Automobile safety in Germany and the UK

posted on January 22, 2013

The British Department of

Transport and the German Technischer Überwachungsverein (technical inspection agency, TÜV) have released information about their 2012 car inspections with similar results: the German TÜV failed one in five vehicles, while the British MOT test had the exact same failure rate for first-time inspected vehicles.

Similar automobiles with similar problems

Both countries require cars at least three years old to be tested every two years. For cars tested in 2012 both testing agencies state that the majority of defects were found with lighting, brakes, tyres, and exhaust systems.[2] Both studies also recognize certain brands to be high and low performers: The MOT report praises Japanese brands like Toyota, Suzuki, and Honda as well as Audi, Smart, and Mercedes Benz.[2] TÜV notes the particularly strong performance of the German brands Volkswagen, Porsche, and Mercedes, while also recognizing Ford, Smart, Opel and specifically the Toyota Prius .[3] The German study finds particular fault with Dacia, Chrysler, and Fiat, while the MOT failes French automobiles like Renault, Citroën, and Peugeot most often.[2]

Who is responsible: manufacturer or driver?

Despite eight million cars being inspected in both the UK and Germany, experts cannot agree on the source of the problems. The overlapping high and low performances of several car brands in the MOT and TÜV results seem to place the blame on carmakers. But the British Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders cautions against such a conclusion. Instead they insist that “pass rates will be determined by a wide range of factors, but particularly the level of use, ownership profile, and the frequency of servicing or regular maintenance.”[4] In fact, the MOT study includes revealing statistics based on the region in which the car is driven. In the Scottish Highlands, for example, cars were most likely in need of brake repairs; cars in South Wales had the highest frequency of failures in tyre tread depth in the entire UK; and cars along the rain-soaked coast often had rust problems. Although not stated in the TÜV report, a similar trend in Germany based on geographic location is not difficult to imagine.

The takeaway for fleet managers

The most important takeaway these studies offer for fleet managers is the importance of regular maintenance. Often, fleet automobiles are used by several different drivers for a myriad of purposes in varying weather conditions. Regular maintenance can stop minor problems before they become major deficiencies. Fleet managers should also take a close look at the actual performance of their automobiles in tests like the MOT and TÜV: Are there any patters in mechanical failures? Are the problems associated with driving styles or manufacturing design flaws? When these results are compared with the needs of the drivers, the fleet manager can then find the perfect make and/or model that can beat the one-in-five failure rate.

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