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The Presidential Cadillac The Presidential Cadillac drives through Downing Street, London in 2016. Photo © US Embassy London

Could more American Cars appear on UK roads?

The prospect of a US-UK Free Trade Agreement could see more American motors on British roads

Published on July 28, 2020

As the US and UK continue to negotiate a potential Free Trade Agreement (FTA), one of the potential outcomes of an FTA could be an increased number of American imported vehicles on roads.

Although the opportunity to drive more Cadillacs, Chevrolets and other big name American manufacturers may be appealing, concerns have been raised as to whether larger US automobiles are safe on relatively smaller UK roads.

The UK Parliament's Advisory Committee on Transport Safety recently wrote to the Secretary of State for International Trade, Liz Truss, saying "We note that in negotiations covering food safety the USA has argued against accepting higher UK standards. It has sought to characterise these as protectionism. We are concerned that pressure for lower safety standards will be applied in negotiations regarding the automotive sector. US vehicle safety standards are much lower than those permitted for vehicles sold in the UK."

President of the Global New Car Assessment Programme, David Ward, speaking to the BBC, explained that "US crash standards are much lower for pedestrians... we simply can’t let American vehicles into the UK if they don’t meet our standards."

In the last week, the topic was raised in a written Parliamentary question to the Secretary of State for Transport. Labour/Co-Operative MP Barry Sheerman asked the Secretary of State what asssessment has been made as to "the suitability of US (a) SUVs and (b) other larger vehicles for driving on UK roads in relation to a future free trade agreement with that country."

Responding on behalf of the Government, Minister of State Andrew Stephenson wrote back saying "The Department for Transport has considered the differences between USA and UK technical standards across all vehicle types. In some areas the safety outcomes are broadly similar but there are also some important differences that would need to be considered, for example, the standards applicable to protecting pedestrians involved in collisions ... no standards will be diminished as part of a Free Trade Agreement with the USA."

The question over SUV safety is also being raised in America. A recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that more recent SUVs are more likely to kill pedestrians than cars. IIHS Statistician Sam Monfort, lead author of the study, said it was "The proportion of SUVs in the U.S. fleet has grown dramatically, so it’s discouraging that they still seem to be more deadly to pedestrians than cars are". IIHS Senior Research Engineer Becky Mueller explained that "Our findings provide more evidence that manufacturers need to make design changes to help combat the increase in pedestrian fatalities now that more of the vehicles on the road are SUVs".

So whilst it may be exciting to see more American marques on UK roads, it's important that any US brands entering the market following a US-UK free trade agreement recognise the very different road conditions and safety standards expected in Britain.

If you're American and wondering if you can drive on UK roads, you can find more advice via https://www.theamerican.co.uk/pr/ea-Driving

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