In September of 2015, Volkswagen disclosed that they had been intentionally cheating on diesel emissions tests for at least six years by installing secret software in 580,000 U.S. vehicles. During this time, Volkswagen was putting cars on the road that emitted up to 40 times the legally allowed diesel pollution levels. Earlier this year, they pleaded guilty to fraud, obstruction of justice, and falsifying statements to the U.S. Justice Department in reference to this scandal, but the conversation about emissions regulations in Germany, as well as the whole of Europe, has not yet been settled.
The European Union has since drafted a proposal to overhaul how vehicles are licensed and how their emissions are tested in order to prevent another similar scandal in the future. They have proposed that EU nations should fund the car exhaust testing centers, and to do so they should be able to levy fees from the carmakers. This proposal would also give Brussels the authority to fine manufacturers for any violations. However, in a recent position paper, Germany has stated that they are against fines on manufacturers and they believe that cheating these tests can be prevented in other ways.
It’s hard to tell if Germany and its automotive companies are bringing up these objections in order to improve future policies, or if they’re just trying to buy themselves time to keep doing what they’re doing to maximize profits. The German Federal Minister for the Environment has also spoken out against the practices of German automotive firms, saying that they should be charged with retrofitting the cars they’ve already sold to reduce the pollution they are currently producing. The German Auto Association (the VDA) has made statements against the retrofitting requirement, saying that it is not an economically viable approach. The actual policy revisions of the EU and Germany remain to be seen past these proposals.