Last month’s disclosure in Der Spiegel of a cartel between Volkswagen, BMW, Audi, Porsche and Mercedes bore striking similarities to the recently concluded truck case that lead to a fine of almost €3 billion. In that case, truckmaker MAN (also part of VW) blew the lid on the fixing of prices charged to customers for better emissions control systems needed to meet new regulations and how these costs were passed on to customers. Five companies were fined including the Mercedes truck division Daimler.
This is the final in a blog series on how to decarbonise land freight by 2050. All the blogs are based on our report Roadmap to climate-friendly land freight and buses in Europe, leading up to a public debate, Zero emissions land freight, taking place in Brussels on 27 September.
The average car sits unused for more than 90% of the time, carries on average just one and a half people and costs on average €6,500 a year to own and run. Each car occupies 150m2 of urban land and still this is not enough – congestion costs the EU economy €100 billion annually. The convenience that made the car a 20th century icon has been eroded by its popularity.
Germany is in the grips of what may well be the largest cartel case in its industrial history. According to Der Spiegel, a German weekly, Volkswagen and Daimler have turned themselves in to the German and EU competition authorities. The alleged cartel included themselves BMW, Audi and Porsche, and dates back all the way to the 1990s. The news comes roughly a year after the European Commission fined EU truckmakers a record €2.9 billion for price fixing and collusion on emissions technology.
Choked with toxic fumes, more and more cities across Europe are planning diesel bans. Even the iconic homes of Daimler and BMW, Stuttgart and Munich respectively, are considering the step in light of the high real-world emissions of nitrogen oxides. But German regional and national governments are striking back and partnering with the German car industry against the health of citizens to promote diesel as “clean”.
On 4 April MEPs will have a unique opportunity to cast their vote to secure independent, robust checks on vehicles by voting for a European Vehicle Surveillance Agency. As the European Parliament's Dieselgate inquiry committee (EMIS) has so clearly articulated, “Member states have not been up to the task in implementing EU legislation on vehicles and establishing appropriate market surveillance.”
Last week European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker presented his plan for the future of Europe. Or, more accurately, he presented different scenarios for what that future could look like. It would be easy to dismiss this as another round of Brussels navel gazing but the truth is this debate matters. Especially to environmentalists.
It is with a heavy heart that I write this last editorial for the T&E Bulletin, having led this wonderful organisation since 2004. The obvious question to ask now is ‘Have we made a difference?’
The Commission is currently drafting its “road initiative”, which consists of two main objectives: one is the protection of the rights of truck drivers and the other is a promotional mechanism to encourage a cleaner freight transport system. If done properly, this will have a positive impact on ending the exploitation of foreign truck drivers while also reducing CO2 emissions from road transport. However, vans simply bypass all of these laws and, if the Commission fails to address this, it could open the door to the further exploitation of drivers and result in dirtier and more congested roads.
Last week I was in Hannover for the IAA2016, the twice-yearly truck fair. This is the place where European truckmakers exhibit their new models and score a few political points in front of the assembled press.Quite a few of my truck industry colleagues approached me and urged that I check the latest edition of Lastauto Omnibus, a truck testing magazine. Judging from their big smiles, there was an article in there that they all liked a lot.