VW – Who’s Responsible?

January 8, 2018 | By Sylwia Myśliwska
VW – Who’s Responsible?

Since Jan 2017, VW has stated that there will be no compensation for European owners. Later, in June 2017, the manufacturer agreed to extend vehicle warranties by two years. To qualify for this extension, owners would have to agree to their vehicles receiving the ‘fix’.

The reason for the lack of clear responsibility in the EU is a mixture of political and legal contradictions:

  • Member states of the EU are responsible for approving make and model of vehicles to be sold in their territories.
  • So far, only national watchdogs are responsible for approving new cars and they remain the only bodies able to police manufacturers. However, once a vehicle has been approved by even a single member state watchdog, that same model can be sold across all member states.
  • Three members states, Czech Republic, Lithuania, and Greece do not have the ability in their national law to fine car-makers in cases of wrongdoing.
  • Car manufacturers in Europe (who employ approximately 12 million people in the EU) carry a great deal of influence and have in the past opposed calls for stronger legislation against harmful emissions.
  • There is a legal loophole in terms of how the law is interpreted. While it is against the law to have defeat devices fitted to vehicles in general, they may be present where it can be justified for safety or to protect the vehicle’s engine.
  • Tests normally take place at the car manufacturer’s laboratory and are not independently carried out by an impartial party.
  • New cars that are tested are often early prototypes, carefully selected to perform well in the test. The finalised models can perform quite differently from these earlier versions.
  • In December 2016, after the European Commission began legal action against 7 EU states for not reacting to car emissions after the VW scandal, the EC was itself found to be guilty of failing to react quickly. Sceptics have pointed out that the close relationship between the EC and the automotive industry puts the interests of the public and environment at risk.
  • VW have argued that it has not done anything that could be considered illegal in Europe, arguing that the emissions standards only apply to laboratory testing and as such they have not broken any laws relating to real-world driving scenarios.
  • Only since 1st September 2017 have PEMS (portable emissions measurement systems) been introduced under the new Real Driving Emissions (RDE) legislation. These allow for testing vehicle emissions on the road. At present, new laws being considered will only address future compliance. In other words, while generally welcomed by environmentalists and the public, any new laws would not provide legal assistance for earlier or past emission failures – such as those which the VW diesel scandal centres around.

 

New Emissions Test in EU
http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-17-2822_en.htm

Member states left to police automotive industry emissions
http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-17-1288_en.htm

Extended warranty for EU VWG vehicle drivers
https://www.ft.com/content/1ba7857a-5117-11e7-bfb8-997009366969