The European Automobile Manufacturers Association (Acea) has finally decided that Japanese car builders who operate in Europe are no less European than the Americans who build Fords, Opels and Vauxhalls and have been members for years.

The step change came on Friday with ACEA, under the chairmanship of Sergio Marchionne, Fiat chairman, announcing that Toyota has been successful in its application.

The situation is rather different from 2005 when Toyota first applied. The letter was then delivered by hand by a senior Toyota official who was never told whether the application had been refused, lost or mislaid. The response was simply that the letter “had not been accepted”.

There it was left while negotiations continued out of the public eye. No application was filed last year but finally the climate changed and the application was formally submitted again this year.

It will be something of a relief to Ivan Hodac, the secretary general of ACEA, that the embarrassing discrimination has ended and that no further applications are expected.

Nissan is logically next in line but is thought content with the access it enjoys through Renault which holds a controlling holding in Nissan shares.

Honda is the only other manufacturer of cars in Europe not yet a member of club ACEA. Some believe that Honda does not qualify – it only builds a few cars in Europe and does not have a research centre. But most likely, it would not want to join. It has not joined the US association and has always been something a rebel in its approach to trade clubs.

Toyota by contrast, is the only car maker in the world that is now a member of all three big clubs – US, Europe and Japan.

Its next step though, might be to consider cancelling some of its subordinate memberships of the country clubs. Toyota has considered the possibility of withdrawing from some national trade associations. What is the value in maintaining a presence at the British Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders for example, when all the big decisions are taken in Brussels?

Rob Golding