Could Volkswagen Skate On A Technicality in Europe?
The New York Times is reporting that a loophole in emissions regulations for European cars could keep Volkswagen from paying billions to governments for illegally polluting cars. Regulators considered closing the loophole in 2011, but ultimately failed to do so, which could leave the escape hatch ever-so cracked for Volkswagen to run through.
According to the report, which cites internal meeting notes of European regulators in Geneva, automakers can send through testing cars programmed for special circumstances that daily drivers can’t access.
“A manufacturer could specify a special setting that is not normally used for everyday driving,” British regulators warned in 2011, according to the New York Times.
Last week, Volkswagen chief Paul Willis sent a letter to British Parliament saying that Volkswagen would investigate whether the special mode that the EPA alleged Nov. 2 could allow bigger, V-6 engines to cheat emissions constituted a “defeat device” in Europe.
“I would now like to share with you that we have just received confirmation that the KBA does not regard the use of this technology in the EU as problematic and thus being in line with current regulation,” Willis wrote.
Regulations that apply in Europe say “the settings of the engine and of the vehicle’s controls shall be those prescribed by the manufacturer.”
If manufacturers have the discretion to determine their own engine settings during emissions tests in Europe, it remains unclear if using software to alter engine settings would violate European rules.
The story correctly notes that all sorts of fun can happen in Europe when it comes to emissions tests: seats are taken out, body panels can be taped up, batteries are disconnected, and tires are usually over-inflated.
There is some doubt that Volkswagen could skate, however. In Britain, regulators said that cars must be tested in default modes or worst emission setting, and that those regulations were agreed upon with other European countries.
But Volkswagen could challenge that interpretation and who knows, avoid a few billion bucks in penalties?
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