VW scandal triggers calls for EU-wide probe
Friday's revelations that German car giant Volkswagen Group fudged US pollution tests look set to cause significant ripples throughout Europe's auto industry. On Tuesday, French Finance Minister Michel Sapin took to national radio to call for a "Europe-wide" probe into carmakers.
Sapin told Europe 1 that he deemed checks on cars manufactured by other European manufacturers "necessary" in order to "reassure" the public.
"This is not a minor subject, it's not about speed or the quality of leather," the minister said on-air, referring to VW's admission that it had systematically manipulated the software of nearly 500,000 diesel cars to cheat on US emissions tests. As a result, VW and Audi brand vehicles, spewing up to 40 percent more health-threatening pollutant gases than US standards permit, were allowed on American roads.
Fearing similar scenarios across Europe, Sapin said sweeping tests were needed to "[make] sure people avoid being poisoned by pollution."
"Even if it's just to reassure people, it seems necessary to me that (checks should be carried out) also on French carmakers," he added, insisting, however, that he had no "particular reason" to suspect any wrongdoing.
The call for a wider probe comes a day after German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt told the mass-circulation "Bild" daily that he had ordered immediate and extensive tests on all Volkswagen Group diesel models in the country.
Meanwhile in Brussels, the European Commission on Monday said it had been in contact with VW and US regulators in order to get to the bottom of the scandal. However, it said it was too early to tell whether European regulators and consumers had fallen victim to similar deception.
"It is premature to comment on whether any specific immediate surveillance measures are also necessary in Europe and whether vehicles sold by Volkswagen in Europe are also affected. We are taking the matter very seriously," Lucia Caudet, European Commission Internal Market spokesperson, told DW on Monday.
The exposure of VW's shocking practices also comes as the EU is gearing up to introduce new and tougher standards by 2017, mandating "real world" testing. The new rules would close existing loopholes, like allowing manufacturers to test their vehicles in laboratories, driving on unrealistically smooth surfaces, and taping up car doors and windows to minimize aerodynamic drag.
Such methods have led to a "systematic gap" between how efficient automakers say their vehicles are, and how efficient they really are, according to a recent study by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). The research group's authors warned concluded that, because of such deceiptful practices, real-world fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of new cars often exceed carmakers' official data by as much as 40 percent.
pad/uhe (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)