I wish to inform the House of the latest developments on vehicle emissions testing, following the revelations that Volkswagen Group had been fitting so-called defeat devices to some of its vehicles.
The government takes the unacceptable actions of Volkswagen (VW) extremely seriously. Our priority is to protect the public and I have taken a number of steps to investigate what went wrong and what we can do to stop it happening again.
I have been clear that I expect VW to do everything necessary to protect its UK customers, but it is right also that the government carries out its own thorough and independent investigation to:
- establish whether the use of defeat devices goes wider than the VW Group
- gather much-needed evidence to restore public confidence, improve our understanding of the real world emission performance of vehicles, and strengthen our ambition and influence in pushing the EU to move to a comprehensive real world testing regime
We have already taken a range of actions.
The UK testing body, the Vehicle Certification Agency, has secured assurance from all automotive manufacturers outside the VW Group for whom it has issued emissions type approvals that defeat devices have not been used. We will of course be testing this for ourselves. We have already retested VW Group vehicles for which the UK provided type approval. These initial tests provide valuable information, improving our ability to detect a defeat device and strengthening our understanding of the impact it has on vehicle emissions, including CO₂ and NOₓ.
We have also begun a wider testing programme to understand the real world emissions performance of a broader selection of vehicles in the UK. This is crucial to improve the accuracy of environmental assessments – used for both air quality management and infrastructure investment. This programme will test a representative selection of vehicles used on UK roads, including a sample of the newest and the UK’s top selling vehicles.
I have secured agreement from my opposite number in Germany that our technical teams will work cooperatively together. This will enable us to reduce duplication and ensure a wide range of vehicles are tested. My officials will continue to look for further opportunities for collaboration with other European partners with a view to securing additional efficiencies.
This investigation is vital in restoring public confidence. We will look at vehicles from across all main brands sold in the UK – manufacturers will be treated equally. We must act urgently to remedy wrongdoing but we must also ensure that the results from this investigation are viewed fairly and in the context of the completed work. A report will be prepared at its conclusion and I will provide an update on progress by the end of the calendar year.
Alongside this, we have succeeded in reaching an agreement with the European Commission and member states that represents a real step change in the way in which testing is carried out –
for the first time real world testing will be part of the regulatory regime from 2017. This is an important milestone, but we will continue to press for EU level action towards a comprehensive approach to emissions testing, to restore consumer confidence and deliver our wider air quality and climate objectives.
We have a major work programme underway and I will continue to inform the House of developments.