Government proposals to extend the period before the first MOT test is needed from three to four years, have been condemned by the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI) and received qualified support from the RAC.

The proposals, unveiled by transport minister Andrew Jones, would bring England, Scotland and Wales in line with Northern Ireland and European countries including France, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Denmark and Norway.

Jones said: “We have some of the safest roads in the world and MOT tests play an important role in ensuring the standard of vehicles on our roads.

“New vehicles are much safer than they were 50 years ago and so it is only right we bring the MOT test up to date to help save motorists money where we can.”

Subject to the public consultation, the changes could come into effect in 2018.

Responding to the propsoals RMI director Stuart James said: “This is an unnecessary consultation and there are a number of reasons why the benefits promoted by government are seriously outweighed by the pitfalls. At the three-year period alone this change will see 400,000 unroadworthy cars on the road for another 12 months and no official mileage recorded until year four.

“Although modern cars are better built than ever before, factors such as the condition of Britain’s roads combined with high mileages mean that modern cars should be checked more often but in many cases go for many months or even years without being seen by an industry professional.

“This proposal would, without doubt, cost consumers more in repair costs, incentivise ‘clockers’ and be detrimental to the UK’s excellent road safety record for no particular gain.”

The RMI is part of ProMOTe, a coalition representing road safety groups, motoring organisations and industry bodies and all are opposed to this proposal.

However, RAC chief engineer David Bizley said: “We are generally supportive of the idea of changing the requirement for a vehicle’s first MOT from three years to four, but we do have some concerns about high mileage vehicles.

“For example, it is perfectly possible for a high mileage vehicle at three years old to have done in the region of 100,000 miles which would make an MOT entirely appropriate. However, the situation with an average mileage vehicle would be very different as, at four years old, it may only have around 40,000 miles on the clock.

“We would like to see a two-tier system which states that an MOT must be carried out at four years or as soon as it reaches a threshold mileage of maybe 50,000 or 60,000.”