Germany’s Transport Ministry, the Bundesministerium für Verkehr und Digitale Infrastruktur (BMVI), has convened an urgent meeting with Volkswagen at its headquarters in Wolfsburg to discuss the rapidly escalating crisis surrounding its diesel emissions testing discrepancies in the US.
It is unclear exactly when the visit will take place, but the BMVI confirmed to just-auto as well as the meeting, Transport Minister, Alexander Dobrdint had set up an inquiry to look into the emissions testing, whose dramatic impact has ricocheted swiftly around the world.
Volkswagen already says it will recall nearly 500,000 vehicles in the US, while speculation is mounting the German automaker could be slapped with a colossal fine of up to US$18bn by America alone.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, European capitals are scrambling to establish whether or not they will be implicated, with the French government announcing its own “in-depth inquiry” following powerful Energy Minister, Segolene Royal’s request for assistance from the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington.
“I have asked the EPA to provide all pertinent information so as to understand the nature of the fraud and ways to detect it,” said Royal.
“I have equally asked the Union Technique de L’Automobile (UTAC), du Motocycle and du Cycle, the technical service tasked by the French State on behalf of the European Commission, to carry out homologation tests, on the one had to be closer to the EPA and on the other hand, to suggest action to me.”
The German manufacturer’s diesel emissions storm comes as it says some 11m vehicles are fitted with engines which had differences between laboratory testing and real life use.
The scale of the scandal currently swirling around Volkswagen can be seen from a statement issued from the German automaker, which notes discrepancies relate to the 11m vehicles with Type EA 189 engines and which showed “noticeable deviation” between bench test results and actual road use.
The German Transport Ministry’s inquiry will be headed by State Secretary, Michael Odenwald, while it will also include representatives from the Federal Motor Vehicle Office, as well as scientists.
In a statement sent to just-auto by the BMVI and put through a basic translation, Dobrindt notes: “Our Commission will investigate whether the vehicles in question were built and tested within the existing German and European legislation – and whether it conforms to vehicle registrations.”
The Ministry also confirms Dorbrindt has spoken to CEO, Martin Winterkorn, describing the conversation as “very constructive,” with the automaker chief pledging his “absolute support” for testing by the Federal Motor Vehicle Office.
In the UK, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) recently questioned plans by the European Union (EU) to introduce a tougher test regime by 2017, known as the worldwide harmonised light vehicles test procedure (WLTP), which is supposedly closer to real-world driving and closes ‘loopholes’ under the present NEDC test.
The CCC asks whether some loopholes will remain alongside continued, if smaller, real-world discrepancies, while it notes between 2002 and 2014, the gap between official and real-world CO2 emissions for new passenger cars increased from around 10% to about 35%.
Most of this growth in the gap is due to increased exploitation of ‘flexibilities’ in lab testing – for example by minimising the weight and rolling resistance of the vehicles being tested or optimising the environmental conditions in the laboratory – maintains the CCC.