Europe’s car makers have vowed to fight to keep lucrative crash-parts monopolies in key markets such as Germany and France despite a major setback in Brussels.

According to Automotive News Europe, the European Commission last week agreed a controversial proposal to allow independent suppliers in all European countries to sell visible replacement parts such as body panels, headlights and side mirrors. If the European Parliament and EU governments approve the measure, all member states will have to follow the UK, Italy and Spain and liberalise their markets. The process could take up to two years.

Automakers today control 88% of the €10 billion-a-year crash-parts market in Europe owing to strict design-copyright protection in key markets including France and Germany. For most automakers, crash parts are one of the most profitable business areas.

ACEA, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, said the abolition of design protection for spare parts raises safety and quality issues and would be “to the sole benefit of parts copiers outside the European Union, mainly Taiwan.” ACEA president Ivan Hodac promised to press the EU parliament and national governments to “address [the issue] in a more balanced and rigorous way.”

Heavy opposition by carmakers delayed commission action since early this year.

But internal market commissioner Frits Bolkestein told the EU parliament their lobbying represented “the narrow vested interests of the few”.

Parts suppliers hope for a speedy approval process. Luxembourg takes over the rotating six-month presidency in January and, as a small state with few domestic industrial interests, it is seen as a likely liberaliser.