STRASBOURG, France, December 17, 2015 (ENS) – The European Parliament has decided to set up a 45-member inquiry committee to investigate breaches of EU rules on car emission tests and alleged failures by EU member states and the European Commission to enforce EU standards.

MEPs approved establishment of the inquiry committee by 354 votes to 229, with 35 abstentions.

The committee will present an interim report within six months, and a final report within 12 months of starting its work.

car

2015 Volkswagen Golf GTD diesel-powered car (Photo courtesy VW)

The case began in September when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, revealed that almost 500,000 VW and Audi diesel cars sold in the United States were rigged by the company to artificially lower the amount of nitrogen oxides emitted when tested.

VW says that a total of 11 million cars are affected, not only in the United States, but also in Europe and elsewhere.

Since then, reports have been published which suggest that other car manufacturers have problems meeting the emission norms for diesel.

Emissions testing fraud should be investigated thoroughly and those responsible should face appropriate sanctions, say the MEPs.

They say that the EU emissions testing system should be strengthened to ensure that EU emission limits are respected and that vehicles exceeding these limits are discovered quickly.

The inquiry committee will investigate five issues:

1. the alleged failure of the Commission to keep test cycles under review

2. the alleged failure of the Commission and Member States’ authorities to take proper and effective action to oversee enforcement and to enforce the explicit ban on ‘defeat devices’

3. the alleged failure of member states to lay down provisions on effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties applicable to manufacturers for infringements

4. whether the Commission and the member states had evidence of the use of ‘defeat mechanisms’ before the scandal emerged on September 18, 2015.

5. the alleged failure of the Commission to introduce tests reflecting real-world driving conditions

Audi diesel

The Audi 2016 diesel-hybrid Q5 (Photo courtesy Audi)

“We urgently need to put in place common European car emission tests which are based on real driving conditions,” said Françoise Grossetête MEP, vice-chairwoman of the EPP Group, the largest political group in the European Parliament.

She was speaking after adoption in plenary of the Resolution aimed at addressing the questions raised by the VW scandal.

Grossetête has called on the European Commission to mobilize Member States to move quickly in this area.

“We condemn the fraudulent behavior of the company, but we do not condemn diesel technology because we still need diesel engines,” Grossetête said.

She stressed the importance of the possibility of re-assessing the type of approval by the relevant authorities.

“We need to strengthen and redesign the current EU type approval regime for cars and the Commission should have a better surveillance system in place,” she said.

In their Resolution, the MEPs recommend considering whether to establish an EU-level surveillance authority.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Volkswagen said Thursday it has hired Kenneth Feinberg, one of the best known victim compensation attorneys in the United States, to handle claims resolution resulting from the diesel-emissions deception.

On a conference call with reporters late Thursday, Feinberg said as many as 500,000 VW owners may have claims.

VW has asked him and colleague Camille Biros of the Feinberg Law Firm to design and administer a claims program for owners of eligible vehicles with emissions problems.

This is intended to divert them from the court system while providing a remedy, the “Detroit Free Press” reports.

Volkswagen has admitted rigging emissions systems in diesel cars to beat emissions testing. The company now says it wants to do right by its customers.

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