DETROIT - Automakers in the USA need to put more pressure on their government to harmonize safety and environmental standards with Europe, said a European Union lawmaker visiting Detroit.
Alan Donnelly, a UK member of the European Parliament and chairman of its delegation for relations with the USA, said common regulations will be essential in the future.
'The car industry is the most obvious global industry of them all,' Donnelly said. 'You can't run a major part of the industrial economy on a series of unconnected legislations.'
Donnelly said he wants to see unified standards for the USA and the European Union by 2000. He has responsibility for the auto industry on the European Parliament's Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and Industrial Policy.
Most regulations have been addressed one at a time in Europe and the USA. Regulations usually differ, sometimes by very little.
For example, he said, European crash-test results are not valid in the USA because the point of impact in Europe is 'a few millimeters' higher. 'For the sake of a few millimeters, wouldn't you think the tests could be easily harmonized?'
Donnelly said there are executives in France and Italy who want to protect their domestic markets behind a wall of different standards. He also expects resistance from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In Donnelly's vision, a vehicle made and tested in Europe could be shipped to the USA with no additional testing needed, and vice versa. That is the 'tested once, accepted everywhere' principle.
Charlie Becher, director of international strategy and harmonization for Ford, said such unified standards could shave about 10 percent off vehicle development costs. Ford designed its Windstar minivan for Europe also. The Europe version required 100 components and 33 tests different from the US version.
Donnelly said regulatory solidarity between the USA and the European Union could also help automakers confront several pending environmental issues.
These include making sure the oil industry bears its share of the burden of reducing tailpipe emissions by developing cleaner fuels.
'Inevitably the oil industry will make a big fuss,' he said. 'Car manufacturers have got to be more public about saying the oil industry must do its part.'