Car Industry Sounds Alarm as EU Weighs Tougher Pollution Tests

  • Automakers' group warns of possible price rises, job losses
  • EU prepares decision on new tests after Volkswagen cheating

The European Union auto industry sounded a warning in the push to toughen pollution tests after Volkswagen AG’s diesel-engine deception, saying future EU checks need to be “realistic” so they don’t drive up car prices, weaken sales and cause job losses.

The salvo by the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association comes as EU governments prepare their verdict on the details of an inspection regime penciled in for September 2017 that will gauge emissions of smog-causing nitrogen oxides under real driving conditions as well as in laboratories. The EU, where most cars are powered by diesel, wants new models to be tested on the road because of evidence that real-driving emissions are 400 percent to 500 percent higher than in labs.

As part of the plan to test actual driving emissions, the European Commission intends to phase in over two further years enforcement of the current legal limit on NOx of 80 milligrams a kilometer, an EU official familiar with the matter said last week. Between September 2017 and September 2019, real-driving emissions would be allowed under the commission proposal to exceed permissible discharges in laboratories by as much as 60 percent, according to the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“Without realistic time frames and conditions, some diesel models could effectively become unaffordable, forcing manufacturers to withdraw them from sale,” the European automakers’ association, also known as ACEA, said in a statement on Monday in Brussels. “This could have repercussions upon consumer choice as well as employment in the wider automotive sector.”

The revelation last month of Volkswagen’s deception, which involved fitting diesel engines with software to cheat U.S. checks on NOx emissions, has left Europe rushing to address weaknesses in its regulatory system. The commission, the 28-nation EU’s executive arm, aims for the bloc’s governments to vote on its proposal for tougher tests by the end of October. A weighted majority of EU governments is needed for any proposal on real-driving emissions, or RDE, to be approved.

In its statement on Monday, ACEA called for “a robust but realistic RDE package” and expressed support for the first step to begin in September 2017. A spokeswoman for the association, which represents carmakers such as Volkswagen, PSA Peugeot Citroen and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, declined to comment on its stance regarding the other details of the commission proposal including the extra two-year timetable for enforcing the EU’s NOx limit.

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