The EU’s 28 national car approval authorities will have to answer to a central oversight body in Brussels, following an agreement on Thursday (7 December) on a law to guard against a repeat of the Dieselgate scandal.
The deal, reached by European Parliament representatives and Estonia, negotiating on behalf of member states, must still be approved by the full Parliament and Council.
One out of every 40,000 newly registered vehicles will have to be checked by the EU authority to ensure it complies with EU type approval laws. The European Commission will have the authority to carry out checks on national authorities once every five years.
The oversight had been fiercely resisted by Germany and some Eastern member states, but they were overruled by a qualified majority of other member states.
The final version of the legislation is largely in line with the Parliament’s demands. But member states successfully kept out a provision in the Commission proposal which would have stopped carmakers from funding the national authorities’ test laboratories.
They also kept out a provision that would have allowed independent members to be part of a forum of representatives from member states which oversees the car approval system.
The campaign group Transport & Environment welcomed the agreement, even though it is less stringent than what was initially proposed by the European Commission.
“More than two years after the US caught Volkswagen cheating, we can finally say that Europe will have an improved system in place to keep cheaters in check,” said Julia Poliscanova, a clean vehicles manager with the group.
“It’s a pity that EU governments led by the biggest car producing countries rejected wise proposals to allow independent members of the Forum overseeing the new system,” she added.
The new law will also give the EU the power to require vehicle upgrades and initiate EU-wide recalls when irregularities are found. Those parts of the law will only apply after 2020. The Commission will also be able to check cars already on the road to ensure they continue to meet health, safety and environmental standards.
The Commission can fine manufacturers or technical services up to €30,000 per non-compliant car.
Erik Jonnaert, secretary-general of European automobile manufacturers’ association ACEA, said the final agreement is “a balance between the aim to make the whole type approval system more robust and efficient and the need to avoid excessive administrative burden for car manufacturers.”
“We are confident that this more robust approval and surveillance system will enable the automobile industry to regain consumer trust,” he added.