A US company with strong links to Northern Ireland has won an £11m deal to install technology at MOT centres, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
And the technology, including new diesel emission tests, will be introduced for the first time in 2021 at a new testing centre with eight lanes planned by the Driver & Vehicle Agency for Hospital Road, near Purdysburn in Belfast.
In total, there are 70 MOT testing lanes in Northern Ireland across 17 centres. That number could increase to 110 if plans for more test centres go ahead.
The 10-year deal - which could be extended if more centres are built - to install software and hardware at the existing centres has gone to Worldwide Environmental Products (WEP) in California. The technology will be used for all elements of testing including diesel emissions tests. Last year it emerged that the DVA had not carried out the required diesel emissions tests since 2006.
WEP chief development officer Michael Delaney, whose grandparents came from Londonderry and Wexford, said the company had won the deal after a competitive tendering process by the DVA, part of the Department for Infrastructure.
It's the company's first contract in the British Isles, and it hopes to use Northern Ireland as a base from which to expand into the European market.
Mr Delaney said customers could expect to experience faster turnaround when using the centres.
WEP will send in its own staff to implement the technology though it is to recruit here for people to manage the contract.
Mr Delaney said the company is in talks with Invest NI about opening an office in Belfast with up to 50 staff.
"We're hoping that growing to a number like 50 will help support us and our presence here providing innovation and proven technology."
The company's biggest market for its vehicle testing services is North America though it also has a strong presence in Latin America, Asia and Africa.
Mr Delaney said Brexit was a concern in the company's plans to use Northern Ireland as a hub for the rest of Europe.
"What is most important for us is contract for DVA and providing world-class service to DVA and people of Northern Ireland."
The Department for Infrastructure had not responded to a request for comment last night.