EU Council Adopts Compromise on Car Approval System Reform Post Dieselgate

Last week, the EU Council adopted its position on a proposed reform of the EU’s car approval system. The position, a compromise brokered by Malta, includes the following provisions:

  • Market Surveillance: Every Member State would be required 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. And, they will have to finance these activities. 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.
  • Commission Involvement: The Commission will 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 €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. n addition, the national authorities will have to submit each year to the Forum a comprehensive overview of their planned market surveillance checks. 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 Council general approach will have to be negotiated with the European Parliament before becoming law.  And that might not be easy because the Parliament was in favor of strengthening the Commission’s ability to enforce the car approval regulations.

Currently, there is a single market for automakers, which can choose any EU member state to certify their cars. That approval is then valid in the whole of the EU. At the market surveillance level, however, there is a still a national system: only the country where the certification was granted can take action. The EU Commission had proposed that it should have greater involvement in the enforcement of the car approval system. This was supported by the EU Parliament, which adopted its position in April 2017.

While the Council’s text accepts more EU oversight, it scrapped or weakened some proposals for centralization within the Commission, according to a report in EU Observer, which wanted to have the power to fine car companies that break EU law, if the national authority fails to act. The Council text restricts the Commission’s ability to do so: the Commission will not be able to fine a cheating car company if the member state responsible for granting the approval has already fined the company, or if it has acquitted the company.

In the discussions that lead to the Council text, Member States removed the obligation to impose a fee on companies to pay for market surveillance activities, saying instead that governments should be free to decide how oversight will be funded.

 

Tammy Klein is a consultant and strategic advisor providing market and policy intelligence and analysis on transportation fuels to the auto and oil industries, governments, and NGOs. She writes and advises on petroleum fuels, biofuels, alternative fuels, automotive fuels, and fuels policy.