By on December 12, 2013

homologation

Being teased with a desirable but unavailable variant of a car sold on our shores is as inevitable as death and taxes. Every year, there is some new supercar station wagon, ultra-efficient diesel or hot hatch/rally special that seems just within our grasp. Inevitably we learn that it won’t be making its way to America for a variety of reasons. Ultimately, it boils down to one simple factor: it would cost too much to bring it over.

The cost-benefit analysis is a cold reality of the automotive world, which is in the business of making money from selling cars, rather than a charity that provides enthusiasts with playthings to lust after, but not buy. Hard to believe I know. The most enthusiastic among us are also the quickest to dismiss the lack of profit potential as a legitimate reason for not bringing over their pet vehicle of choice, and I think part of this stems from not being able to give them a one-size-fits-all answer. Every single case is different, with wildly varying requirements for volume, pricing, regulatory compliance and other factors. But the theme remains the same. OEMs would not be able to recoup the cost of certifying the car through sales of the (often niche, low volume and/or expensive) vehicle.

While reading an old report from noted automotive consultant Glenn Mercer, I found this slide (above, and on page 10 of his report on Chinese cars), which outlines what it took to bring the Elise over to America. The pricetag: a whopping $50 million and 16 months time, and this is with a special airbag waiver that exempted them from having to install (and likely develop) FMVSS-complaint airbags – something that would have significantly added to the overall cost.

Is it likely that Lotus made money on the Elise? Who knows. Perhaps they were able to simultaneously federalize components for the European Elise and the Evora and realize some cost savings? Then again, given the constantly precarious financial situation Lotus seems to be in, maybe not. But at the very least, it gives us a perspective on how expensive it is to bring a low volume enthusiast model over to America. Think Audi can recoup the costs of something like an RS6 Avant  or even an S4 Avant given what it would cost? On the other hand, Mercedes, which already has both the E-Class wagon and the AMG V8 compliant with FMVSS, meaning much of the work and cost is already done. Now you know why our pleas often fall on deaf ears – and how blessed we are when we end up getting something cool.

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83 Comments on “How Much Does Homologation Really Cost?...”


  • avatar

    The real scandal is that the US Government can’t coordinate with the EU. There is no legitimate technical reason a car homologated in the EU couldn’t be driven immediately into the US. It is the engineering equivalent of “Tomato” vs. “TomAto”.

    • 0 avatar
      jz78817

      Ah yes, the US is somehow obligated to bend to the EU’s will, yet nobody seems to think that the EU could stand to be a bit more flexible themselves.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        Bend to the EU’s will? Come off your high horse.

        EU is essentially using the UNECE global safety standards, like the rest of the world. US is the holdout in this, using its own standards. Just like non-metric measurements (along with Liberia and Myanmar) and letter/legal paper sizes (along with Canada).

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          I would think that all of recent reporting about Latin NCAP should make it clear that there is no universal standard applied outside of the US.

          In reality, car standards still vary quite a bit. Cars made for the third world can’t be sold in the first world, while first world countries still can’t freely export to each other. (Just ask the Europeans how they feel about Japanese type approval.)

          • 0 avatar
            jz78817

            don’t bother him with facts.

          • 0 avatar
            CelticPete

            Oh gives a crap about the Latin NCAP.

            The european standards are at least as good as ours. The point stands – if we just used those standards we would lower the barriers of entry and have more cars available..

            Even better the Germans drive on the same side of the road. Thus if a car meets the German requirements we could just bring it over here. And vice versa of course..

            Stupid regulatory BS – it costs people so much and all we get is smug editorals about how people don’t understand companies.

            We understand them just fine..of course they have to make a profit. But we can make it easier for companies to make a profit on less popular vehicles – and give us more choice.

        • 0 avatar
          dtremit

          Wait, what does UNECE stand for? United Nations Economic Committee for…Europe.

          They are European standards that were adopted outside of the EU long after they were developed.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “They are European standards that were adopted outside of the EU long after they were developed.”

            But the standards have not been uniformly applied, nor do they necessitate that vehicles be freely accepted by other UNECE nations.

            The end result is that there aren’t simply two tiers of vehicle (US/Canada vs. rest of the world.) Instead, there are a myriad of standards that vary quite widely, while importation from place to place often comes with strings attached or is next to impossible.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      For a long time, the FMVSS were used as a de facto trade barrier, so multiple acceptance wasn’t going to happen. These days, globalization means that having to design for two sets of standards (one of which is only used by one country) is an increasingly unwanted expense that the major automakers are starting to make some noise about.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        A car designed for FMVSS will, for the most part, comply with European spec. If it meets US standards, then it will likely exceed European standards. (There are some exceptions to this, such as with lighting.)

        The issue is that automakers won’t usually do more than they have to do. If there is a lower standard to follow in another country, then they’ll follow the lower standard because of the cost savings.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      Allowing cross-certification has its good points, but it inevitably leads to regulator-shopping unless Europe and the US plan to combine standards entirely. This is unlikely, to say the least. There is too much distance between the two sets of standards, especially on emissions. (I could see crash standards being combined.)

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      Union all relevant safety and emissions standards (selecting the safest and cleanest amongst all) and make that a common set of ISO standards to certify against.

      That includes metricization of US vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      brianyates

      It’s called’protectionism”. It’s funny, alot of foreign cars that sell well in their home countries don’t have to deal with this as much.

    • 0 avatar
      Silvy_nonsense

      I’m going to agree with the spirit of enderw88′s post – It’s expensive to have two very similar standards for very safe cars. I don’t care who bends in what direction. Looking at this as us vs. them or NA vs. EU seems kind of dumb.

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    Apparently Lotus sold 6,325 Elise and Exige cars in the US. Is that is correct then we are looking at $7,905 per car.

    Unfortunately the costs are combined, but it looks like most of the costs are related to US consumer demand, e.g. durablity, NVH, ride and handling and extreme climate testing and devlopment. Not safety and emissions standards. Europeans have always been satisfied with lower quality than Americans. A large part of the expese is also that the car was not developed with the US in mind from the start.

    • 0 avatar
      brianyates

      “Europeans have always been satiisfied with lower quality than Americ ans”Is that why the Corvair, Ford Pintos, Ford Explorers(also known as the “rollover ” in the Uk) sold so well in America? Is that why Cadillac is STILL trying to be a 3 series and still can’t get it right.

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        The Corvair was good enough to inspire two generations of European auto design. Its only flaw is that the first generation had the same rear suspension design as a VW Beetle or Porsche 356. The second generation had a more sophisticated rear suspension than its contemporary 911.

        The issues with the Pinto would never have even come to light in a European market only car because the European legal system severely restricts discovery. I’m sure Europe has a large number of cars with the kind of cost cutting that led to the Pinto gas tank issues. But nobody will ever see those internal memos.

        Funny to see someone from where Land Rovers are made knocking the quality of an Explorer.

      • 0 avatar
        jz78817

        *shrug*

        I’ve been afforded the opportunity to drive a number of European-market vehicles over the past couple of years. I’ve gotten out of each mostly unimpressed. The key differentiators from the typical US car is they have smaller engines and are more likely to have manual transmissions. The interiors are just as cheap, NVH is at best similar but frequently worse, interior squeak & rattle is typically worse, and from the numbers quality/reliability is the same or worse. I drove a Dacia Duster home tonight, and the thing is a miserable piece of junk.

        In my opinion, the reason American car snobs seem so enamored with European cars is solely because they aren’t sold here. ‘Cos if they aren’t sold here, and show up on Top Gear accompanied by wisecracks from that boorish tit Clarkson, they must be better.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @Pch101-”A car designed for FMVSS will, for the most part, comply with European spec.”
        That is true, but the inverse is not. US rear crashworthiness tests are difficult, at odds with European desire for large hatch openings in the rear as one specific example. These regs hurt GTO with expensive fuel tank relocation taking half the trunk space.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    That list of tasks looks like something of a catch-all. Sure, safety and emissions tests were needed. But does the US DOT really require “alpine climb/descend at Nurburgring”? If every domestically sold model really required that, the track wouldn’t be in financial difficulty, would it?

  • avatar
    Pch101

    So we’re being blamed for endurance tests conducted in Sweden and at the Nurburgring? I would hope that they’re not implying that they don’t test European-spec cars in the very European country of Sweden and on Germany’s famous racetrack.

    I humbly apologize that we have deserts in the United States, but good luck selling cars in the Middle East and Australia that haven’t been prepped for desert conditions.

    There are genuine costs because the US crash test is more difficult; cars require reinforcements to match. Nothing prevents the Europeans from adapting US crash test standards for themselves.

    That being said, I do think that the US should make some allowances for low-volume producers. (And the 25-year rule on used imports is excessive.)

  • avatar
    TDIGuy

    I was always under the impression there were a few reasons why given a small volume market vehicle, it wouldn’t make financial sense to bring over certain models.

    One was the bumpers. 8mph vs 5mph I think? That may require some serious re-engineering.
    Another is many of the hot hatches and estates that sell in Europe wouldn’t get enough sales volume in SUV crazed North America.
    Lastly the airbag requirements which I see some have discussed. US requires bigger airbags designed to protect people who don’t wear their seatbelts? Again, additional cost to develop.

    • 0 avatar
      Onus

      The us hasn’t required 5mph bumpers in decades. Also Canada no longer requires them as of just a couple years ago (2009 iirc which was holding us back). So 2.5mph bumpers for the world. You should see it works its way through as cars are redesigned.

  • avatar
    J.Emerson

    The key part is the “& specs.” All of that endurance testing and NVH stuff is voluntary on their part. It’s Lotus trying to tweak the car to satisfy consumer demand, not Uncle Sam. I’d be willing to bet that crash testing and emissions both count for less than half of that dollar amount. I doubt that they required significant modifications, considering that they were probably designed for their largest individual market in the first place.

    • 0 avatar
      Silvy_nonsense

      Agreed. Assuming the powertrain and other mechanical items are the same, the hot weather testing in Morocco/Death Valley/UAE doesn’t need to be repeated just because you changed the marker lights, added LATCH anchors and put in swimming pool size NA cupholders. I question how much of that total is specifically driven by standards unique to NA.

  • avatar
    ash78

    When you want to compliment a car (no homo), but you know it won’t get very far (no homo). Beg for Federalization (no homo), but you’ll just rent them on vacation (no homo).

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    Most products require some sort of certification.

    Look at the sticker on the back of your monitor….do you see all those funny letters and logos? Each one of them is a certification by a country’s regulatory agency.

    One can argue that some requirements are legitimate; for instance, the voltages and frequencies in the EU and the US are different, but nowdays circuits handle the full range from 100 to 240 volts, 50/60 Hertz automatically.
    So what did the regulators do? Make very specific requirements about cable lengths…

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    Looks like there’s only one mass-selling (if you can call it that) wagon stateside, the Jetta at a clip of about 22K/yr.

    Honda sold 104 TSX Wagons last month, 1868 YTD. FWIW, that’s about half the volume the Mazda6 wagon ran before they canned it. Heck, they’ve sold almost 13K Mazda5′s this year and the next generation is rumored not to make it stateside either.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    You Fools! It’s the UAW’s stranglehold on the American government and it’s insistence on hyper-critical testing; the chicken, sheep, and ox taxes; and those dundering idiots refusals to succumb to UNESCE standards that keep those McDonalds munching cretins from receiving the most sublime sedans, minivans, and small trucks on the planet. Sarcasm Off.

  • avatar
    JMII

    But clearly the vehicle in question COULD be built to pass both the EU and US inspections. While on paper the differences might be big something tells me in the real world (design/engineering wise) the standards aren’t THAT far apart.

    And yes there should be some kind of waver for niche vehicles with low sales. Heck why not just have a waver for the purchaser that says they understand that the vehicle isn’t “US safe”. After all aren’t most these regulations (aside from environmental ones) regarding the safety of the occupants of said vehicle in a crash? There are plenty of “unsafe” cars on the road today simply because standards and technology has changed (seat belts, airbags, ABS, traction control, tire pressure sensors, etc.)

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      There are a few mutually exclusive specifications re: FMVSS vs. UNECE, but the bulk of them are compatible. The big hurdle is certification costs, since the various governments won’t allow compatible results from one to be counted toward the other.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      As for waivers, Lotus did get one for the airbag requirement in the US for a few years (which eventually expired, and is why Elise sales are for track-only cars now). The thinking is that the major OEMs should have the resources to meet the standards, instead of disingenuously claiming poverty.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      A lot of the engineering is the same, but the US cars get more crash protection.

      An example of how this can create a difference is with the upcoming new Alfa:
      ____________

      Thanks to crash test standards, the U.S.-spec 2014 Alfa Romeo 4C will weigh 220 pounds more than the European version, pushing its curb weight north of 2000 pounds according to Automotive News Europe.

      The 2014 Alfa 4C is supposed to be a no-compromise lightweight sports car, built from nothing but aluminum and carbon fiber, but according to Fiat’s European product development head Mauro Pierallini in an interview with Automotive News Europe, that wasn’t enough to stop the U.S.-spec car from weighing more than the European version. While the Alfa Romeo 4C that goes on sale in Europe this month weighs in at 1973 pounds, the American version will weigh 2193 pounds when it hits our shores early next year. According to Pierallini, the weight gain is due to aluminum inserts in the carbon fiber chassis, as well as additional gas tank and fuel line protection, and equipment to meet U.S. emission standards.

      wot.motortrend.com/u-s-spec-alfa-romeo-4c-to-weigh-220-pounds-more-than-euro-spec-405117.html

      Same basic design, but the US cars get stuff added to strengthen them. That additional weight costs money, plus it would slightly reduce fuel economy, the latter of which is not welcome due to pending greenhouse gas/ fuel economy rules in the EU.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    This is America, goddammit. The government shouldn’t be dictating to us as to what sorts of vehicles we can own.

    The easiest, simplest fix for this homologation problem is to scrap the whole creaky edifice of transportation rules and let people buy WHATEVER they want and can afford.

    You know, like people in a free country should be allowed to do.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      Hell yeah. And these emissions regulations should be relaxed to twenty years in all states so smogged carbureted 80s cars can be legally de-smogged and woken back up.

      • 0 avatar
        OneAlpha

        Oh, for fuck’s sake…

        Every time I say that freedom is the most important thing in life, I have to deal with people who equate liberty with pollution, dead children and social chaos.

        Just for the record, the countries with the dirtiest environments were the old Soviet Bloc and Red China – places ruled by totalitarian states that dictated every aspect of peoples’ lives. Including what sorts of cars they could own, if at all.

        By contrast, people with the freedom to make choices, like Americans, generally demand clean environments.

        But in the end, my freedom to have the vehicle I want, and yours as well, should not be sacrificed to some insane, nebulous “greater good,” determined FOR ME by my “betters.”

        The freedom to have the car you want and a clean environment can happily coexist. The society that allows both is a win-win for all involved, and it’s not like there’s a workable alternative anyway.

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          What are you talking about? I’m saying I should be free to run my old car with just catalytic converters even if said car is from the 1980s. Not sure about other states, but in PA you have to basically not drive a car that’s newer than the classic or antique or whatever guidelines for it to maintain emissions exemption.

          The older a car gets, the harder it is to keep the emissions systems working, and old cars as daily drivers are uncommon anyway, so why can’t cars from the 80s be emissions exempt?

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            One Alpha makes some good but broader points.

            MY87 and older are eligible for Antique in PA, which is exempt from inspection and emissions. You could just wink wink the cat and nobody’s the wiser and frankly I doubt anybody would care. Classic (15) is emissions exempt although everything else still applies. The caveat for both is to only drive them as “Sunday cars” AKA one day a week. However this year alone I saw a beat looking Dodge Shadow and a beat looking Panther both with “classic” plates driven by ordinary looking retirees, I assume as an emissions dodge bc they couldn’t pass. I’m sure those cars are driven more than once a week but probably not daily to work and such. Heck you get to be old and poor why should they have to spend money they don’t have on a new car for the errands old folks run, right? Emissions in this state is such a joke at this point anyway, they plug in and scan the OBDII computer for faults. Nothing but another back door tax from Harrisburg with the added bonus of getting some of the “riff raff” cars off the road over time.

          • 0 avatar
            OneAlpha

            Sorry, I thought you were being sarcastic.

        • 0 avatar
          J.Emerson

          “But in the end, my freedom to have the vehicle I want, and yours as well, should not be sacrificed to some insane, nebulous “greater good,” determined FOR ME by my “betters.””

          That mentality meant that the air in most large American cities was unbreathable by the middle of the 1960s. There’s nothing nebulous about that, it’s a historical reality. You’re right that it ended because Americans made a choice, though: they chose to empower their government to tell their automobile producers to reduce emissions. That was the choice, not some imaginary, voluntary movement to quit building cars with no emissions equipment.

          NoGoYo, I agree with you though. It doesn’t really make sense to enforce emissions requirements on cars that are more than 20 years old or so, since they’re such a vanishingly small part of the general population and are only occasionally driven anyway.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            Even driven on a regular basis, cars 20 years old and older are increasingly less and less common compared to modern more efficient cars, so theoretically the cleaner emissions of the majority would outweigh the “dirty” emissions of the minority.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Agree! But Americans are prone to dispose of cars that give them trouble, so the ones that are still around after 20 or more years and driven daily, are truly keepers regardless of them being more robust polluters.

            It beats having to go in debt to buy a new car that pollutes less when you can stretch the ownership of a keeper to the point of it being beyond economical repair.

            I actually know people that still drive black-smoke-belching M-B 240Ds. They also own a brand new car and truck, but that old 240D still gets fired up daily for the short hops.

        • 0 avatar
          Silvy_nonsense

          OneAlpha,

          “The government” isn’t some mystical secret society telling you what to do – it’s me and a bunch of other people telling you what to do. Welcome to civilization, pal. Vote. Gloat or Complain. Repeat. Welcome to society.

          • 0 avatar
            OneAlpha

            Silvy,

            Haven’t you heard?

            Society and The State are two completely different entities.

            The former is a mixed blessing, but the latter is always an evil of some degree, a necessary one at best and an intolerable one at worst.

            What side of the spectrum do you think we’re on right now?

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      The government only has those restrictions because people vote for politicians that support them, and car dealers finance the campaigns of politicians that support private import laws.

    • 0 avatar
      WhiskerDaVinci

      Driving isn’t a right. Owning a car isn’t a right. It’s a privilege given to us by both the Federal government and individual state governments. So everything having to do with driving and ownership isn’t something you’re entitled to. The government already dictates plenty regarding driving, so them dictating the cars that you can buy, with reasonable justification as to why, isn’t really an unreasonable stretch of their powers.

      The freedoms given to us regarding driving are already far ahead of Europe. The punishments for varying infractions in Europe are more severe then here. You can get away with a lot more on American roads than European ones. The government allows you to do a lot more, with fewer consequences. Instead of being an American who complains about your lack of freedom, you should be more appreciative of the ones you already have. It doesn’t help Americans look good by whining about not being able to do enough, when you can already do so much more than most of the world.

      • 0 avatar
        OneAlpha

        Point conceded, driving isn’t a right – but only because the automobile doesn’t predate the Bill of Rights.

        If cars had existed in the eighteenth century, they’d probably be a Constitutionally-protected technology like guns, on the theory that freedom in a mechanized society isn’t dependent on just the ability to shoot back, but also the capacity of rapid movement.

        Driving and the ownership of a vehicle aren’t rights only because our culture doesn’t consider them as such. In another place and time, maybe they would be. I like to think they would be.

        While I acknowledge that I have it better as an American than the vast majority of Europeans, that doesn’t mean I can’t suggest improvements to our system, or that I care how they do things across the pond.

        And as far as Europe is concerned, if we Americans based our behavior on what Europeans considered acceptable or appropriate, we’d still have an aristocracy, the divine right of kings, criminal confessions extracted through torture, official state churches with compulsory membership and state-sanctioned religious persecutions.

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      You are of course welcome to buy/own/build whatever you want, with no interference from the government at all.

      They only get involved when you want to operate that vehicle on public roads.

      Keep it on your own property and you’re welcome to exercise all the freedom you wish.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Moving from NY to Indiana, I was floored at there not being any sort of state vehicle inspections (emissions or safety). On the one hand, I’m happy I don’t have to deal with unscrupulous shops trying to fleece people with older cars. My brother had a steering rack boot slit open with a razor and the cretins sprayed a bit of oil in the cut, they then claimed he needed a new rack. They made the slit perpendicular to the boot ribs so it was all too obvious it wasn’t actual wear. My dad had to come in with his thick Russian accent and threaten them before they owed up to their scam and compensated us.

        The flip side of this is that I see some SCARY cars driving around here. Tire cords showing, busted up lights, etc. Cops can ticket you for obvious stuff like broken lights, but what they can’t see can be even more dangerous. Particularly frightening is seeing the 95-01 gen Explorers that have had a rear leafspring perch rust off(!!!) and continue to be driven, listing to one side in the back. “Tuners” installing “chips” and removing catalytic converters on their econoboxes, the cars reek of raw fuel when they pass by. Overall, I’d say I see more accidents and tire blowouts than I did back home, and I’d say the lack of inspections has something to do with it.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    -8 months for durability and performance testing, 6 for validation

    14 months for QA and certification? Wow. How long does it take to actually develop the model from scratch? Unless parts of the car get rejected or found lacking in testing it shouldn’t take eight months. Oh and here’s a suggestion “validate” sections of the car as its being tested. I could see a month of final validation and polish type testing but six sounds like one month’s worth of work and five months of blowoff.

    -500,000 miles on the road

    This is just insane. Things produced in great numbers sure beat the snot out of it, but low volume exotics? 100,000 miles is almost excessive.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      Automakers spend 10′s of $billions every year on vehicle development a good share of that on validation. The detail, breadth and scope of these activities are beyond the imagination of even some commenters here! Thousands of people are engaged in these activities in Michigan alone with very many more around the world for all carmakers.

      Safety standards are the “easy” part- a little mass, more money, build it and crash test it, done. Hope (assure?) field incidents and long term exposure to real world use don’t expose an issue.

      Of course, there also is corrosion, the affects of which can be accelerated, but not with correlation to the real world. There are things that can not be accelerated.

      Emissions validation to assure 10 year, 150,000 mile useful life is probably the biggest challenge from a validation timeline perspective.

      Running vehicles at a constant 70 MPH, 23/7 (one hour a day downtime for refueling/maintenance), would require 93 days to reach 150,000. Of course, that would be after you are sure every part in the car is to production intent. I have a fuzzy memory that actual testing to run miles quickly with appropriately varying speeds takes about 6 months to hit 100,000.

      And then there is that pesky 10 year detail, which can not be simply accelerated, and adds to the difficulty of validating new designs.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    @28-Cars-Later: Yeah, emissions is a bit ridiculous, seems to be all about trouble codes instead of actual, you know, EMISSIONS.

    A broken O2 sensor will fail your car, despite one sensor not making the difference between clean and Bejing.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I was going to say “that’s oppression for you” but on second thought its not specifically oppression, its rigidity problem. Either Commonwealth DOT sets a looser standard, which is entirely reasonable, or they should stop policing things after a certain age. But your local state gov is anything but reasonable, their entire existence is predicated on statutes, rules, and regulations. Most cars will do two O2 sensors in 15 years and for fifteen years its reasonable for an owner to fix basic things in an emissions system. But after 15 years why enforce the emissions test to begin with Harrisburg? Oh right, tax and control.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        It wouldn’t be as annoying if O2 sensors weren’t often fragile and expensive to replace. You break one, your car isn’t going out on the road and you’re out a couple hundred bucks, it’s a lose-lose situation.

        • 0 avatar
          bumpy ii

          Which car is this? Wideband primaries with few US applications might cost that much, but most of the few I’ve replaced came in around $50-75.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            My 240′s was I think $17 (this year) and my Saturn’s was $15 (in 2011).

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            Huh, I swear that my auto tech instructor (I took a short auto tech night class to see if I was really into the cars thing) said they cost over 100 dollars.

            Well unless you’re able to put them in yourself, you’re gonna pay someone to replace them and that of course increases the price.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I can’t speak to the quality of part you’re using but I haven’t had that experience with Delco parts (although by no means are those parts necessarily the best available). Just stick a classic plate on it or get someone to wink wink the emissions sticker.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      @NoGoYo- Emissions system field failures ARE more likely to occur in subsystems and software added for on-board diagnostics rather than “true” emission control failures. The rear O2 sensor and its circuitry is only there to monitor catalytic converter performance, as an example. Its failure does not affect what comes out the tail pipe or performance in any other way except the Check Engine Light. It is fair to say that OBD can and does disclose true emission failures of which a consumer might otherwise be unaware.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    Those costs may be literally accurate, but the overall picture is quite misleading.

    Lotus had not originally intended to sell the Elise in the USA, so when they later decided to do so it became necessary to backtrack on much of the car’s engineering. For instance the original Elise used an adapted Rover K series engine and transmission, something that wasn’t sold in the USA. When Lotus decided to offer the car there they had to source a completely different engine, which turned out to be the 4-cylinder used in the Toyota Celica. This, in turn, required a substantial redesign and retool of the rear chassis, plus all those dyno hours for retuning and emissions testing.

    Much of that $50M was a self-inflicted penalty. Had Lotus planned from the start to offer a ‘world’ car, there would certainly have been incremental costs, but nothing even close to what’s shown in the homologation slide.

    And at the risk of being snide, it appears to me that its European customers ultimately benefitted from all that durability testing and product development that Lotus apparently never bothered to do for the original Elise.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Good post. The costs are high when reverse engineered into an existing design, but more manageable when planned from the beginning.

      GM claimed that it cost about $100 million to federalize the Astra (great idea, Bob Lutz!), but that’s because the car was not remotely designed from the outset to meet US standards.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    So, given the great deal of similarity of Ford Europe and the US line-up, was Ford actually thinking way ahead when designing the current vehicles? I know much of this is credited to Mulally, who took the One Ford concept loosely from his time at Boeing, but this would have had to been slightly before his reign.Unless he’s been CEO of Ford longer than I remember. Six years? Less?

    • 0 avatar
      jz78817

      Not really; the only one that would have been “in-flight” when Mulally arrived was the Fiesta. Everything since then (Focus, Kuga/Escape, C-Max, Fusion/Mondeo) was kicked-off as a global program with Europe as the lead on the first three and NA leading on the fourth.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Ultimately, some sort of harmonization of standards is going to happen, for the simple reason that the car makers now actually WANT to sell the same cars on both sides of the pond. We have the current system(s) because the car makers (Detroit 3 in particular) wanted it this way in the past. I give it 5-10 years. Cars just cost too much to develop now to have to do all this extra nonsense on top.

    • 0 avatar
      jz78817

      I don’t even think it’s that far away. Right now the “devil is in the details,” so to speak. Major stuff like crash performance is more or less de facto harmonized; NHTSA doesn’t do offset frontal like Euro NCAP but pressure from the IIHS has made it so you have to account for that in design if you want to sell cars here. The “details” are in things like emissions; EU has gone after CO2 emissions while (thanks to California) EPA has clamped down on trace pollutants like NOx and particulates. I don’t think it’ll be very long before the two standards are pretty close given the recent attention on particulate emissions.

      The other details are in things like NHTSA’s requirement for passive restraints to protect unbelted occupants, or the EU’s pedestrian impact stuff. Both are (IMO) silly.

  • avatar
    RobertRyan

    NAFTA and differing standards are definitely huge barriers to entry to the US Market.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      It cuts both ways, but the EU set regulations specifically to be 100% incompatible with preexisting US regs, only as a trade barriers against US OEMs. In the process, the EU cut the throat of niche car and truck OEMs already selling in the EU market and wishing to sell in the US.

      And it obviously doesn’t cut equally since the EU’s import tariff is 4X more than the US tariff on cars and their chicken tax offers no loopholes for trucks.

  • avatar
    Spike_in_Brisbane

    US regulations may differ from those in Europe or here in Australia and maybe safety concerns are at issue. However, in my time in California, I was amazed at the lack of enforcement of safety standards on individuals. I saw plenty of pickups jacked up so high that their bumpers would go straight through your windows and their headlights were blinding. I saw cars with window tinting so dark I thought I was following a funeral. Lots of cars have wide wheels extending beyond the fenders. Lights have dark lenses or multi colors installed after market. Tow bars and bike racks are installed which would act like a guillotine in a rear ender. These cars would be impounded very quickly here so I do not believe that a societal demand for safety is behind the U S compliance uniqueness.

    • 0 avatar
      dtremit

      This varies a lot by state. Much of the east coast has annual safety inspections that would ban most of that nonsense. Here in Massachusetts you can fail for having a decorative license plate frame.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “However, in my time in California, I was amazed at the lack of enforcement of safety standards on individuals.”

      The most effective safety policies involve passive safety, i.e. stuff that does its job, irrspective of the individual driver. Airbags, crash test standards, stability control, etc. all work well because they work for everyone. The push for driverless cars appeals to safety advocates because it’s well understood that it’s the humans who pose the greatest risk to safety, and educating drivers won’t help.

      Equipment failure is a rare factor in crashes. Inspections may intuitive seem to be effective, but in practice, they are costly and deliver little bang for the buck.

      • 0 avatar
        gearhead77

        I know we’ve had this discussion in another thread, but I still don’t understand why we can’t have a national inspection/emissions check or at least state inspection/emissions. It would be nice if we could find a way to make sure everyone at least has tread on the tires, material on the pads and that said vehicle is fairly close to how it left the factory with mileage and age taken into consideration.

        Owning a vehicle is not a right, maintaining it shouldn’t be optional. In terms of passive safety, these systems will not function properly, if at all, if not maintained. How many cars have I seen in Ohio and other states with out inspection,with the ABS light on, the airbag light on and the CEL/MIL light on, let alone all of them and the TPMS? How well will those crumple zones, safety cages and whatever else function when eaten by the tinworm here in the Rust Belt?

        20 year old cars might make up a small fraction of our roadways, but 10-12 year old cars are plentiful. Many are more than likely on their 3rd owner or more. An owner, who more than likely, doesn’t care about that noise, shimmy or other thing as they text their way to an accident. An accident that might have been avoided if they had brake pads, tread on the tires,etc.

        • 0 avatar
          Power6

          Many states do have inspection. Not all that comprehensive and if you only check in once a year there is a lot of opportunity for deferred maintenance.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          “An accident that might have been avoided if they had brake pads, tread on the tires,etc.”

          Except crash data tells us that crashes are rarely caused by equipment failure.

          Crashes are usually the byproduct of intoxication, aggressiveness and/or inattention. A vehicle inspection program doesn’t address any of those. It would be a waste of time and money.

          • 0 avatar
            gearhead77

            I’m not talking about failure, I’m talking about having the ability to stop due to having pads that aren’t worn out, tires with tread to grip the road and channel water away, etc. You can’t avoid an accident if you don’t have control and worn out suspension, tires,brakes don’t give that extra edge that might stop you a foot shorter, etc.

            I’m not saying that it comes down to this or that most drivers are good enough to avoid an accident that close. But if everyone had decent brakes,tires and mostly functioning suspension, the playing field would be leveled with state inspection. In PA, it’s a once a year thing.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            I understand that your gut feeling tells you that inspections would correspond to lower crash rates.

            The fact remains that they don’t. Giving people nicer brake pads doesn’t result in a statistically meaningful difference that meets a cost-benefit test. Equipment has very little impact on crash rates.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Seems as if you need to change the drivers instead of the equipment if you want to lower crash rates.

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      You touch on too many topics there Spike…some of those things, jacked up trucks, window tinting, tow bars and bike racks, those are generally things that are allowed, within some guidelines varying by state. Many of the southern states have pretty liberal tint laws. There aren’t many limits on truck lifting in the US! Perhaps these are safety issues, but not an enforcement issue in general the laws don’t prohibit these things.

      Other stuff like headlight covers, multi colored bulbs, tires beyond fenders…those are typically illegal so are an enforcement issue. Funny you say CA though, they are known to be pretty strict on enforcement. Head to Florida it would certainly be worse.

      Americans want to be “free” so they have very strict standards for the mfr of the car, but once the end user buys the car you can get away with quite a bit.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    Speaking of emissions…

    I wish we would go to remote sensing for emissions testing. Here in California, so many a$$holes remove their catalytic converters under the mistaken impression it will improve performance, then swap them back in at test time. I’ve been stuck behind these a$$holes in catless lifted pickups on 2-lane roads where you can’t pass. I’ve been stuck behind these a$$holes in catless cut-spring Civics in L.A.’s parking-lot traffic where you can’t move. (Apparently a$$holes like messing with ride height as much as they like giving my kid asthma attacks.) It’s like being in a damn gas chamber riding behind these dip$hits.

    So here’s the proposal: instead of requiring periodic inspections, which waste the the time and money of motorists who maintain their cars while allowing the a$$holes to cheat, just deploy remote-sensing exhaust-sniffers roadside, linked to license-plate cams. Send the fix-it tickets automatically. Three strikes and the a$$hole’s car goes to the crusher…and the rest of us go about our business unmolested.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      “Here in California, so many a$$holes remove their catalytic converters”

      Not just in California. It’s pretty much standard practice in every state with mandatory smog-test requirement, and most often done by people who intend to keep their cars a long, long time. Catalytic converters are very expensive to replace, so they limit use on the original.

      Since I live closest to Texas, and see this on a daily basis, I know exactly what you mean about the unburned exhaust gases that tickle the throat and bronchials.

      I don’t have asthma but the acrid, unconverted exhaust gas does evoke coughing and choking, especially if these people whiz past you doing 85+ mph. It’s not bad when they are standing still, idling. It’s the higher rpm of high-speed driving that really dump out the unburned gases. And you can smell it, too!

      People who do this put in a by-pass pipe in place of the cat and store the cat until the next summons they get from their state, usually anywhere from 2-5 years between smog tests depending on the age of the vehicle.

      It’s a 5-minute job that can be done in their drive way and reduces the exhaust restriction posed by the cat.


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