In July’s summer 2015 Budget, Chancellor George Osborne proposed a 12-month extension to the three-year period during which a new car or motorcycle does not need an MOT. The proposal, which is part of an effort to save UK motorists a total of £100m, is set to be considered by the government in the forthcoming Motoring Service Strategy.
Many vehicle owners welcomed the proposal, seeing it as a cheaper alternative to the current system. However, others weren’t so keen, says Jamie Crowther, of the dealer group Marshall Motor Holdings.
‘Motoring agency surveys say the majority of customers are against change,’ he said.
‘Many customer-buying cycles, finance agreements and warranties are driven in the same three-year cycle.’
Members of the automotive trade condemned the proposal when quizzed by Workshop, claiming that it would endanger motorists’ lives and diminish the importance of regular vehicle servicing, and a number of motoring organisations have spoken out against the idea, quoting figures that prove just how necessary MOTs are.
A spokesperson for the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders told us: ‘The Department for Transport’s own research has shown that decreasing the frequency of MOT tests would increase deaths and serious injuries. Some 22 per cent of cars currently fail their first MOT, meaning that a fifth of vehicles would spend a year in an unroadworthy condition with a move to a fourth-year MOT.’
Stuart James, pictured, the director of the Retail Motor Industry Federation, echoes the sentiment. ‘The UK currently has one of the lowest traffic fatality rates of all the countries in the EU, with fewer than 30 road deaths per million inhabitants,’ he said. ‘But statistics show that we would be jeopardising our amazing road safety record if we increase the amount of time a new car spends without having an MOT.’
Motor Codes is the government-backed, self-regulatory body for the motor industry. Despite the support it receives from the government, it remains strongly against the MOT extension proposal.
Kevin Parker, head of marketing and communications at Motor Codes, said: ‘Road safety is paramount to the motor industry, and the MOT is a vital component of maintaining strict vehicle safety standards. Motor Codes endorses the current system – we would argue that a decrease in the frequency of MOT testing would lead to a significant rise in the number of unroadworthy vehicles on the road, and as such would see an increase in deaths and serious injuries.’
A number of motoring professionals believe the problem lies in the association many drivers make between MOTs and servicing. While MOTs are a yearly necessity, depending on how many miles the vehicle covers it should be serviced accordingly – in some cases, multiple times a year. Simple checks can be carried out by the vehicle owner, for example the oil, water and tyre pressure, although this can be hindered by a lack of knowledge.
A recent survey by dealership group Evans Halshaw found that 15 per cent of motorists don’t know how to open their car bonnet and one in four tend to ignore any warning lights on the dashboard as they have no idea what they signify.
Meanwhile, one in 20 participants were oblivious to the fact that you had to fill up the screen wash, while one in 10 didn’t know that tyres had to be inflated with air.
Figures such as these reaffirm the need for vehicle owners to stay up to date with their cars’ servicing. A spokesperson for Halford’s Autocentres added: ‘Even an average-mileage car is much more likely to be driving on unsafe and worn tyres and brakes after four years compared with three. Having an automotive professional checking a car regularly is vital.’
Alexis Cassey, speaking on behalf of Prestige Diesels Portsmouth, which is an independent garage, said: ‘Personally, we think this proposal will lead to an increased number of cars on the roads running on illegal tyres, worn suspension bushes, ball joints, wearing brake pads and other general maintenance issues that car owners overlook. Many consumers already forget to do annual servicing on their cars after their manufacturer’s warranty has run out.
‘The current three-year MOT requirement is a perfect opportunity for consumers to be made aware of any issues that their cars may have.’
Besides the safety of the vehicle’s occupants, there is another – and illegal – factor that worries many motoring organisations, says Jamie Caple, pictured, director of the Derby-based car supermarket Caralot.
He said: ‘We truly believe the only people this change will benefit will be unscrupulous car traders who actively change mileages on vehicles, as the first MOT is the point where its mileage is logged and clocking becomes more challenging. We believe an MOT at four years old will massively increase the opportunity for vehicles to be clocked, and seeing as how lots of manufacturers still don’t keep a national digital service record, getting away with it will be very easy.’
Finally, motorists are reminded that the new money-saving system could end up costing them more in the long run, with small, avoidable issues that would have been flagged in the three-year MOT worsening into significant problems.
Rachel Greasby, general manager at the Good Garage scheme, said: ‘Along with industry and motoring bodies including the IMI and IAM, we are all working hard to educate motorists about the importance of regular car servicing.
‘The MOT is just as important for three-year-old cars as it is for older vehicles. The MOT is not a cost to the motorist if it provides them with safe motoring. If problems go undetected, it could cost financially more at a later stage, or could even result in road safety issues, putting motorists and their families at risk.’
So there you have it. The motoring industry seems resolutely against the four-year MOT – but will the government listen?