The provincial government and Ontario’s used car dealers are attempting to reach a compromise in regards to the new Drive Clean emissions regulations, which the dealers say are hindering sales.
Other critics, meanwhile, are suggesting the Drive Clean program has done little to curb emissions and should be scrapped, altogether.
The government has maintained that an emissions test is required when buying or selling used vehicles with a model year older than the current year.
The province’s Used Car Dealers Association (UCDA) wants a full exemption from testing vehicles less than seven years of age.
As of Jan. 1, Drive Clean began requiring an on-board diagnostic testing method that can only test vehicles built since 1998. Vehicles built from 1988 to 1997, which had previously experienced a failure rate of 11 per cent to 31 per cent, now appear to face less stringent emission limits than they had previously.
As well, the new computer system has caught most dealerships flat-footed and without the proper equipment. To compensate for this, the government provided alternate rules, wherein a vehicle must be parked for eight hours before the engine is started and allowed to idle in drive for 2 1/2 minutes with the air conditioning and rear defroster on.
When the A/C and the rear defroster have been turned off, the vehicle is required to be driven at highway speeds for 10 minutes and 20 minutes in stop-and-go traffic before being given an emissions test. The regulations have proven to be a major headache for dealers.Not only do they have to undergo a timeconsuming operation, the procedure has also resulted in vehicles failing the test when there is no logical reason why they should.
“We’ve been having an awful time with it,” said Danny Brackett, dealer principal at MacMaster Buick GMC. “At the end of the day, it’s only causing more confusion and is ultimately costing the consumer more.”
To illustrate the problems his dealership is having with the latest emission tests, Mr. Brackett pointed to an example where a customer changed his mind about a 2012 vehicle he purchased this year and wished to trade up to one with a leather interior.
The car he originally purchased, which had only 78 kilometres on it, was put through the emissions test and failed. “There was nothing wrong with it,” said Mr. Brackett, adding that the dealership had similar problems with two other 2012 vehicles.
He also expressed his concern that the new systems causes delays in delivery of vehicles that could undermine the customer’s confidence in the dealer.
In a memo to dealers last week, the UCDA said it had met with the Ministry of the Environment and said the two sides had reached what the association described as “a temporary fix.” Under the new agreement, if a vehicle fails for “readiness”, dealers will be asked to drive it another 30 km, not disconnect the battery or ‘clear’ codes and bring the vehicle back for a retest after 24 hours.
As long as the vehicle shows no additional “not ready” monitors, a retest can then be performed.
If the vehicle fails a second time for not being “ready”, it can then undergo a twospeed idle test or a diesel visual-smoke pass. Most vehicles will pass, as they did under the old test.
“In other words,” the UCDA wrote, “there is now a fix in place that will help ensure you can deliver a vehicle within a day or two in a worst case scenario.”
The entire Drive Clean program, introduced by the Mike Harris government 13 years ago, has come under attack by critics who contend it is a government “cash grab.” An emissions test costs $35, plus HST. Under the new system, Mr. Brackett pointed out, some vehicles have required three or four tests. “The new Ontario Drive Clean equipment is not working as originally advertised as a more efficient, hassle-free way to test vehicle emissions,” said Todd Bourgon, executive director of the Trillium Auto Dealers Association, in a press release. “The new equipment and process is choking auto sales and becoming a massive waste of time and money for dealers and consumers.”
Bob Fines, dealer principal of Fines Ford Lincoln in Bolton, said the due diligence manufacturers exercise when it comes to emissioncontrols greatly reduces the necessity of the Drive Clean program. He noted that there are state-of-the-art carbon dioxide detectors in the dealership’s service bays. “Very seldom does a vehicle running in the shop trigger it, because (later model) vehicles are so clean.” He also said that the customers, themselves, police vehicle’s emission performance and added that there are extensive warranties in place when it comes to emission controls equipment. “There are a lot of things in place to protect both the consumers and the environment, without the need” (for Drive Clean).
Written by Dan Pelton