European Automotive Legislation

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European Automotive Legislation


Within the countries of Europe, as defined by the political institution The European Union (EU), motor vehicles are subject to directives in EU law. Directives are conceived, approved and enforced by the European Commission which is the legislative body of the EU.

The European Commission (EC) is possibly the most progressive global legislature affecting the automotive industry. Key recent developments include directives that call for almost total vehicle recycling and substantial improvements in pedestrian impact performance. The Commission works with the industry to push forward regulations that are forward-thinking but feasible. This relationship can become strained at times but usually results in research-led advances in vehicle design. This high level of regulation and development is virtually impossible to match with any other industry.

Vehicle Type Approval

Since 1970, the principle EC directive affecting new motor vehicles has been the Type-approval of motor vehicles and their trailers. This document has been updated and amended over the years to incorporate changes and developments within the industry and its wider place in society.

The current anchor directive is known as European Community Whole Vehicle Type Approval. This document outlines definitions and terms for different types of vehicles, details the specifications they must conform to and lists tests that must be applied to, and passed by, certain parts of a vehicle.

Click here for an extensive list of EC Motor Vehicle Directives.

Other Useful Directives

The following are directives that may be of use in the design of motor vehicles and devices for motor vehicles in addition to the Type Approval directive.


Directive 2003/30/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 May 2003 on the promotion of the use of biofuels or other renewable fuels for transport


Directive 2002/51/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 July 2002 on the reduction of the level of pollutant emissions from two- and three-wheel motor vehicles and amending Directive 97/24/EC (Text with EEA relevance) – Statement by the Commission – Commission declaration as complement


Commission Recommendation of 4 July 2001 on the development of a legal and business framework for participation of the private sector in deploying telematics-based Traffic and Travel Information (TTI) services in Europe (Text with EEA relevance) (notified under document number C(2001) 1102)


2000/53/EC: Commission Recommendation of 21 December 1999 on safe and efficient in-vehicle information and communication systems: A European statement of principles on human machine interface (notified under document number C(1999) 4786) (Text with EEA relevance)

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