Brussels, Belgium – The European Union has moved to crack down on emissions cheating after the Volkswagen "Dieselgate" scandal by giving the EU executive more powers to monitor testing and fine automakers.
The European Council of 28 member states overcame the initial objections of Germany and on Monday agreed the broad lines to reform the system for approving vehicles in Europe.
The draft must now go for negotiation with the Commission, the EU executive's arm, and the European Parliament where the automotive industry wields a strong influence.
Chris Cardona, the economy minister of Malta, which holds the EU's six-month rotating presidency, said: "Above all, the objective is building trust and credibility again in the European type-approval system."
The Dieselgate scandal blew open when Volkswagen admitted in September 2015 that it had installed software devices in 11 million diesel-engined cars worldwide that reduced emissions of harmful nitrogen oxides when it detected the vehicle was undergoing tests.
Increased independence needed
The draft rules call for reducing the power of national authorities and empowering the European Commission to test and inspect vehicles to ensure compliance with emissions standards and respond to any irregularities.
"This will increase the independence and quality of the EU type-approval system," the council said. "The Commission could also impose fines for infringements on manufacturers and importers of up to €30 000 (R435 000) per non-compliant vehicle."
Under the draft rules, every country will be required to check emissions in one in every 50 000 new vehicles based on real driving conditions.
The commission and member states have come under fire for allowing automakers to justify a long list of exceptions and loopholes when being checked for pollutants.
But as far back as 2013, the commission's research unit noted discrepancies in emission testing results depending on whether they were done on laboratory simulators or on the road.
While the EU acknowledged that this indicated the possible use of illegal defeat devices, Brussels did nothing, arguing that enforcement was the responsibility of national regulators.