The Government had panicked fleets and manufacturers by planning the early adoption of the End-of-Life Vehicles directive, a move that could have seen car makers pass on expensive disposal and recycling costs to new car buyers.
However, the motor industry has now welcomed moves to delay the implementation of liability for the historic car parc, giving manufacturers another five years before taking on recycling responsibility for vehicles built before June 30, 2002.
But DTI minister Brian Wilson said: 'We will require vehicle manufacturers and importers to meet the costs of take-back and treatment of vehicles sold after July 1, 2002, as soon as regulations to that effect can be introduced. From January 1, 2007, vehicle manufacturers and importers will similarly become responsible for such costs for vehicles sold before July 1, 2002, in accordance with the terms of the directive.
'This will ensure a broadly level playing field is maintained with other main car-producing EU countries, such as France and Germany.'
It had been estimated that the cost to new car buyers would be an average of £150 per vehicle – the cost of the recycling bill per year divided by the cost of the number of new cars sold – which would have seriously damaged fleet bottom lines. But the Government clarification of the rules has given manufacturers a breathing space in which to decide how to deal with the cost.
A spokesman for Vauxhall said: 'This helps us in terms of financial planning, but the implications of the End of Life Vehicles Directive are enormous, especially if you think from a European perspective, and a company like Vauxhall and our links to General Motors Europe.
'It's impossible to put a figure on the cost of the directive and the logistics of how it is going to work are huge.
'The other issue surrounds treatment facilities and how this side of the business is going to operate under the directive. But we are pleased that the UK seems to be falling in line with the rest of Europe, as the previous situation was not good.'
Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders chief executive Christopher Macgowan said: 'The motor industry will continue to play its part in developing greener and more recyclable products. However, there are many beneficiaries of the motor car and they all have a role to play in an effective recycling system.'