Dieselgate: Testing reform

The way we test cars and trucks in Europe is obsolete and opaque. This is the root cause of the Dieselgate scandal in which Volkswagen was caught cheating tests for air pollutant emissions. First, there’s an obsolete laboratory test for emissions that has not changed since the 1990s and is easy to manipulate and cheat with today’s more advanced IT technology. Then there’s an opaque so-called “type approval” system whereby new vehicles and automotive components are tested to ensure they comply with EU safety and environmental rules. Once approved these may be sold without restrictions throughout the EU single market.

Outdated process

Under the current rules manufacturers may choose any of the 28 EU type approval authorities (TAAs) which they pay to approve their products, so they go “shopping” around for the best offer. There is no oversight to ensure the authorities all work to the same standard and apply the EU rules correctly. In the absence of this, TAAs compete for manufacturers because they very well know that if one authority becomes too strict, the client will simply go to the more friendly authority. In contrast to other systems, such as in the US, no independent verification testing once vehicles and parts are in use takes place – market surveillance is the responsibility of the industry itself.

Reform needed

This obsolete system is in dire need of overhaul; EU oversight of national TAAs and independent spot checks throughout the vehicle’s lifetime on our roads must be introduced in Europe.  Following the VW emissions scandal, the Commission presented a new proposal to reform the current EU car testing system. T&E is campaining to ensure any future system is transparent, rigorous and resourceful, independent and consistent, which is a TRRIC for success.