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  • National and EU probes into Dieselgate announced

    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.

    France has opened an inquiry into how many Volkswagen vehicles fitted with defeat devices have been sold on French territory, and the environment minister Ségolène Royal said she was also planning to phase out diesel’s tax advantage over petrol.

    Italy has launched an investigation into ‘improper commercial practices’ by VW. The country’s competition regulator wants to look at whether VW, Audi, Seat and Skoda diesels sold in Italy between 2009 and 2015 were promoted as meeting emissions standards that could only be achieved with a defeat device.

    The UK says it will re-run laboratory tests on certain diesels and then compare the results with ‘real-world’ driving emissions. The prime minister David Cameron said his government might re-examine ending subsidies for diesel cars after VW admitted selling new cars fitted with defeat devices in the UK for nearly two weeks after news of the rigging scandal broke. A former UK science minister, Paul Drayson, has admitted that the 1997-2010 Labour government’s support for diesel vehicles was a mistake and diesels were ‘literally killing people’.

    The discrepancy between test and real-world conditions has forced the UK Government to consult on urgent actions to reduce nitrogen oxides emissions. A report said eight of the UK’s largest cities might have to restrict diesels, but the likelihood of emissions being much higher than originally thought has meant diesels may now be banned from up 30 towns and cities if air pollution limits are to be met, as even the newest diesel cars emit on average five times more NOx on the road than in the laboratory.

    Germany’s transport minister Alexander Dobrindt has instructed the national car authority to assess all VW diesel cars. However, shares in other German car companies have fallen markedly, especially BMW. BMW’s shares fell by 9% the day after a report by the motor magazine Auto Bild that said a BMW X3 20D tested had emissions levels on the road 11 times the amount registered in published data. Peter Mock of the International Council on Clean Transportation, which conducted the BMW test, said: ‘All data suggests that this issue is not confined to VW.’

    On Wednesday, Germany’s environment minister Barbara Hendricks called for stricter emissions tests and more independent controls to ensure cars meet standards and do not cheat the system. This follows a raid of Volkswagen headquarters by German prosecutors as part of investigations into the emissions cheating.

    In the US, the Environment Protection Agency is looking at another 28 diesel vehicles made by various makers, among them BMW, Chrysler, General Motors, Land Rover and Mercedes.

    And China’s environment ministry has said it will investigate VW vehicles on sale in China. Its announcement follows a statement by China’s quality control body, saying it was ‘highly concerned’ about VW’s use of defeat devices. Although few diesel cars are sold in China, the country has the world’s largest car market, and analysts are waiting to see if the scandal has any impact on VW’s petrol car sales.

    Romania’s authorities are reclassifying Volkswagen cars as more polluting and will ask the carmaker to pay higher taxes.

    The European Commission is encouraging all 28 EU members to undertake such investigations. In a statement, it said: ‘We invite all member states – in addition to the ones who are already doing so – to carry out all the necessary investigations. We need to have the full picture of whether and how many vehicles certified in the EU were fitted with defeat devices, which is banned by EU law.’