The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) has acted to stop motor traders importing cars from outside the European Union that do not meet European standards on brakes, lights and emissions.
Nigel Maiden, VOSA's executive in charge of single vehicle type approval, says: “The trade was using a loophole to its advantage to bring in cars in from Japan and other countries. Vehicles adapted for disabled people used to be subject to a less demanding examination than others, but we stopped that on April 1.
“This was because a steering wheel with a ball was often fitted – it enables people with the use of only one hand to turn it. That can be a genuine aid, but it was also a cheap and easy way of getting cars into the UK more easily when they were not up to EU standards.”
The Enhanced Single Vehicle Approval (ESVA) test now applies to all commercial imports of cars first registered outside the EU before January 1, 1997. It is intended to create a more rigorous test for the thousands of used cars brought to Britain from Japan.
VOSA, which replaced the Vehicle Inspectorate, examines between 35,000 and 40,000 new and used single-import non-EU cars each year. Its officials became concerned about the loophole two years ago and liaised with the EC. UK trade organisations were also consulted.
Traders who send a car for an ESVA must supply a copy of the model report. The original comprehensive survey of a car lists all details about it and includes data such as emissions levels and costs thousands of pounds.
VOSA will accept an authenticated copy and agencies are building up libraries of the reports, providing the service for traders. Kevin Bridges, MD of Model Reports, of Southampton, which claims to be the UK's largest provider of reports, says: “Demand is increasing for the reports and we will expand the choice. We already have reports available for the Mitsubishi, Subaru, Toyota ranges, plus the most popular 4x4s from other manufacturers. Most single Japanese imports are coming from auctions.”
Pat Martin, Model Reports commercial manager, says: “Many people were not prepared for the change on April 1.”