One of the major headaches for manufacturers who sell their vehicles globally is the variety of different standards that their products must meet. The most important ones governing exhaust emissions and safety differ from country to country and although it would be easy to produce, say, one type of engine to meet the toughest standard, this would increase the price unnecessarily for some countries where the standards are not as high.
Another example is the requirement for safety devices. In the more developed countries like the USA and UK, airbags are mandatory. These items add to the cost of the vehicle but as they are required by law, consumers have to pay for them. But in Malaysia, where they are not required by law, their omission at this time means savings of many thousands of ringgit.
For many years, the manufacturers have been trying to get all the countries to agree on common standards so that manufacturing does not need to be so complex. Standardizing manufacturing specifications of key components for all markets would cut costs and ultimately lead to high safety standards. But because bureaucracy works slowly, it has been a tedious process.
Recently, some positive steps were taken when the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA) in France came up with a set of global auto standards in 16 areas which will be effective between 2002 and 2010.
The Paris-based OICA set three target periods for the standards, with the specifications for seatbelt attachment points, windscreen wipers and defrosting equipment planned for adoption by 2002.
Standards for measuring emissions from diesel engines and crash-testing would follow by 2005. At present, the standards vary significantly between Japanese, US and European manufacturers. By 2010, the OICA hopes that there will be a single set of standards applicable globally.
The OICA, founded in 1919, is made up of trade associations from 40 countries (according to the latest list of members, Malaysia does not seem to be represented), of which 20 represent the major automobile manufacturing countries in Europe, America and Asia.
The organization maintains permanent committees which conduct activities in the fields of technical affairs, industrial and economic policy, and industry statistics. In addition, the organization’s Exhibition Committee coordinates international motorshows.