Under the proposed new rules, Brussels would be able to order spot
checks on vehicles, order recalls and impose penalties on carmakers
of up to 30,000 euros ($32,600) per vehicle for failure to comply
with environmental laws - if no fine was being imposed by the member
The new plans would also authorize individual EU member states to
recall cars approved by any of the bloc's other nations for
violations, encouraging peer review of national authorities.
The planned legislation is the strongest EU response yet to German
carmaker Volkswagen's admission in September that it used software
to cheat U.S. diesel admissions tests - a scandal which has shone a
light on the EU's lax vehicle regulations.
"To regain customers' trust in this important industry, we need to
tighten the rules but also ensure they are effectively observed,"
said Jyrki Katainen, the European Commission's vice-president for
jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness.
Under existing rules on vehicle or "type" approval, Germany's KBA
authority alone has the power to both approve new Volkswagen <VOWG_p.DE>
cars and to revoke those licenses, although the cars can be sold
across the EU single market.
So far, no EU national authority has imposed a penalty on
Volkswagen, even though it has said around 8.5 million of the 11
million vehicles fitted with banned software are in the region.
Critics see this as a sign of collusion between national governments
and the auto industry, a major source of jobs and exports in the
bloc's biggest economies of Germany and France.
If the new legislation is approved by EU member states and the
European Parliament, future breaches would result in possible
multi-billion euro costs for manufacturers.
The reform also seeks to break cozy relations between carmakers and
the laboratories they hire to test new vehicles by introducing a
funding pool from which testing agencies are paid.
Under the new plan, the EU executive would be able to fine or
suspend the licenses of testing bodies it deemed too lax.
Brussels is also trying to close a loophole whereby testing for
toxic nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollutants is held in artificial rather
than real road condition. But that legislation faces opposition in
European Parliament because the current proposal would still allow
cars to carry on spewing out more than twice official emissions
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Critics say the plans were watered-down after some of the EU's 28
member states sought to protect their car industries.
The new reforms will likely meet stiff resistance from nations such
as Britain, which generally opposes taking powers away from national
authorities, and Germany, with its large automotive industry.
"It will be attacked heavily by the member states because it boils
down to giving away sovereignty to Brussels," Green member of
parliament Bas Eickhout said.
The proposals stop short of creating an independent EU-wide
regulator along the lines of the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency, which uncovered Volkswagen's wrongdoing.
In a direct attempt to guard against a repeat, however, they mandate
automakers to provide access to software protocols.
So-called "defeat device" software has been illegal in the EU since
2007. Nevertheless, the European Commission's own research showed in
2011 that NOx pollution by vehicles on the road was some four times
higher than in tests.
Altering carbon dioxide emissions in cars can be also be achieved
via a variety of engineering tricks to reduce fuel consumption such
as switching off air conditioning and improving aerodynamics by
removing wing mirrors and taping up doors.
(Additional reporting by Meredith McGrath and Barbara Lewis; Editing
by Philip Blenkinsop and Mark Potter)
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