Some global carmakers are somewhat skeptical, and worried in the same time, of China’s intentions to enforce its own outdated vehicle certification standards on foreign cars.
China’s laws on foreign vehicle authorization standards were quite lax until recently, allowing global automakers to sell their cars without local certification in many cases, as long they were approved under international standards. However, a recent shift in the government’s stance regarding the issue makes the approval more rigorous, enforcing now the global carmakers to comply with local standards. The foreign companies say the move raises concerns, as it is a step back in technology and could mean costly re-designs and delayed new car launches. They also assert that frequent standards changes highlight the unpredictability of doing business in China. Chinese rules essentially apply older standards to features such as bumper strength, brake performance and the size and positioning of lamps and mirrors.
“It’s an inconvenient and sudden departure from the status quo,” said an executive from a leading international automaker. “We’re essentially being asked to redo some aspects of new vehicles in China using outdated standards. This may cost us critical time and money.” Even if compliance with local regulatory rules is not so costly, the carmakers are nevertheless concerned they may be sacrificing technical advances as China’s standards can lag global norms by as much as a decade. “They can enforce whatever standards they want. The question is: are those standards high enough to protect consumers?” said Yale Zhang, head of Shanghai-based consultancy Automotive Foresight. “People think China does not have proper standards and that’s why the car quality here is lower.”
As an example of the impact of such enforcements, Chinese regulators did not agree with the position of a Nissan car’s fog lamps, something that has since impacted other automakers, people with knowledge of the matter said. Repositioning a lamp by only a few centimeters could lead to re-designing the exterior body panels, thus delaying planned launches by more than a year.