The EU parliament in Strasbourg has approved concrete proposals to tighten vehicle emissions rules and to provide proper compensation to European consumers following the 2015 Volkswagen emissions scandal.
In response to revelations that German carmaker Volkswagen used software to cheat US diesel pollution controls, the European Parliament on Tuesday voted 585 to 77 in favor of a draft bill which would bolster EU oversight and allow Brussels to fine carmakers up to 30,000 euros per vehicle if found guilty of cheating during emissions testing.
Under the non-binding bill, carmakers would no longer directly pay testing agencies. Instead, EU nations would have to fund car exhaust testing centers. Brussels would get powers to carry out vehicle spot-checks and levy fines of up to 30,000 euros per vehicle if a carmaker were found guilty of cheating during emissions testing. National authorities would be able to peer-review each others' decisions.
The EU parliament said the EU's executive Commission and member states knew for 10 years that the emissions of many cars in Europe were much higher on the road than on laboratory simulators, and yet failed to act. "EU legislation on real driving emissions should be adopted swiftly," the Parliament said in a statement.
However, the proposed rules stopped short of creating an EU body tasked with the responsibility to investigate complaints against manufacturers who are not compliant with the law - in the style of the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA).
An Opel Zafira is tested for NOx emissions on a test-stand. Some reports have suggested that VW is not the only company that has for many years cheated on emissions
That proposal was one of the key recommendations of a parliamentary report into VW's emissions cheating scandal - also known as Dieselgate - but it did not receive support by the majority of the plenary vote.
EU lawmakers also called for manufacturers to compensate car buyers hurt by the scandal, and urged the EU Commission to propose rules for a collective and harmonized redress system.
The dieselgate scandal blew open when VW admitted in September 2015 that it had installed software devices in 11 million diesel cars worldwide that recognized when a car was on a pollution-measuring test-stand by the fact that the wheels were turning but the car wasn't moving, and changed engine performance under those conditions so as to reduce emissions of harmful nitrogen oxides to conform with air quality regulations. When the software recognised the car was driving on roadways, it shifted engine tuning so as to increase power - at the expense of generating vastly more particulate air pollution.
The European consumer organization BEUC said the parliament had heeded its call to fix a flawed testing system and put tougher measures in place.
"Today's vote shows the parliament has drawn the right lessons from the emissions scandal and is standing on the consumer's side," BEUC Director General Monique Goyens said.
uhe/nz (Reuters, AFP, dpa)