Motor Vehicles

Not only does the automotive industry account for 6.4% of gross domestic product and 2.3 million jobs in the European Union (EU), it also provides EU citizens and economic operators with the ability to travel and conduct business across the EU.

EU Legislation on Motor Vehicles

In the European Union, there are several legal acts that apply to motor vehicles and their parts. From September 2020, the EU Motor Vehicle Regulation 2018/858 is fully applicable. The legislation regulates the approval and market surveillance of motor vehicles, trailers, systems, components, and separate technical units.

The Motor Vehicles Regulation makes testing and vehicle type-approval of motor vehicles more independent. In addition, it increases the market surveillance of cars already in circulation.


The Motor Vehicles Regulation applies to motor vehicles of categories M and N and their trailers of category O. Specifically, it refers to motor vehicles intended for public roads.

Article 4 of the Motor Vehicle Regulation defines the motor vehicle categories:

  • Category M includes motor vehicles designed and constructed primarily for the carriage of passengers and their luggage. Based on the number of seats, the subcategory might vary.
  • Category N includes motor vehicles designed and constructed primarily for the carriage of goods. Based on the mass measured on tonnes, the sub-category might vary.
  • Category O includes trailers.

On the contrary, the Motor Vehicles Regulation does not apply to agricultural or forestry vehicles, two- or three-wheel vehicles and quadricycle, track-laying vehicles, and vehicles for armed services only.

The manufacturer shall apply for type approval before placing a vehicle on the EU market. There are certain categories of motor vehicles for which the manufacturer may apply for type or individual vehicle approval under this Regulation. For instance, this applies, among others, for vehicles designed and constructed for:

  • Use principally on construction sites or in quarries, port, or airport facilities.
  • Use by civil protection, fire services and forces responsible for maintaining public order.
  • Performing work and, due to its design, not adapt for transport of passengers or goods.

There are other categories, where the manufacturer may apply for individual vehicle approval:

  • Vehicles intended exclusively for racing on roads;
  • Prototypes of vehicles used on the road under the responsibility of a manufacturer to perform a specific test programme provided they have been specifically designed and constructed for that purpose.

The manufacturer cannot self-declare the conformity of a vehicle and shall obtain a certification with an approval authority.

The technical harmonization of the Motor Vehicles Regulation (MVR) is based on the Whole Vehicle Type-Approval System (EU WVTA). This means that a vehicle can obtain the certificate for a certain vehicle type in one country of the European Union, and then market it in all other EU Member States. This would not require any additional tests.

EU countries appoint approval authorities and notify them to the European Commission. Similarly, EU countries appoint market surveillance authorities and notify to the Commission.

Article 3 of the Motor Vehicles Regulation defines “type-approval” as the process where an approval authority certifies that a type of vehicle, system, component or separate technical unit satisfies the relevant administrative provisions and technical requirements”.

When it is specifically mentioned “EU type-approval”, it means that the definition above applies specifically to the requirements of the EU Motor Vehicles Regulation. In case it is specified that it is a “national type-approval”, it means that the vehicles satisfy the relevant administrative provisions and technical requirements according to the law of a Member States. Therefore, the validity of such approval is restricted to that Member State. By contrast, “individual-approval” refers to the process whereby an authority certifies that specific vehicle.

The manufacturer can choose between different approval processes: step-by-step, single-step, mixed and multi-stage.

Yes. A non-EU manufacturer shall appoint a representative within the EU to fulfil certain obligations. These obligations include representing the manufacturer before the approval authority and ensuring tasks related to market surveillance purposes. Obelis can help you by acting as your Authorised Representative in Europe and Switzerland and as Responsible Person in the United Kingdom.

Motor vehicles of categories M and N and their trailers of category O intended to be used on public roads must meet the requirements stated in Regulation (EU) 2018/858 to be placed on the EU market.

To which vehicles does it apply?

Motor vehicles Regulation (MVR) applies to motor vehicles of categories M and N and their trailers of category O.

  • Motor vehicles of category M have at least four wheels and are intended for the transport of people;
  • Motor vehicles of category N have at least four wheels and are meant for carrying goods.

These categories include, for example, cars, vans, trucks, buses, and coaches.

  • Trailers and semitrailers of category O can be used for the carriage of goods or people.

The manufacturer can choose between different approval processes: step-by-step, single-step, mixed and multi-stage. For all of them, the path is as follows:

  • Compilation of necessary documentation proving that the vehicle complies with the regulatory acts listed in Annex II to Regulation (EU) 2018/858 and the technical requirements specified therein;
  • For non-EU manufacturers, the appointment of an EU-based representative to represent the manufacturer before the approval authority, the European Commission and other parties;
  • Submission of the application for EU type-approval to the approval authority. The manufacturer can present only one request to one approval authority for each device.

In addition to the application, the manufacturer must present the information folder with all data, drawings, and information related to the vehicle and the procedure chosen, and a declaration confirming that the manufacturer has not applied for another EU-type approval process for the same vehicle and that no other applications have been refused, withdrawn or revoked;

  • Issuance of the EU-type approval certificate by the approval authority;
  • A conformity certificate, where manufacturer states that the vehicle is in conformity with EU type-approval requirements.
  • Placing on the EU market;
  • Post-Market Surveillance activities.

Regulation (EU) 2018/858 establishes that approval authorities must certify motor vehicles of categories M and N and their trailers of category O intended to be used on public roads before they can be placed on the EU market. However, violations of legal requirements can occur. Therefore, competent authorities (market surveillance authorities) systematically check the products available on the market to verify if they comply with the relevant requirements. Thus, market surveillance authorities perform:

  • Documentary checks;
  • Laboratory tests;
  • On-road tests.

On top of the Member States’ inspections, the European Commission carries out in-market controls.

Each EU Member State lays down the rules on penalties for breaches of the law according to the principles of effectiveness, proportionality, and dissuasion. Hence, the sanctions will vary depending on the competent national authority identifying the non-conformity.

The main consequences include, but are not limited to:

  • Withdrawal or recall from end-users and the market;
  • Prohibition or restriction on the marketing of the motor vehicle;
  • Being reported to Safety Gate (previously RAPEX) and the Information and Communication System on Market Surveillance (ICSMS), online databases for the exchange of information;
  • Being notified to the Forum for Exchange of Information on Enforcement, a union of authorities for the best implementation of the Motor Vehicle Regulation;
  • Fines.

Moreover, the European Commission may decide on corrective or restrictive measures at the EU level to be implemented by all Member States.

Are you a non-European manufacturer seeking seamless market access for your motor vehicles? Contact us today and let us guide you towards compliance and successful market entry for your motor vehicles.


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