A former european commissioner has told MEPs it was clear for many years that emissions tests for road vehicles did not represent real driving conditions but no-one suspected manufacturers would employ sophisticated cheating methods.
Günter Verheugen, commissioner for enterprise and industry 2004-2010, told the European Parliament’s inquiry committee on emission measurements in the automotive sector how the current legislation on car emissions was drafted during his tenure.
Former commissioner Verheugen tells MEPs how it was
He argued that as commissioner for industry his main responsibility was to keep the EU car industry globally competitive, with rules best suited for technological development, including emission limits.
Mr Verheugen said he relied on experts for the drafting of the directives on Euro 5 and Euro 6 certification.
He said it was clear that type approval tests did not represent real driving conditions and therefore a new test started to be developed in 2007, but no one suspected that manufacturers would cheat using sophisticated defeat devices of the type Volkswagen admitted to using last year.
MEPs asked the former commissioner whether the rules are so vague that they allow for mis-interpretation. He insisted that defeat devices had already been banned at an earlier stage and that those provisions were copied into ensuing rules.
Howvever MEPs stressed that this was the case for lorries only. They also criticised the lack of a definition of what constitutes a defeat device.
Mr Verheugen conceded that in hindsight the rules might be perceived as lacking clarity. He also said the commission focused on carbon dioxide reduction as that was part of the EU global commitment in the fight against climate change. He argued that he and his team had taken decisions that were right at the time.
Separately, the Commons Environmental Audit Committee has criticised UK ministers for their ‘inertia’, almost a year after the VW scandal first broke.
The committee found that VW is only just beginning to recall cars in the UK. It also heard that the Serious Fraud Office and Competition and Markets Authority have still to determine whether they will take legal action against VW. The transport secretary has yet to decide whether there are grounds for legal action.
Committee chair Mary Creagh said: ‘There’s been a worrying inertia from Ministers in tackling the VW scandal, and they should decide whether to take legal action. They should ask the Vehicle Certification Agency to carry out tests to see whether, without the cheat devices, VW Group cars in the UK would have failed emissions tests.’