By on December 6, 2017

Volkswagen Jetta TDI emissions test, Image: University of West Virginia

Italy and Germany are opposing attempts to give the European Union more authority over the way national car regulators approve new cars for sale. As wild as it is to learn that Germany is standing in the way of stricter automotive regulation and oversight, allow us to assure you that you’ve not misread the above statement. For some reason, Deutschland doesn’t want to see enhanced industry surveillance.

Our best guess is that the opposition has something to do with Volkswagen Group’s diesel crisis, recent concerns that BMW may have utilized a “shut off” device that masked NOx emissions, and the ongoing investigation into a German automotive cartel that may have operated for decades. But there’s also a chance these automakers simply don’t want to deal with the red tape that comes along with piling on government oversight. 

According to Reuters, Germany’s official stance opposes inspections because “any kind of audit means extra bureaucracy without being beneficial.”

However, European Union Industry Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska told the outlet, “We need more quality and independence in the system, more checks of cars already in circulation, and European oversight,” adding that she was optimistic an agreement finally seems within reach.

The EU documents seen by Reuters show lawmakers want the Commission to be able to carry out routine audits of national car approval authorities. While some member states — like France — support two days of verification every five years, Italy and seven other nations are requesting conditions that would weaken the Commission’s oversight power. Obviously, Germany is the biggest fish among them.

One of the biggest issues surrounding the new rules is the possible expansion of on-road emission tests each country is obligated to conduct. After all, those were the types of tests that caught Volkswagen cheating in 2015 and may have also uncovered something similar with BMW this year. However, additional research needs to be done before BMW can be indicted for anything. At present, the company has dismissed the allegations as a smear campaign, claiming the manufacturer would fight any accusations to the contrary.

Still, even if BMW has done nothing wrong, the paranoia that another emissions crisis is just around the corner remains palpable. “It boils down to: do we want the Commission to put its nose in the affairs of the national type-approval authorities?” an unnamed diplomat told Reuters. “After Dieselgate, it’s hard to say no.”

A recent draft compromise has proposed member states conduct checks on one in every 40,000 new vehicles registered; 20 percent of those must include emissions tests. It’s actually less than what the European Parliament originally requested, and environmental groups have criticized the proposal for being more lax than the current U.S. standards.

The European Union also gave up on the Commission’s attempt to stop automakers from using paid laboratories for vehicle testing. Instead, they wanted to implement a system where labs were contracted by the state in hopes they would be more objective. However, the existing draft does include measures allowing the EU to issue continent-wide recalls of suspect automobiles.

[Image: University of West Virginia]

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11 Comments on “Germany and Italy Oppose Stiffer European Car Approval Rules...”

  • avatar

    If you thought everything becoming a 2.0T was annoying, just wait for the 0.8T engines these studies will steer them towards.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Ah, the old Federal vs State vs Regulatory Agency dispute.

    Everybody likes rules when they apply to someone else.

  • avatar

    Hi all,

    Not to rain on any good auto conspiracy theories but Germany is always pretty harsh on any technologies it feels is invasive or uses any undue surveillance or collects information.

    When I was in I.T. Germany always was raising concerns over any technology it thought might have any possibility of being invasive or gathers information to a central authority.

    We could have most of the world on board for a rollout of some software package but Germany would either be last or completely exempt.

    If they are concerned as stated above as “Deutschland doesn’t want to see enhanced industry surveillance” or “undue oversight” then, yeah, it’s standard operating procedure.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Denver

      Logging the personal information of private individuals is different than collecting data from a corporation so that they cannot continue to evade the pollution control laws. You have a right to privacy but you don’t have a right to cheat on emissions tests.

  • avatar

    It’s always a bad idea when governments force carmakers to design and engineer their cars in a certain way.

    Remember the ‘70s?

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Denver

      Left to the free market, our cars would still be like ’68 Oldsmobiles and LA would be uninhabitable due to smog, like some Chinese city. The carmakers had to be dragged kicking and screaming into making safety and pollution control improvements. Now admittedly the leftists at the EPA thought that the dirty capitalists were holding out on them when they told them that they couldn’t meet the EPA’s targets without destroying performance and all they needed to do was try harder in order to increase the grain harvest in the Ukraine (oops, I mean to cut pollution). But they were partly right – US manufacturers LOVED carburetors (the 3 top reasons being because carbs were 1. cheap, 2. cheap and 3. cheap) and hated the thought of going over to EFI (but without EFI in a feedback loop they were never going to get things under control)

      But nothing would have been done without government regulation because polluting was “free” to the auto manufacturer – the cost of the vehicle didn’t reflect the environmental damage it was doing.

  • avatar

    It’s funny that they’re testing emissions in the photo, and there’s a Honda generator with its own tailpipe, generating its own emissions (along with electricity).

    • 0 avatar

      Good point.

      Here’s another. The picture is courtesy University of West Virginia, who were into testing VWs for NOx several years ago, and still may be.

      The implication of this article was that it was Euro testing, but the main picture is of US testing.

      Since it’s fairly obvious to me that the German automakers aren’t to be trusted, that at least some Japanese auto manufacturers fudge fuel economy results and Japanese suppliers like Kobe Steel issue fake certificates of compliance, then there is every likelihood that US manufacturers are up to something. We just don’t know what.

      If corporations tend to go off on expeditions to make things go their way regardless of existing regulations and screw the public, then my personal take is that the government we pay for should at least try to level the playing field by taking corporations to task when they depart from the straight and narrow. Couldn’t give a fig about left, right, up, down, capitalism, socialism or all the tags people attach to this and that, I’m too old to give a ratsash about that put labels on everything crap.

      What I demand is fairness for my buck, and the last defense against some guy in a company getting his stupendous annual bonus by cheating, is having the government check to make sure of the evenness of the playing field. There’s nobody else to turn to, so why should I get shivved by corporations and deluded twits wandering around spouting that free market is king. It obviously is not. Not when the big guys think they can get away with screwing the system, it’s not.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Denver

      The U. of W. Virginia is not exactly rolling in dough and they jury rigged their mobile testing machine out of equipment that was designed to be stationary and plugged into house current – thus the Honda generator. I hope that the EPA gives some of the billions in fines that VW is going to pay to U.W.Va. to fund their future work. The EPA with all their billions ($8 billion/year) should have figured this out years ago. Testing the cars on a fixed cycle on a dyno instead of testing them under real world conditions was asking for trouble.

  • avatar

    It’s West Virginia University, not the University of West Virginia. Different entities.

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