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P-plate car ban lifts

In the mix: Volvo’s XC70 wagon is to be taken from the banned list, although other models from the Swedish brand remain.

NSW RTA backs down over banned cars for novice drivers – but the battle continues

Volvo logo31 Jan 2006

CAR importers have won a battle against the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority over a list banning certain premium European cars from being driven by P-plate drivers.

GoAuto understands more vehicles are also likely to be "exempt" from the P-plate ban.

The result comes after a seven-month battle between the RTA and the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) – with the support of importers including Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Saab – to modify the banned list.

In future, the RTA has also committed to seeking wider consultation and dialogue with the industry before it applies such initiatives.

Initially, the RTA’s banned list included all supercharged and turbocharged vehicles.

This meant P-plate drivers were unable to drive many European cars, despite some being considered among the safest cars on the road.

The RTA’s backdown has been widely acclaimed as a win for common sense by the industry.

Last week RTA officials met representatives from Ford, Volvo, Honda and DaimlerChrysler, as well as the FCAI, in an effort to establish a clearer protocol under which vehicles would be banned.

A revised list of "exempt" cars, consisting of 44 European vehicles, is expected to be posted on the RTA’s website this week. It includes Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Saab and Volvo turbocharged and supercharged vehicles.

Volvo and Mercedes-Benz had led the campaign for amendments to the banned list.

Volvo Cars Australia spokesman Todd Hallenbeck said Volvo had raised its concerns last July, when the list was posted.

"We didn’t get any pre-warning on this (and) that made us very frustrated," he said.

18 center imageLeft: GoAuto e-news #314 from November 23, 2005.

Mr Hallenbeck said Volvo would now campaign to have its S40 and V50 all-wheel drive T5 models taken off the banned list, following a win on appeal this week for the XC90, XC70, S60 AWD and V70 models.

When the FCAI and importers met RTA officials last week they were very understanding, Mr Hallenbeck said.

"The RTA told us this was something in constant evolution," he said. "Cars will come on, cars will go off." Volvo and Mercedes-Benz acknowledged that the motive behind a ban on high-performance vehicles was commendable from a youth driver safety point of view.

At the behest of the importers and the FCAI, any future vehicle bans will look at a specific power-to-weight ratio as a guide.

The managing director of Mercedes-Benz passenger cars, Horst von Sanden, described the meeting and the subsequent lifting of bans on its vehicles as a win for common sense.

"What they all acknowledged around the table was that this thing was done in a bit of a rush and it was never set up to actually disadvantage the benchmark cars in terms of safety," he said.

Under the revised list the Mercedes-Benz C180 and C200, which both have supercharged engines, are now off the banned list.

Mr von Sanden said the importers had also asked the RTA to simplify its exemption process.

Last year the RTA received widespread criticism when it published a 98-page list of vehicles that P-platers were prohibited from driving. Critics said the list was confusing and did not explain why or under what circumstances P-platers could not drive certain vehicles.

An RTA review of the banned list is due out in June, exactly 12 months after it was initiated.

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