Volkswagen emissions scandal and vehicle type approval Contents


82.The Volkswagen emissions scandal has brought the integrity of the auto sector into disrepute. VW’s conduct since the scandal has only served to further damage its reputation. It has communicated poorly with customers which has led to confusion over when and how affected vehicles will be fixed. Furthermore, VW has not been open about the nature of the defeat device software that it installed in millions of vehicles worldwide. Instead of answering many of our questions directly, VW asked us to await the results of an internal investigation by Jones Day. We do not believe that the internal investigation will provide the answers that are needed urgently. VW has used the investigative process to make announcements that only served to exonerate senior management. Approval authorities and regulators cannot depend on VW to co-operate and in this report we have called upon the Department for Transport to use its powers and resources to properly investigate VW which we believe it has failed to do, so far.

83.The type-approval framework requires a great deal of improvement before it can be considered fit for purpose. We welcomed the introduction of Real Driving Emissions Testing and the implementation of the Worldwide Light-vehicle Test procedure. Standards agreed globally are worth pursuing. It is important that the negotiations are transparent and open and that the genuine concerns of motor manufacturers are balanced against the importance of safety and environmental policy goals of a global testing system. We are concerned the EU’s method of policy making has not had that level of transparency and the motor industry has had too much influence over how emissions limits are set and the timescales for implementation.

84.The fine detail of the new emissions tests is still to be agreed and the Department for Transport must do everything in its power to ensure that they are implemented with sufficient stringency. Little was done to address the emissions gap before the Volkswagen Group emissions scandal drew public attention to the deficiencies in current tests. The emissions gap was the result of a failure to keep pace with vehicle technology. The only way to overcome that problem in future is through rigorous scrutiny by approval authorities operating in a system of consistent standards that has opportunities to share information and report the impact of new vehicle technologies on the effectiveness of existing regulation. A failure to do that will only result in the stringency of the new reforms becoming obsolete in years to come.

85.The Volkswagen emissions scandal would not have been revealed by any of the approval authorities or technical services under the current framework. It is apparent that the potential for manufacturers to use defeat device software or other dubious emission control strategies were known for many years. Since the VW scandal broke other questionable practices by a range of manufacturers have come to light. Testing can only ever be a sampling approach and it is vital that there is a system of effective in-service surveillance that will detect where tested vehicles are not performing as they should in real-world conditions. As vehicle technology becomes increasingly complex in-service surveillance must become a far greater priority for approval authorities. Had approval authorities made greater efforts to be seen to be looking for cheats, the current regulatory crisis could have been avoided or at least significantly reduced.

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12 July 2016