A new law that excludes some cars from state-mandated emissions tests will cost garages about 10 percent of their annual revenue from inspections, a state report says.
But garages will continue to receive more than $50 million a year in emissions inspection fees, and some owners said they were unfazed by the changes.
Gov. Bev Perdue signed a bill last week that will exempt cars and trucks 3 years old and newer from the yearly checks, starting Jan. 1, 2014. The administration has said the emissions testing is unnecessary for new cars because they rarely fail.
Drivers must continue to take vehicles for annual safety tests of tires, wipers and other parts.
But the change in emission testing is significant because auto owners in 48 counties, including Mecklenburg, will no longer pay $16.40 for the checks intended to prevent pollution.
It also means that auto repair shops, inspection-only stations and other garages that rely on testing for profits will lose revenue of $6.4 million a year, according to a report by the N.C. Program Evaluation Division, the state legislatures watchdog arm.
The state would also lose $3.2 million in revenue because it receives a portion of the fees auto owners pay for inspections, the report said.
Exempting newer cars means nearly 600,000 fewer cars would undergo emissions testing, said the report, which was completed in March before the new law passed.
Garages now keep $60 million of the $90 million in revenue raised from emissions inspection fees. The remaining $30 million goes to the state, the report said.
When the new law takes effect, the report said garages will still collect about $54 million a year.
Past attempts to reduce inspection requirements in North Carolina have been brushed back by political allies of garage owners.
They had argued that eliminating the emissions mandate for all cars would harm garages profits and cost jobs.
A sampling of inspection garages in Mecklenburg County found that most were not worried.
Were concerned, but not exactly panicking, said Russ Carter, general manager of Griffin Brothers tires and auto repair Theres nothing we can do about it.
Tom Crosby, spokesman for AAA of the Carolinas, which operates repair shops that offer inspections, said that as long as customers still need safety inspections, profits for garages will not suffer greatly.
State Sen. Stan Bingham, a Davidson County Republican, said the new emissions-testing standards represent a victory for drivers.
Exempting vehicles 3 years old and newer from emissions testing will save auto owners $9.6 million a year, the state report said.
Before this bill was passed, people with new cars who still had their warranty were required to go out and spend $30, Bingham said.
Bingham said he still believes the state should eliminate safety inspections, saying there is no proven correlation between the program and the number of traffic crashes.
When asked whether the state is closer to eliminating all safety and emissions inspections, other state officials and garage owners all said no.
The DMV has always supported safety testing to keep our drivers safe on the roads, said Marge Howell, spokeswoman for the state Department of Motor Vehicles.
David Harkey, director of the UNC Highway Safety Research Center in Chapel Hill, said there is no hard proof that safety inspections make roads less hazardous.
But a recent N.C. Division of Air Quality report found that eliminating emissions testing entirely would increase pollution and would require the state take steps to avoid violating federal clean-air standards. Staff writer Fred Clasen-Kelly contributed to this story.