Thursday

26th Jan 2023

Volkswagen scandal triggers hunt for political responsibility

  • Volkswagen cars in the company's "car city" in Wolfsburg. (Photo: Infinite Ache)

Volkswagen's top executive Martin Winterkorn resigned on Wednesday (23 September) amidst growing incredulity that no one at the political level was aware of the car manufacturer's practice of rigging emissions tests.

German MP Oliver Krischer said on Tuesday that the German government must have known that Volkswagen had installed software in some of its diesel cars that made it appear during laboratory tests that the cars were polluting less than they actually were.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"The government told us in July that it knew about this software, which has been used in the USA. It's clear they knew the software was widely in use", Krischer, of the Green party, told N24 television. He said he was "surprised with [transport minister] Dobrindt's surprise".

Dobrindt denied the suggestion that the government was aware of the scheme.

Meanwhile, the Guardian reported on Thursday that Germany, France, and the UK have been lobbying to maintain loopholes in car tests.

The report said that according to leaked documents, the EU's three largest countries tried to persuade the EU Commission to keep certain characteristics of an old emissions testing system in the World Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) which is supposed to replace it.

The WLTP is aimed at reducing the disparity between measured greenhouse gas and pollutant emissions during car tests, and actual emissions when driving.

Greenhouse gases contribute to potentially catastrophic climate change, while pollutants decrease air quality. According to estimates, 40,000 Europeans die prematurely every year because of air pollution.

According to NGO Transport & Environment, the discrepancy between measured and actual emissions is 40 percent, and the Volkswagen scandal is just the "tip of the iceberg". The NGO called for an improved testing system in the EU.

It said "the European system of testing is much less independent and robust than that in the US where 10-15% of new models are retested by the US authorities in their own laboratories".

"In Europe, carmakers pay certified testing organisations to perform tests in the carmakers' own laboratories. … But carmakers 'shop' for the best deal from agencies across Europe and directly pay for their services", the NGO said in a statement.

MEPs also discussed the matter on Wednesday and told the Commission they were worried that other carmakers may also have used similar cheating methods.

Liberal MEP Nils Torvalds noted that the EU could have improved its testing system a while ago.

"This is a scandal, and a grave scandal, but at the same time we must look ourselves in the mirror and see what we have achieved in the past couple of years and realise that we have missed opportunities to improve testing and thereby to reduce car pollution", he said according to a press statement.

The EP's environment committee on Wednesday also voted to ask "real world testing" to be introduced by 2017.

Meanwhile Volkswagen CEO Winterkorn said he was "not aware of any wrongdoing on my part". However, after mounting pressure Winterkorn resigned.

"Volkswagen needs a fresh start, also in terms of personnel. I am clearing the way for this fresh start with my resignation", he said.

Volkswagen scandal may spill into Europe

France and UK call for EU-wide probe to see if German car maker cheated on pollution tests here too, but Commission says it's too early for the move.

VW scandal could prompt agreement on new tests

The Volkswagen emissions testing scandal may speed up stalled EU talks on more accurate tests, as the shock waves of the scandal continue to reverberate in Europe.

Analysis

Why is petrostate UAE going all in on green hydrogen?

The United Arab Emirates announced its ambition to become one of the world's premier trading hubs for green hydrogen. Interesting, to say the least, for a country that relies on the sale of fossil fuels for its prosperity.

Latest News

  1. Official: EU parliament's weak internal rule-making body leads to 'culture of impunity'
  2. Red tape border logjam for EU's 1.3m 'frontier workers'
  3. Greece's spy scandal must shake us out of complacency
  4. Greek government in no-confidence vote over spying scandal
  5. The legal battle for justice against Kremlin's 'untouchables'
  6. UAE's fossil-fuelled high-tech mirage of a green future
  7. MEP harassment case sheds light on flimsy support for victims
  8. Big Agri's EU lobbying playbook on 'hunger' and a 'refugee crisis'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  2. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  3. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  4. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  2. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  3. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  5. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  6. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us