The new Volkswagen boss, Matthias Müller, who was appointed following his predecessor’s resignation over the emissions scandal, was head of Porsche when the high-performance sports car company appeared to be caught drafting EU legislation to weaken noise pollution laws.
Loans to Volkswagen from the European Investment Bank (EIB) may be recalled if it becomes clear the money was misused, the bank’s president has said. ‘We will have to ask ourselves the question whether we should reclaim loans,’ Werner Hoyer told the Süddeutsche Zeitung.
The Dieselgate scandal has prompted European car manufacturers to rethink their commitment to diesel and this week Volkswagen announced plans to intensify development of electric cars and plug-in hybrids. It may also have smaller vehicles use petrol instead of diesel. Yet European carmakers’ industry body ACEA has warned against jeopardising diesel, ‘one of the key pillars for fulfilling future CO2 targets’.
Just days before the Volkswagen scandal became public, environmental campaigners in Germany confronted Angela Merkel with the message ‘Diesel exhausts kill’ as the German chancellor opened the Frankfurt International Motor Show, the largest car show in Europe. The message was presented via a 13-metre-long blow-up car with its own cloud of exhaust fumes, designed to highlight the finding that most new diesel cars fail air quality standards they should have met by 1 September.
The impact of the Volkswagen emissions rigging scandal has centred on the shock that a leading and profitable car company from a country with a strong environmental record had been using specialist software to manipulate test results. But T&E has been warning about discrepancies between published fuel-consumption data (which come from official test results) and ‘real-world’ driving conditions for 17 years.
A number of European governments have ordered their own national investigations following news that Volkswagen had rigged emissions tests by using ‘defeat devices’. The European Commission issued a statement encouraging such inquiries.
The Volkswagen test-rigging scandal has been roundly cited as an embarrassment for regulators in Europe because it took an American regulator to highlight blatant malpractice by a European company. The discomfort is heightened by the fact that diesel cars make up a tiny percentage of the market in the US – about 3% – but they account for about 50% of sales in Europe. EU regulators were also informed at the same time as those in the US by the International Council on Clean Transportation but took no action.
New cars, including the Mercedes A, C and E class, BMW 5 series and Peugeot 308, are now swallowing around 50% more fuel than their lab test results, new on-the-road results compiled by Transport & Environment (T&E) reveal. The gap between official and real-world performance found in many car models has grown so wide that it cannot be explained through known factors including test manipulations. While this does not constitute proof of ‘defeat devices’ being used to fiddle fuel economy tests, similar to that used by Volkswagen, EU governments must extend probes into defeat devices to CO2 tests and petrol cars too.
The system of testing cars to measure fuel economy and CO2 emissions is utterly discredited. This report analyses the gap between test results and real-world performance and finds that it has become a chasm, increasing from 8% in 2001 to 31% in 2012 and 40% in 2014. Without action this gap will grow to nearly 50% by 2020. It also looks at which models have been found to have the biggest gap between claimed CO2 emissions and real-world performance.
Unless you have buried your head in the sand over the last couple of days, you would have been hard pressed to miss the VW cheating scandal that has erupted in the United States. A tsunami of media stories have taken over the front pages of the FT, NYT, The Guardian, Le Figaro, Il Sole 24 Ore, to name a few.