Automotive Legislation – Basic Considerations

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Car Design Online > Legislation > Basic Considerations

Automotive Legislation – Basic Considerations

Across the spectrum of global legislative bodies, there are some important common regulations. In this section, they are looked at generally, for more detailed information please use the appropriate regional section.


Different laws apply depending upon how many vehicles are being manufactured. This is designed to allow smaller companies and individuals to produce vehicles without the heavy burden of research and development necessary to meet the full requirements of legislation for mass produced vehicles. Limits and thresholds for production figures will be outlined by the country the vehicles are destined for.

Low volume producers usually benefit from relaxed requirements for safety, pollution and noise performance. Additionally, low volume sports car manufacturers can often bypass insurance company requirements on low-speed bumper performance.


Regardless of volume, most countries impose restrictions on vehicle imports. This is primarily to ensure that vehicles conform to local safety standards but has been used in the past as a way to hinder foreign manufacturers.

Look out for: bumper regulations; lighting requirements; units (e.g. mph vs. km/h); pollution and noise regs.


Vehicles require headlights, tail-lights, reverse lights and side markers/indicators. Additionally, rear fog lights are required in Europe and some other countries.

Look out for: height restrictions; colour restrictions; brightness and reflectivity requirements; minimum surface areas; proximity and similarity to other lights; location restrictions.


Contrary to popular belief, the most prominent (consumer) safety features are often not legally required. Generally, vehicles will need to be fitted with passenger safety belts, bumpers (meeting minimum standards) and some other basic features but most safety legislation relates to the performance of components and materials in impact, fire and rescue situations.

Look out for: head clearance in impact, bumper movement, door locks, air bags (especially US), glass and other material choice, pedal box and steering wheel performance in impact. These are pointers, for absolutely correct legislation you must consult the relevant authority.


Look out for: windscreen rake angles; minimum glazed areas; smoked/tinted windows; door mirror and rear-view mirrors.


Look out for: CO2 emission levels; catalytic converter requirements; restrictions on toxic materials used in components; recycling requirements. Additionally, there will be legislation covering pollution in manufacturing processes.

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