An influential group of British politicians has called on the Government to set strict timelines for Volkswagen Group to recall tainted diesel vehicles and compensate their British owners.
VW is “only just beginning to recall cars in the UK,” where about 1.1 million vehicles were found to contain software that rigged emissions tests, said Parliament’s environmental audit committee.
It criticized the UK Department for Transport, Serious Fraud Office and Competition and Market Authority for failing to decide on penalties against the VW almost a year since the scandal was exposed.
“There has been a worrying inertia from ministers in tackling the VW scandal, and they should decide whether to take legal action,” Mary Creagh, the committee’s head, said in a statement. “It has been almost a year since we discovered VW had fitted cars with cheat devices, but government has still to decide what action to take against the company.”
Volkswagen revealed in September 2015 that about 11 million of its diesel-powered vehicles worldwide were equipped with software designed to switch on full pollution controls only during official emissions tests, setting off a global backlash. Settlements with U.S. authorities and owners will cost the company $16.5 billion. The carmaker has also been fined in South Korea, where sales of 80 of its models have been banned. Regulators in Germany have been approving recall terms, which apply across Europe.
The committee’s recommendations are part of a larger review of automotive policy, which the parliamentary group said is set to miss targets for reducing vehicle emissions in the country.
Government must underwrite the risk of procuring ultra-low emission vehicles, while subsidizing charging points at workplaces and introducing a grant for electric and low-emission taxis, the committee said. Incentives should also be given to the likes of Nissan, Honda and Toyota to produce next-generation electric cars in the UK, it said.
The UK’s current approach contrasts with Germany’s, where parliament has drafted legislation that widens consumer incentives to adopt electric vehicles through tax breaks as well as cash incentives of 4,000 euros ($4,500) for purchases of all-electric cars and 3,000 euros for hybrid models.
The UK’s air-quality targets for 2010 will now only be met by 2020 because of belated plans to tackle pollution, according to the parliamentary report. The decision to quit the European Union means there is a “material risk” to meeting those targets, the committee said. Of 43 zones across the UK, 38 are currently in breach of legal air-quality limits, including London, Manchester, Bristol and Cardiff.
The Australian consumer watchdog said it sued the Australian arm of Volkswagen Group for intentionally selling more than 57,000 vehicles with software designed to skirt emissions rules.
“These allegations involve extraordinary conduct of a serious and deliberate nature by a global corporation,” Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Chairman Rod Sims said in a statement.
The move adds to what is already proving to be costly legal fallout for the German company as it faces class action lawsuits in Australia and around the world over emissions fraud, as well as penalties from antitrust authorities.
Already in Australia, law firm Maurice Blackburn is seeking more than A$100 million ($75 million) from the company, including the full replacement cost of some 90,0000 vehicles, while the auto giant has agreed to pay its 650 U.S. dealers $1.2 billion in compensation.
German authorities have challenged Fiat Chrysler Automobiles over a device to disable exhaust treatment systems on diesel engines.
The car maker says the device is to protect engines but the German testers disputed this and said it produced higher emissions not detected by the usual tests.