Beginning in April 2017, auto dealers in Ontario will no longer be required to subject pre-owned and demo cars they sell to a Drive Clean emissions test.
The government is revoking the law that requires used, salvaged or rebuilt light-duty vehicles — those with a gross weight less than 4,500 kilograms — to have passed an emissions test within the 12 months preceding the sale or transfer of the vehicle. Demos are considered used in Ontario, and therefore required the test before being sold.
Demos and pre-owned vehicles will still be required to have passed a safety check within the 36 days leading up to the sale.
New cars purchased from a dealer were already exempt from the test and will remain so. All light-duty vehicles in Ontario will still be required to get the test every two years once the vehicle is seven years old.
$30 fee gone, too
The decision marks the Ontario government’s second alteration to the law within the last month. On Nov. 15, the province told Automotive News Canada that the $30 fee charged for the test will be eliminated April 1, 2017. Dealers view both changes as victories for their industry.
The Drive Clean test determines if a vehicle meets Ontario emissions standards. If it doesn’t, a vehicle owner must make necessary repairs before it is allowed on the road.
During the summer, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change proposed a number of changes to the Drive Clean program, most of them dealing with paperwork, documentation and service in island communities. But one of the major proposals was the elimination of the emissions tests on used vehicles under seven years old.
The 75-day public consultation period on those proposed changes closed Oct. 8, 2016, and changes were quietly made Dec. 1. They will go into effect April 1, 2017.
“The ministry reviewed and considered all comments received and will be posting a Decision Notice to the Environmental Registry and the Regulatory Registry before the end of the year,” ministry spokesman Gary Wheeler said in an email to Automotive News Canada.
Dealers called test 'red tape'
The Trillium Automobile Dealers Association, which represents about 1,100 dealers in Ontario, applauded the government’s decision to do away with the law, calling it “a pain.”
“Having to conduct an emissions test on a demo or late model year used vehicle wastes time and money, especially since these vehicles are essentially brand new and under warranty,” spokesman Frank Notte said in an email to Automotive News Canada. “After five years of asking for this policy change, Trillium is pleased the Ontario Government has listened and cut this out-dated and unnecessary piece of red tape.”
Mechanics conducting emissions tests on demos and used cars at dealerships were taking time away from other customers, costing dealerships money, TADA said.
Auto dealers have long said it never made sense that a two-year-old used car or demo sold at a dealership needed a test but a six-year-old car that was bought new and never changed hands did not. According to an Ontario Auditor General’s report in 2012: “As of December 2011, half of all light-duty vehicles registered in Ontario had been built in the last seven years. For those in this category that had an emissions test in 2010 [likely due to an owner- ship transfer], the initial failure rate was one per cent or less.”
Warren Barnard, executive director of the Used Car Dealers Association of Ontario (UCDA), said his association has been pushing for the elimination of Drive Clean on the sale of used vehicles for years.
The UCDA represents about 4,800 motor vehicle dealers across Ontario, including franchise, independent and truck dealers and leasing companies.
“The UCDA supported the 1999 implementation of the Drive Clean program as necessary to address a very real threat to air quality and the health of Ontarians. Today however, emission levels from vehicles, even older used vehicles, have been reduced significantly because of dramatic improvements made by vehicle manufacturers,” Barnard said in an emailed statement to Automotive News Canada. “The UCDA is pleased that the ministry now sees that the Drive Clean test has become redundant on the sale of used vehicles and that UCDA members will soon no longer be burdened with the needless time and expense of preparing and testing vehicles before they can be sold.”
As Automotive News Canada confirmed in November, Ontario will also finally eliminate the initial $30 Drive Clean fee in April 2017, nearly 14 months after the province announced the fee would be killed.
Test still needed on older cars
Since all light-duty vehicles will still require their first biennial Drive Clean test for licence plate renewal at seven years old, the province will pay for the test, which it defends and says will remain in place.
“Drive Clean continues to play an important role in protecting the quality of the air we breathe and significantly contributes to the reduction of emissions that cause smog and poor air quality,” ministry spokesman Gary Wheeler said in an email.
“In 2014 alone, the program prevented smog-causing pollutants from being released from 135,000 vehicles.”
Funds to support the program will come from the government’s general revenue, once the fee is axed in April.