The reforms prompted by the 2015 Dieselgate scandal have not been as effective as it was hoped, with more than 1.8 million cars still in action across Europe equipped with defeat devices which falsify their greenhouse gas emissions.
The defeat devices, which were fitted in Volkswagen cars manufactured between 2009 and 2015, use software which can detect tests being performed on a vehicle and reduce the amount of nitrogen oxides (NOx) produced by the vehicle accordingly. When the vehicle is driven in real road conditions, the device is deactivated and the vehicle’s NOx emissions increase by between 10 and 40 per cent.
11 million vehicles were fitted with defeat devices, more than eight million of which were sold in Europe. While Volkswagen has been forced to pay out around $25 billion in compensation and buy-back programmes in the US, where the emissions discrepancy was initially discovered, it maintains that it does not need to do the same in the EU.
While mandatory and voluntary recall efforts of vehicles fitted with defeat devices appear to have been effective in Germany (97 per cent of affected vehicles recalled and updated), Finland (93 per cent) and Austria (84 per cent), areas of Eastern and Central Europe have been less successful, with Poland (39 per cent) and Romania (35 per cent) at the bottom of the list. The eight Member States which imposed mandatory recall programmes rather than allowing voluntary recall of affected vehicles appear overall to have had better results; the European Commission will hold a summit on November 27 to determine precisely why the results vary so wildly from country to country.
Meanwhile a consumer group in Germany has filed a class action suit against Volkswagen. The Federation of German Consumer Organisations has accused the car manufacturer of cheating drivers using defeat devices to circumvent emissions testing. If the Braunschweig court determines the case to be admissible, drivers who have been affected by the Dieselgate scandal will be able to join the suit.