Thursday

14th Dec 2017

Investigation

Car firms could profit from confusion on EU certificates

  • If a car is approved for sale in Greece, it will be saleable throughout the EU (Photo: Jean-Baptiste Perrin)

Car manufacturers may be able to dodge the rules when asking permission to sell a type of car, because EU countries have different interpretations on what to do if one of them has already rejected such a request.

Like in other markets around the world, car manufacturers need a governmental stamp of approval on safety and environmental standards before they can sell their cars on the European market.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Click to enlarge the infographic (Photo: EUobserver)

These certificates are called type approvals – because they are valid for all cars of the same type – and are handed out by authorities in the 28 member states.

Once a car company has acquired a type approval in one member state, it is free to sell the car in the entire bloc.

The system is based on trust: EU countries assume each other's authorities will be equally strict.

According to EU rules, if a type-approval request has been denied, all the other authorities must be informed.

But states appear to differ over whether they are allowed to sell a certificate for a car type that has been rejected in another EU country.

The European Parliament's inquiry committee into the Dieselgate scandal, which involved cars putting out dangerous emissions way beyond EU limits, asked all member states to fill out a questionnaire.

Among other things, the EP asked whether companies are allowed to apply for a type approval in a different member state, if the first attempt failed.

So far, only seven of the 28 member state responded, but already different interpretations have emerged.

According to the Dutch ministry of infrastructure and environment, if a vehicle has failed the approval process, its shortcomings need to be fixed first.

“It is not allowed to apply for an approval at another [type approval authority] if it’s the same type,” the Dutch wrote.

Their Swedish counterparts were equally clear.

“If the type-approval authority decides to refuse an application it shall issue a decision of refusal for the type concerned. With such a decision the manufacturer shall not be able to apply in another Member State,” they noted.

Greece however, had a different point of view.

“Under the law it is not forbidden to type-approve a vehicle which has failed to get a type approval in another [member state],” said the Greek response.

Although Greece added that “there hasn’t been such a case until now”, its response clearly showed that if carmakers went searching for the weakest link in the system, they may find it in Greece.

Another may be found in Spain, which did not directly answer the EP's question.

It merely stated that manufacturers are “free to choose the type-approval authority in which to type-approve their vehicles” and that it was “not aware” of failed vehicles being put forward for approval in another EU country.

Is this a serious problem?

According to France's response, it isn't, since in practice carmakers will not apply for a type approval if they have reason to believe they will fail. There are many intermediate steps before the final certificate is requested.

But just because it may not be happening now, does not reduce the risk of the loophole being used in future.

Dieselgate shows weakness of EU federalism-lite

EU states are hesitant to transfer power to Brussels, but the case of how car certification works, or doesn't work, in practice gives few arguments to supporters of the status quo.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% plastics recycling rate attainable by 2025 new study shows
  2. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  3. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  4. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  5. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  7. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  8. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  9. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  10. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  11. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties
  12. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham

Latest News

  1. EU countries are not 'tax havens', parliament says
  2. Tech firms' delays mean EU needs rules for online terror
  3. Slovak PM: Human rights are not a travel pass to EU
  4. British PM limps to EU capital after Brexit defeat
  5. US pleads for clarity on Brexit aviation 'black hole'
  6. Tusk migration note prompts institutional 'hysteria'
  7. Migration looms over summit, as Africa pledges fall short
  8. Brits in EU-27 are uncertain, alone and far from protected