• Commission proposes to bring carmakers into line after dieselgate

    The European Commission today published a proposal to improve the system for national authorities approving cars to be sold in all 28 EU member states. Sustainable transport group Transport & Environment (T&E) welcomes the Commission’s constructive and timely attempt to bring into line carmakers who, for decades, have actively undermined the approval system circumventing regulation and damaging public health, safety and the climate.

    While the proposal is effective in ensuring testing services operate independently (with penalties for misconduct), its proposals to ensure National Type Approval Authorities are robust and independent are inadequate. These authorities failed to catch Volkswagen cheating, allowed tests to be systematically manipulated, and issued approvals for cars in breach of the rules. The absence of sanctions on compromised national authorities and the ability of carmakers to continue “shopping” around authorities for the best deal are clear omissions from the proposal.

    Greg Archer, clean vehicles director of T&E, said: “This good proposal addresses many flaws in the current car testing system but lacks teeth. The principal reason why Volkswagen managed to get away with cheating in Europe was the lack of independence of national authorities, which were compromised by their cosy relationship with carmakers. Without the threat of future EU sanctions, it will be mission impossible to break the strong bond between national regulators and their carmakers that has protected the industry but at the cost of higher emissions.”

    T&E welcomes steps to strengthen market surveillance by EU countries such as re-tests of cars already on the road and the Commission’s ability to do spot-checks, recall cars and fine carmakers for selling cars that do not meet standards on the road. However, we stress the need to set a clear target for the number of cars on the road that have to be checked (for example, one in three new models), thus removing the current reluctance of national authorities to test cars once they leave the showroom. Real-world driving emissions tests, recently introduced, must be used for future checks.

    On 28 October, Italy, the UK, Germany, France and Spain, which all have large car manufacturing industries, successfully lobbied in favour of weaker NOx limits for diesel cars. Similar opposition is to be expected with this proposal.