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Dieselgate: EU states agree stricter rules on car emissions

Dieselgate: EU states agree stricter rules on car emissions

Photo © Stephen Finn - Fotolia-200

(BRUSSELS) - Nearly two years after the VW car emissions scandal, EU Member States came to an agreement Monday to reform the system of type-approval and market surveillance for motor vehicles.

The general approach agreed by ministers at the EU's Competitiveness Council represents a major overhaul of the system which allows cars to be placed on the market. "The only way to restore and increase trust in the European automobile industry is to help to develop clean and safety technologies," said Maltese economy minister Chris Cardona, for the EU presidency: "Reliable control tests for cars will be established so that emission irregularities that happened in the past cannot reappear in the future."

Irregularities discovered on the use of illegal 'defeat devices' by VW and other car manufacturers made public opinion, authorities and economic operators aware of the need to implement robust provisions on type-approval, as well as to improve testing methods with respect to pollutant emissions from vehicles, to prevent similar cases in the future.

The reform will modernise the current system, adapt it to new technologies available on the market and improve control tests on car emissions data. Specifically, the reform will strengthen:

  • the quality of testing that allows a car to be placed on the market through improved technical services
  • market surveillance to control the conformity of cars already available on the market, with the possibility for member states and the Commission to carry out spot-checks on vehicles in order to detect failures at an early stage
  • the oversight of the type-approval process, in particular through the establishment of a Forum for the exchange of information on enforcement, made up of representatives of national approval and market surveillance authorities

All member states agreed to improve the harmonised implementation of the rules across the EU so as to reduce the possible differences in interpretation and application by national type-approval authorities and technical services. They also agreed that more effective market surveillance rules should apply to better detect non-compliance at an early stage.

The new market surveillance obligations agreed by the Council would require every country to conduct a minimum number of checks on cars each year. This minimum number of checks will be 1 in every 50,000 new vehicles registered in that country the previous year.

The checks will include verification of emissions under real driving conditions.

The general approach foresees an obligation for member states to finance market surveillance activities. The fees for type-approval activities would be levied on manufacturers who have applied for type-approval.

Those countries with fewer resources to carry out the required tests will be able to ask other countries to carry out the tests on their behalf.

The Commission will now be empowered to carry out tests and inspections of vehicles to verify compliance and react to irregularities immediately. This will increase the independence and quality of the EU type-approval system.

The Commission could also impose fines for infringements on manufacturers and importers of up to EUR 30,000 per non-compliant vehicle.

An audit system based on peer reviews will be established. The type-approval authorities would be peer-reviewed by two type-approval authorities of other member states at least once every five years. The Commission will be able to participate in peer evaluation teams and should draw up a summary of the outcomes of peer evaluations and make them public.

Type-approval authorities however would not be subject to peer evaluation when they designate all their technical services on the basis of accreditation of internationally recognised standards.

Furthermore, an advisory Forum for exchange of information on enforcement measures would be established with the purpose to harmonise different interpretations and practises among the member states. This Forum should also examine the outcomes of peer evaluations.

In addition, the national authorities will have to submit each year to the Forum a comprehensive overview of their planned market surveillance checks.

As far as technical services are concerned, the Council text proposes the involvement of the national accreditation bodies in the assessment of the technical services and the establishment of joint assessment teams.

The position of technical services vis-à-vis manufacturers will be strengthened, and will include the right and duty to carry out unannounced factory inspections and to conduct physical or laboratory tests.

The technical services will carry out the tests for type-approval under the responsibility of type-approval authorities. The proper functioning of technical services is crucial for ensuring a high level of safety and environmental protection and so maintain consumer confidence in the system.

The Council general approach will now have to be negotiated with the European Parliament before becoming law. The Parliament voted its position on 4 April.

Competitiveness Council, 29-30/05/2017

General approach on a draft regulation on the approval and market surveillance of motor vehicles and their trailers, and of systems, components and separate technical units intended for such vehicles

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