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Certification body opens Australian office

No barrier: Local crash barrier and other tests can now be verified and carry global certification, clearing the path to export markets.

Australian exports made easier with the arrival of international approval office

General News logo15 Jul 2008

INTERNATIONAL vehicle certification authority (VCA) has established an office in Australia that should make it easier and cheaper for local car makers and suppliers to service global export markets.

The British government-owned organisation, which has offices around the world and does official third-party type approval for most countries apart from North America, launched VCA Australia in Melbourne earlier this month.

The establishment of a globally recognised agency in Australia will streamline the certification of vehicles that have been designed and engineered here for international markets as well as those manufactured locally for export.

Holden, Ford and Toyota are heavily involved in international development programs for their parent companies and employ thousands of design and development engineers, but certification of the vehicles overseas has been an expensive and time-consuming operation.

Certification is required on all vehicles to ensure they meet the growing number of international standards applied around the world, ranging from air conditioning and headlight performance through to crashworthiness and emissions.

The general manager of VCA Australia, Howard Danielson, told GoAuto that vehicles sold in UN-affiliated countries had to meet 35 different system approvals and that each one of those systems requires dozens of tests.

“I come in and we agree which tests we need to do together, I actually witness those tests in a VCA-recognised laboratory, I issue the test reports and the certificates, and then they can sell them,” said Mr Danielson.

“Previously, cars would be sent to Japan or the US with some engineers, and the VCA Japan or US office would witness the tests. It was very expensive and time-consuming, the logistics were difficult and they would lose a prototype vehicle for a time.

“Because some of our customers have gotten big enough, it justified us opening an office here, so now their design engineers don’t have to go abroad for testing – it can all stay in Australia.

“So now there are no customs issues, they keep their prototype vehicles nearby and they don’t have to send their engineers and product abroad for long periods of time to get the testing done.”

80 center imageLeft:The general manager of VCA Australia, Howard Danielson.

He noted that Toyota’s TRD performance car division said they would not use VCA until the company established an Australian office.

Apart from the costs involved in sending cars and engineers overseas, Mr Danielson said that VCA’s fee for certification would now be at least 50 per cent lower for a program that lasts more than four days.

It should also save a great deal of time because he can attend an urgent test almost immediately.

The VCA was established by the UK department of transport in the 1970s to help British car-makers with their exports and now has 10 offices around the globe.

VCA CEO Paul Markwick, who travelled from London for the formal Melbourne opening this month, said he hoped the Australian office would become “an enabling force” that helps the local automotive industry meet the global challenges and opportunities.

“The Australian automotive industry is a very important part of the overall economy and has become increasingly export focussed,” said Mr Markwick.

“I very much hope our presence in the region will help support industry in its drive to access European markets.” He described Mr Danielson as one of the company’s most experienced expert engineers who had been responsible for the success of other overseas offices in the US, Japan and Malaysia.

Mr Danielson said that Australia has all of the test facilities required for full certification – including the Australian Automotive Research Centre at Angelsea in Victoria, EMC Technologies in Melbourne and Crash Labs in Sydney, as well as the car companies’ own facilities.

Nevertheless, he is still interested in hearing from other test laboratories that could be added to the VCA-approved roster for either full vehicle or individual component testing.

Although Mr Danielson has officially been based in Australia since March, the American-born engineer spent most of the past year commuting from his office in Malaysia to service clients here but said he is keen to stay in Australia long-term.

Much of his time is spent visiting the local design centres and addressing issues at an early stage of development.

“We are doing design reviews so that they can be made without any legislative problem before it ever gets to the prototype stage,” he told GoAuto.

“We look at CAD drawings and we discuss it before they actually issue a part number or tool up. We find the issues and say ‘change that’ so, by the time they create their first prototype, there shouldn’t be any issues.

“That’s another mass of savings, less headaches, less changes due to legislation. I spend a lot of time teaching design engineers how to understand the legislation.

“The white collar work here in Australia is actually increasing quite a bit – there’s a lot of design, testing, certification and R&D happening here. The assembly and manufacturing is moving offshore, but it’s actually growing (overall).

“I can’t name names, but there are some customers I have whose headquarters are struggling, so the subsidiaries here in Australia have been earmarked for receiving a lot more responsibility and work within the global organisation.

“That’s really why VCA is here, because we’ve got some big customers that are getting a lot bigger, even though it’s not obvious when you read the newspapers.”

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