Enthusiasts will be happy with the new rules, while the Government has more power to take the lead on big recalls.

There are new rules for the motor vehicle industry in Australia, after Federal Parliament passed the Road Vehicle Standards Act 2018 last week as a replacement for the Motor Vehicle Standards Act of 1989.

The legislation passed both houses of parliament this week, but the rules won't start coming into force until late in 2019. The Motor Vehicle Standards Act was last updated in 2001.

For regular motorists, the biggest change to the law regards recalls. Paul Fletcher, current Minister for Transport, now has the ability to force a recall if there's an imminent safety risk to motorists, a power previously reserved for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

This year's compulsory Takata recall was proposed by the then-Minister for Small Business, and announced by Michael Sukkar, Assistant Minister to the Treasurer. Had it come about today, it could have been made mandatory by the Minister for Transport instead.

On the import side of things, the new rules will see the current 'compliance plate' replaced by a 'Register of Approved Vehicles' (RAV). All vehicles registered in Australia will be entered into the register (publicly accessible online) in two ways: type approval or concession.

Type approval is self-explanatory, and will be used by manufacturers, but the concession route will interest enthusiasts. If there are cars that don't meet Australian Design Rules (ADR), they can still potentially be imported if they meet the following criteria:

  • Vehicles with more than 110kW per tonne if built in 1992, with added 1kW/tonne extra for every year afterwards
  • Vehicles offering meaningfully better environmental performance, or meeting international categories for low power (kei cars).
  • Vehicles designed specifically to assist people with disabilities
  • Low-volume vehicles (marque less than 3000, model less than 1000, or variant less than 100 per annum). Left-hand drive vehicles won't require conversion under this criteria, but the relevant state or territory will need to approve drivers using them on the road
  • Vehicles manufactured as left-hand drive, and no right-hand drive version is available. This option will require conversion.
  • Vehicles originally built as a camper or motorhome

The bill was backed by both major political parties, and is expected to slash $68 million from current type approval costs – winning it the support of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI).

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“We welcome the passage of the Road Vehicle Standards Bill and congratulate both the Government and the Opposition for their bipartisanship on this very important piece of legislation,” Tony Weber, FCAI chief executive, said in a media release.

“The new motor vehicle industry plays an important role in the lives of everyday Australians, with vehicles remaining one of the most significant household and business purchases.”

Although that leaves the door open for all manner of interesting vehicles we don't currently see on local roads, the Australian Automotive Dealer Association (AADA) is keen to make sure it's not left flapping in the breeze.

David Blackhall, AADA CEO, used a media release to call for the Specialist and Enthusiast Vehicle scheme is only used for "vehicles which are truly specialist and enthusiast in nature" instead of "used mainstream cars".

That sentiment was echoed by Weber, who said the FCAI will "work with the government in the development of enabling rules to ensure that the Specialist and Enthusiast Vehicle Scheme (SEVs) meets its intent of providing unique vehicles without creating a ‘de-facto’ broad used import vehicle scheme".