EU takes on German, UK and Spanish auto industries

Czech Republic, Greece, Lithuania, Luxembourg also cited in legal action

Published: December 11, 2016, 4:30 PM
Updated: November 21, 2021, 3:21 PM

Audi Q7 2008 diesel

The European Union (EU) has reportedly cited Germany, the UK and five other member countries for not effectively policing emissions tests in the wake of the Volkswagen emissions-test scandal, says Reuters.

The European Commission suspects the local governments are caving in to the powerful European auto industries, claims the Reuters report, particularly Germany, Spain and Britain, whose economies all rely strongly on auto production and exporting. The Czech Republic, Greece, Lithuania and Luxembourg are also named in the legal action.

“All of them are still protecting their national interest,” Bas Eickhout, a Green member of the European Parliament, is quoted as saying in the Reuters story.

The lawsuit claims the countries failed to either impose the magnitude of penalties on Volkswagen that the US did, or don’t even have any provisions for dealing with emissions-test cheating.

The action is viewed as the EU solidying its hold on the continent by forcing nations to clamp down on the pollutants emitted by diesel engines. For its part, Germany says it was the only country to bring forth legislation against the type of defeat device used by Volkswagen (in particular, a dispute with Fiat Chrysler over the use of a similar defeat device), and also claims that the EU law is poorly worded in that it allows manufacturers to turn off some emissions control devices under certain circumstances, such as to protect the engine being tested.

“Germany is the only European country to have implemented a comprehensive list of measures to prevent unauthorized use of defeat devices,” German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt told Reuters.

The way it works right now is that each country is responsible for its own regulations and testing (which sometimes differ between member states), but once a vehicle passes the national tests, it may be used across the entire EU. The European Union is aiming to make all regulations equal so that all vehicles are in compliance across the entire continent.

The UK has voted in a referendum to leave the EU and its transport ministry told Reuters it would respond to the accusations and the lawsuit in the “strongest possible terms.” And Spain told the news agency that its action against the devices had stopped pending some cases before the courts.

But the EU claims the case is about more than the just the Volkswagen case, and accuses Germany and the UK of not sharing suspicious findings its government investigations turned up during emissions tests of various makes and models. The commission told Reuters it needs to have this information from the two countries in order to carry on its supervisory role.

The suits are part of way the EU forces its 28 members to comply to Europe-wide regulations set by the European Parliament. The countries named in the action have two months to comply or respond to the allegations, after which they may be summoned to the EU court in Luxembourg.