Saturday

22nd Jul 2017

Investigation

Dutch authority suspects emissions fraud in Suzuki car

  • The Suzuki Vitara emitted more than 10 times the legal limit in some tests. (Photo: Klaus Krumböck)

Dutch car type-approval authority RDW said in a report, out on Monday (10 July), that “it seems” a Suzuki diesel passenger car with a Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) engine contained “an illegal defeat device”.

RDW said it is suspected that the Suzuki Vitara has an emissions control system and its effectiveness is dependant on the amount of time the engine is running – something the Dutch authority called “impermissible”.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  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.

It will run further tests, but also handed over the case to the Dutch public prosecutor.

“It is possible that a crime has been committed,” RDW said about the Suzuki Vitara.

Passenger cars in the EU need to pass a laboratory test, which measures toxic emissions such as nitrogen oxides (NOx).

In 2015, it emerged that Volkswagen Group, a German car manufacturer, had equipped millions of its diesel cars with illegal defeat devices, which fool the emissions test. As a result, the cars were environmentally dirtier than they appeared in the test.

Last year, it became clear that many automakers used defeat devices to limit the conditions in which the emissions filter system runs at full capacity. Car companies argue this is necessary to prevent damage to engines.

It also allowed them to use cheaper equipment, but led to a much higher level of NOx emissions in actual driving than during the lab test.

Normally, using defeat devices is not allowed by EU law. But carmakers have embraced the exception in the law which says that defeat devices are allowed if used to protect the engine.

The law does not specify the conditions under which that exception can be used, although it does say that cars should be clean in “normal” circumstances.

Last year, RDW tested some 30 cars it had approved, and found inexplicably high emissions in 16 of them.

In Monday's follow-up report, they said that they had received sufficient explanations as to why the emissions were too high in all but two cars.

The Dutch authority said more research is needed to analyse the emissions filtering behaviour of a Jeep Grand Cherokee, an FCA car. It said FCA was unable to convincingly show that the emissions strategy was needed to protect the engine.

Dutch public prosecutors have also been informed about the Jeep Grand Cherokee case, RDW said.

That diesel model is also under scrutiny in the US, for not properly reporting the way its emissions filter system worked. In January, the US Environmental Protection Agency issued a so-called notice of violation.

FCA denied any wrongdoing. The Italian counterpart to RDW said in January that the Jeep Grand Cherokee had a "different engine calibration" in Europe and was thus "not affected" by the US notice.

Engine protection

As for the other tested diesel cars with emissions higher than they should be, RDW said that the producers were able to convincingly argue why engine protection was needed.

However, in some cases RDW said that automakers should have used better equipment.

In a letter to the Dutch parliament, the minister for infrastructure and environment, Melanie Schultz van Haegen, said that several manufacturers produced emissions control systems of “questionable quality”, which forced them to switch off or tune down the system to protect the engine.

Schultz van Haegen said she “condemned” that method, but said there was currently no legal option to sanction it, because EU law “explicitly allows” for reducing the effectiveness of the emissions filter, if needed, to protect the engine.

Dutch MEP Gerben-Jan Gebrandy criticised the Dutch decision to let the others go. “Inferior filters [are] not a valid excuse for too high emissions”, he said on Twitter.

Gerbrandy is the co-author of a report which criticised national authorities and the European Commission for not having done enough to prevent Dieselgate.

The Dutch minister also said, in the case of the Suzuki Vitara, withdrawing the type approval is not likely, since the emissions software has been updated. The same would apply to the Jeep Grand Cherokee, if RDW approves the update proposed by FCA.

If the two companies are prosecuted and found guilty of having used illegal defeat devices, the financial harm will be limited.

In the Netherlands, the penalty for using defeat devices is a fine of up to €19,500.

For FCA, a €19,500 fine would amount to 0.0003 percent of the company's profits for the first three months of this year.

Last year, minister Schultz van Haegen acknowledged the potential fine is “relatively low” compared to the large profits made by automakers.

However, she did nothing to change that. A spokeswoman told EUobserver in March that the ministry had not planned to increase the fines, because “it would not help”.

The applicable fine would be the one in place when the violation occurred, which would have been when the carmakers applied for certification – several years ago.

FCA did not want to comment.

Analysis

EU governments duck responsibility on dieselgate

If VW had cheated on emissions in the Netherlands, its fine would have been just €19,500. “I didn't think about the fines before,” the Dutch transport minister says.

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.

News in Brief

  1. Polish parliament adopts controversial justice reform
  2. GMO opt-out plan unlikely to go anywhere in 2017
  3. Slovak PM threatens to boycott inferior food
  4. France takes Google's 'right to be forgotten' to EU court
  5. Turkey accuses German companies of supporting terror
  6. Israel's Netanyahu caught calling EU 'crazy'
  7. UK does not collect enough data to expel EU nationals
  8. Polish president threatens to veto justice reform

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  2. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  3. ECPAFood waste in the field can double without crop protection. #WithOrWithout #pesticides
  4. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  5. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  6. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  8. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Episode 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  9. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  10. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  12. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School

Latest News

  1. Dutch coalition talks lengthiest in 40 years
  2. Polish parliament steps up showdown with EU
  3. EU urges UK to clarify its Brexit positions
  4. Law expert: direct EU powers have become too complicated
  5. Winter is here for Spitzenkandidat, but he'll survive
  6. Mafia money pollutes the EU economy
  7. Central Europe should be wary of Brexit stopping
  8. Poland's 'July coup' and what it means for the judiciary

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUEP Support for Corporate Tax Transparency Principle Unlikely to Pass Reality Check
  2. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Improves the External Investment Plan but Significant Challenges Ahead
  3. EU2017EEPM Ratas: EU Is Not Only an Idea for the 500mn People in the Bloc, It Is Their Daily Reality
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCloser Energy Co-Operation Keeps Nordic Region on Top in Green Energy
  5. ILGA-EuropeGermany Finally Says Ja - Bundestag Votes for Marriage Equality!
  6. EPSUJapanese and European Public Sector Unions Slam JEFTA
  7. World VisionEU, Young Leaders and Civil Society Join Forces to End Violence Against Girls
  8. UNICEFNarrowing the Gaps: The Power of Investing in the Health of the Poorest Children
  9. EU2017EEEstonia to Surprise Europe With Unique Cultural Programme
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Talks Should Insist on Ending Reprisals Vs. Critical Voices
  11. European Free AllianceEFA Is Looking for a New Intern
  12. Malta EU 2017Conservation of Atlantic Tunas: International Measures Become EU Law