EU countries agreed to strengthen rules governing how cars are approved for sale in Europe, with the goal of preventing another dieselgate.
Sustainable transport group Transport & Environment (T&E) welcomed the decision but warns that only proper scrutiny and real enforcement of the new rules will prevent carmakers from cheating again.
The new rules force each member state to check cars circulating on their roads (one per every 40,000 new registrations) independently of where they were approved. There are also new powers to require upgrades or EU-wide recalls when irregularities are found, albeit the new system will only apply after September 2020.
Like the environmental agency in the US (EPA), the new system also gives the European Commission new powers to check cars already on the road to ensure they continue to meet health, safety and environmental standards after leaving the factory floor.
Despite falling short of the initial call for a EU agency, the rules allow the Commission to scrutinise the work done by each national car regulator every five years. This change aims at rebuilding trust in the system and pushing culture change among authorities that today often treat car approvals as a business or a means to protect home carmakers.
Julia Poliscanova, clean vehicles manager at T&E, said, “More than two years after the US caught Volkswagen cheating, we can finally say that Europe will have an improved system in place to keep cheaters in check. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating. If the European Commission doesn’t keep a tight grip on national car regulators and check their work robustly and regularly, dieselgate will happen again.”
EU countries rejected the original Commission proposals to break the financial link between carmakers and the test laboratories. Thus, carmakers will keep funding the work done by testers checking cars and vans. They also rejected a proposal to allow independent members to be part of the Forum, a group of representatives from member states and the Commission with the task of overseeing the car approval system.
Julia Poliscanova added, “It’s a pity that EU governments led by the biggest car producing countries rejected wise proposals to allow independent members of the Forum overseeing the new system. The Commission may invite third parties and this is essential to give the new system credibility and transparency.”