Car emissions inquiry looking for answers from German authorities
The inquiry committee into emission measurements in the car industry (EMIS) continued its work on Thursday morning by hearing Alexander Dobrindt, the German Federal Minister of Transport and Olaf Lies, Lower Saxony’s State Minister for the Economy, Labour and Transport.
Mr Dobrindt briefly outlined the steps taken by German authorities after the emissions scandal broke in September 2015: the ministry of transport established an investigative committee which re-checked whether Volkswagen and other diesel models complied with pollution limits. The ministry ordered a recall of more than 2.4 million VW cars to have revised engine software retrofitted, while an additional 630,000 vehicles from other manufacturers which were “optimised” for type approval tests will eventually also have their emission control systems overhauled.
Asked by members whether the EU legislation is too vague about “defeat devices”, he explained that it should be clearer regarding possible exceptions (such as switching off), and allow them specifically only in very rare cases where the manufacturer can prove there is no other technology available to protect the engine.
Mr Dobrindt also rejected the possibility of a class action by consumers to demand compensation from VW because, he said, there is no legal basis for it. He nonetheless agreed that type approval emission tests should be made more realistic and checks on cars already on the road should be stricter, including random “doping” tests to prevent manufacturers from making cars that pollute within the limits only in laboratories.
Mr Lies explained VW’s importance as the biggest employer and strategic partner in Lower Saxony, where it has its headquarters. The Lower Saxony region is also VW’s second biggest shareholder Mr Lies is a member of the company’s supervisory board. He emphasised that neither the board nor the regional authorities had any prior knowledge of cheating in emission tests on diesel engines, but said that since September 2015 a thorough investigation has been under way, the results of which should be published by the end of this year.
Mr Lies had to explain in detail the role of supervisory board, which he said cannot take day-to-day decisions on how the VW is managed but does have a say in long-term strategic discussions, such as the move to electric mobility, which will also result in fewer jobs. He agreed that market surveillance will have to be stepped up with more staff, but he too rejected the possibility of blanket compensation for owners of VW brands cars in Europe.
The next meeting of the EMIS committees is scheduled for Monday, 7 and Tuesday, 8 November in Brussels.
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