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European Parliament, Council and Commission reach agreement on vehicle type-approval; EU oversight

Last week, the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission reached a political agreement to raise the quality level and independence of vehicle type-approval and testing; to increase checks of cars that are already on the EU market; and to strengthen the overall system with European oversight.

Under current rules, the EU sets the legal framework but national authorities are fully responsible for checking car manufacturers’ compliance. Once a car is certified in one Member State, it can circulate freely throughout the EU. Only the national authority that type approved a car can take remedial action such as ordering a recall and imposing administrative penalties in case of non-compliance. The Commission was already reviewing the EU type-approval framework for motor vehicles prior to the Volkswagen revelations in September 2015. It then concluded on the need for more far-reaching reform to prevent cases of non-compliance from happening again, which it proposed on 27 January 2016.

The EU co-legislators reached an agreement on that January 2016 proposal to overhaul fully the EU type-approval framework.

With tighter rules which are policed more strictly, the car industry has the chance to regain consumers’ trust. Just a few weeks after the Commission’s clean mobility proposals, today’s agreement marks yet another milestone in the EU’s wider efforts to reinforce our car industry’s global leadership in clean and safe vehicles.

—Jyrki Katainen, Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness

Dieselgate has revealed the weaknesses of our regulatory and market surveillance system. We know that some car manufacturers were cheating and many others were exploiting loopholes. To put an end to this, we are overhauling the whole system. After almost two years of negotiations, I welcome that the key elements of our proposal have been upheld, including real EU oversight and enforcement powers. In the future, the Commission will be able to carry out checks on cars, trigger EU-wide recalls, and impose fines of up to €30,000 per car when the law is broken.

—Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska, responsible for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

The main building blocks of the new rules are:

  • Raise the quality level and independence of type-approval and testing before a car is placed on the market. Technical services will be regularly and independently audited, on the basis of stringent performance criteria, to obtain and maintain their designation by a Member State for testing and inspecting new car models. The Commission and other Member States will be able to challenge a designation when something is wrong.

    National type-approval authorities will be subject to Commission audits to ensure that the relevant rules are implemented and enforced rigorously across the EU. The Commission’s proposal to modify the remuneration system to avoid that technical services are paid directly by the manufacturer was not maintained.

  • Increase checks of cars that are already on the EU market. While the current type-approval rules deal mainly with ex ante controls of prototypes taken from the production line, in the future Member States will have to carry out regular spot-checks on vehicles already on their market and such results will be made publicly available. All Member States will now be able to immediately take safeguard measures against non-compliant vehicles on their territory without having to wait for the authority that issued the type-approval to take action, as is currently still the case.

  • European oversight. In the future, the Commission will carry out market checks independently from Member States and will have the possibility to initiate EU-wide recalls. It will have the power to challenge the designation of technical services, and to impose administrative penalties on manufacturers or technical services of up to €30,000 per non-compliant car.

    The Commission will lead a new enforcement forum to ensure a more uniform interpretation of relevant EU legislation, complete transparency on cases of non-compliance, and better and more coordinated market surveillance activities by Member States.

The new Regulation maintains the current ban on defeat devices, which national authorities have a standing obligation to police and enforce, but goes a step further. In the future, car manufacturers will have to provide access to the car’s software protocols. This measure goes hand in hand with the Real Driving Emissions package, which will make it very difficult to circumvent emission requirements and includes an obligation for manufacturers to disclose their emissions reduction strategies, as is the case in the US.

The preliminary political agreement reached by the European Parliament, Council and Commission in trilogue negotiations is now subject to formal approval by the European Parliament and Council. The Regulation will then be directly applicable in all Member States and will become mandatory on 1 September 2020.

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