me a break. If that mindset was truly in place, we wouldn't have had universal adoption of things such as airbags (which have saved numerous lives).
          clquake
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Ducman69
          Let the market decide? I give you the awesomely made cars of the 80's, where Japanese imports crushed the competition, while the big three sought to simply make importing them harder.
          JohnTaurus
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Ducman69
          " I give you the awesomely made cars of the 80's, where Japanese imports crushed the competition, while the big three sought to simply make importing them harder." Um, lots of domestic models did well in the '80s, and some domestic models were, in fact, imported. None of that has to do with safety or emissions regulations, which is the topic at hand.
          Cool Disco Dan
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Ducman69
          hokkaido76 Had the markets been allowed ,the air bag after saving lives would be bought by people interested in safety. There was no need to force it or stability control or rear view cameras or 3rd brake lights or ABS. If these things are so great the market would adopt them because people will want them.
        johnnythemoney
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Cool Disco Dan
        Back up cameras are not mandatory in Europe as a whole, or in any of its countries last time I checked.
          Cool Disco Dan
          • 1 Year Ago
          @johnnythemoney
          I know but American will.
          JohnTaurus
          • 1 Year Ago
          @johnnythemoney
          @Dan, I hope not. I have the reverse sensing system in the Taurus, I think that's good enough. I much prefer it to those tiny screens in the rearview mirror.
      xspeedy
      • 1 Year Ago
      And extend that to emissions. Should be able to buy a whatever in Europe and register I here without any sort of federalization.
        Joe K
        • 1 Year Ago
        @xspeedy
        We really just need a one world emssion standard. China is adopting US standards for automotive emissions. Europe is tighter on CO but looser on diesel particulate.
          johnnythemoney
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Joe K
          Europe is looser or Nitrous oxides, not particulate. Particulate filters are installed on basically all diesel cars, they have been spreading since about 15 years ago or so with Citroen/Peugeot.
          aatbloke1967
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Joe K
          China uses the basic UNECE standard.
          Robert Ryan
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Joe K
          No China is not adopting US standards, It has adopted European Diesel standards. The catch is much older European standards.
      Camaroman101
      • 1 Year Ago
      only con I can think of is we'd have to adopt yellow turn signals for the tailights, no more all red assemblies
        knightrider_6
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Camaroman101
        That's a good thing. Less confusion
          JohnTaurus
          • 1 Year Ago
          @knightrider_6
          It can also be avoided aesthetically, to varying degrees of success, with clear lenses and amber bulbs in the tail lamp clusters.
        Floridian
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Camaroman101
        I don't know however if this is part of the "safety regulations". Maybe US market cars have it for a good reason. I believe that side markers greatly improve a car's visibility at night at stop and yield signs.
      knightrider_6
      • 1 Year Ago
      I'm surprised that all 50 states do not have their own safety standards. Imagine if automakers had to deal with that. We already waste billions of dollars by allowing each state to have their own standards for health care professionals, standards for education, traffic rules, building codes etc
        JohnTaurus
        • 1 Year Ago
        @knightrider_6
        I believe they used to, and may still have different regulations. I know for a fact that my state allows legally-imported Kei trucks to be registered and driven on the road, with regular license plates, but other states do not. I wouldn't be surprised to hear of other differences. I also remember reading somewhere that in the mid to late 50s, dual front headlamps were not legal in all states, even though some higher-end cars had them standard. I don't know the details but evidently they worked that particular issue out pretty quick, as it soon became the norm nation wide.
      ccweems
      • 1 Year Ago
      My bet is that they won't move for common emissions standards because differences in gasoline standards are more an issue of software so they don't cause a big difference in costs. Having the US adopt European diesel emissions standards is for now a big deal. The differing safety standards incurs real costs with little proven benefit. The Europeans however are not really driven by results they in general look a the technology from an ALARP (as low as reasonably possible) perspective. They want pedestrian impact protection not because it can be justified (it can't) but that it can be done. To give NHTSA some rare credit they do look at the cost of the regulation versus the benefit. Ultimately the car makers only want harmonization where it will save them money. They truly fear 100% harmonization of US and European safety and emissions standards as that would allow US and European customers to purchase cars where they found the best price or equipment. As it is nearly all German imports to the US are packed with features that few Europeans want such as leather, sunroofs or nav. We don't really know if Americans are willing to buy a German car with cloth seat and no sunroof because they are rarely given that choice. Currently BMW cars built in the US for European orders are allowed to be specified to a fine degree. The same plant build US vehicles largely specified through packages and with few individual options. US buyers of BMW cars with manual transmissions are charged the same price as automatic transmissions where European buyers pay a premium for automatics and understandably so as they cost much more. Why the difference? BMW ("The Driving Machine?") wants to discourage manual transmissions so as to simplify dealer inventories. What would MB do if customers were allowed to buy a manual transmission E class with cloth and no sunroof for $10,000 less than the cheapest currently available US E class? It is not just a one way deal. There are times when for competitive reasons European nameplates are sold much less in the US even when VAT is applied. Lastly, the wagon versions of may popular sedans are sold in Europe at only a small premium. These wagons often get better mileage and have greater cargo capacity than their more expensive crossover kin. Ford doesn't want to sell focus wagons when it can sell more expensive Escapes. Much the same with 5 series wagons compared to X5's. One manufacture to avoid a well deserved excoriation is Porsche who with only a few rare exceptions sells the same vehicle similarly optioned in both markets. As it is the freedom sought by automotive enthusiasts is quietly discouraged by European manufacturers. Be prepared for the manufacturers quiet lobbying to prevent the consumer from making is own decisions and accepting the consequences of buying a car not currently sold these company's US marketing arms.
        JohnTaurus
        • 1 Year Ago
        @ccweems
        Ford doesn't sell Focus wagons *anymore* because Focus wagons didn't sell in the U.S. Ford sells both Focus wagon and the Escape (as Kuga) in Europe. Different market.
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