The European Union’s top environmental official warned his colleagues that automakers were rigging European emissions tests in 2013, long before the scam was uncovered last month, the Financial Times reported on Sunday (25 October).
One of the biggest scandals in the history of the automobile sector came to light after German carmaker Volkswagen admitted it had fitted 11 million of its vehicles with software designed to cheat official checks.
Top EU regulators were aware of test manipulation two years ago, but allowed regulatory loopholes to remain, according to the FT, which cited an exchange of letters between officials.
“There are widespread concerns that performance has been tailored tightly to compliance with the test cycle in disregard of the dramatic increase in emissions outside that narrow scope,” Janez Potocnik, the EU Commissioner for the Environment, wrote to Industrial Policy Commissioner Antonio Tajani in February 2013, according to the newspaper.
Potocnik urged Tajani to take “remedial action” with manufacturers and withdraw the EU’s approval for some vehicles, according to the FT. But existing rules were maintained and the practice remained in place.
The report comes as environment ministers meet in Luxembourg today. Ministers “will be informed on issues related to real driving emissions tests and to the manipulation of emission control systems in cars, as a serious impediment to the improvement of air quality in the EU,” according to the meeting’s agenda.
Six EU member states, including major automaker France, have urged the European Commission to thoroughly assess the consequences of the Volkswagen emissions scandal. At issue is the date when the real driving tests should be enforced and what delay should be allowed before emissions limits are policed fully.
Officially, the real-life tests will begin in January, but only for reference. The executive’s proposal, which remains unofficial, allows car companies until 2019 to fully implement the new standard, a delay seen as unjustified by activists.