Campaigners have reacted sceptically to Government plans to crack down on car manufacturers using defeat devices to cheat emissions tests.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has launched a consultation on proposals to create a new offence of supplying a vehicle using a defeat device, or other similar functionality, to deliberately circumvent type approval regulations.
The foreword to the consultation document states that the VW ‘dieselgate’ scandal ‘has shown the need for stringent penalties for manufacturers fitting devices to circumvent the regulatory tests, to provide a sufficient deterrent in the future’.
It acknowledges that European standards for vehicle engines, which should have led to major reductions in emissions of nitrogen dioxide, ‘have failed to deliver, particularly for diesel vehicles’.
However environment groups have argued that ministers have so far failed to take action over the VW scandal.
Ugo Taddei, a lawyer for campaign group ClientEarth, which has taken ministers to court for a third time over the issue of air pollution, said: ‘The Government will claim this means they’re getting tough on car manufacturers that cheat emissions tests but their actions to this point paint a very different picture. The UK already has powers to force carmakers to comply with emissions rules but the Government has failed to use them.
‘In 2016, the European Commission considered this lack of response serious enough to start proceedings against the government.
'More than two years after dieselgate, the UK Government hasn’t yet issued a single penalty or ordered any mandatory recall for vehicles fitted with defeat devices. New and tougher sanctions for the future are welcome but if they were serious about getting tough with emissions cheats this would already be on the statute books.'
The proposals also include changes to fuel economy information for consumers, which the DfT said ‘should reduce the gap between real world and laboratory fuel consumption figures’.