Wednesday

5th Oct 2022

Dieselgate probe timeline: how did we get here?

The European Parliament has put 45 of its members to work in a special inquiry committee to find out if the EU and its member states did enough to prevent car makers from cheating on emissions tests. They started their work in March and have a mandate for a year.

On Thursday (28 April), the committee will hold its second hearing. Witnesses today are Dirk Bosteels, executive director of an association of European companies that make technologies for engine exhaust emissions control, and researcher Udo Lambrecht.

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  • “We have to make sure this never happens again,” says EU competitiveness commissioner Jyrki Katainen. (Photo: RoadOver)

Here are the key events that led us here.

2007

New EU rules for car makers come into effect. They include an explicit ban on so-called defeat devices, software that, if it detects a vehicle is being tested in a laboratory, switches the car to a lower-emissions mode.

2008

Volkswagen starts selling a diesel vehicle with cheating software in the UK.

2011

The Joint Research Centre, a European Commission think tank, uses a portable testing machine to check how much cars emit while driving on the road rather than in the lab. The test showed nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide (harmful pollutants known together as NOx) levels 14 times higher than the EU limit. “The findings of this report indicate that the current laboratory emissions testing fails to capture the wide range of potential on-road emissions,” it said.

2013

The Joint Research Centre, in a report about the discrepancy between laboratory tests and on-road tests, warns that car makers could be using defeat devices to cheat on laboratory tests. In private letters, two EU commissioners discuss the “significant discrepancy between the certified emissions and those actually observed on the road”.

2014

The International Council on Clean Transportation puts diesel cars to the test in the United States, initially with the idea to prove to Europe, where emissions levels are less strict, that cleaner diesel cars are possible. Instead, they found enormous discrepancies between the test results on the road and in the lab. They contact the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

September 2015

The EPA announces in September that Volkswagen had installed illegal defeat devices and issues a notice of violations. Volkswagen officials admit, say sorry, and CEO Martin Winterkorn resigns.

October 2015

European commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska, responsible for industry, appears before the European Parliament in Strasbourg. She said the commission did not have "any information" about what Volkswagen did prior to the EPA's announcement.

December 2015

The European Parliament votes to set up an inquiry committee to look into the role of the commission and member states in the Volkswagen scandal.

January 2016

The European Commission announces a new legal framework for approving car types. Brussels wants more oversight, saying that the obligation member states have to enforce a ban on defeat devices was apparently not enough to prevent Volkswagen from installing them. “We have to make sure this never happens again,” says EU competitiveness commissioner Jyrki Katainen.

March 2016

After months of internal wrangling between the two largest political groups, the EP committee meets for the first time to elect a chairwoman: Belgian MEP Kathleen Van Brempt.

Dieselgate committee rejects 'witch-hunt' gibe

The European Parliament's inquiry committee has selected its chair and vice-chairs. Already in the first meeting there were signs of political animosity over its mandate.

Dieselgate: Looking under the hood

EUobserver will closely follow the hearings and research done by the EU parliament's inquiry committee, as well as investigate aspects of the diesel emissions scandal not covered by the committee's mandate.

Investigation

Porsche told EU not to publish diesel emission result

The EU Commission has kept results of an emissions test of a Porsche diesel vehicle secret for months, at the request of the German car company - which was fined €535m for its role in the Dieselgate scandal.

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