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Deterrent to the Auto Industry Would be the Volkswagen Diesel Scandal, says EPA Official

Deterrent to the Auto Industry Would be the Volkswagen Diesel Scandal, says EPA Official
The U.S. based Environmental Protection Agency is of the view that a "very strong deterrent" to cheating by all automakers ha sbeen provided by the massive fines that were paid by Volkswagen AG and the criminal indictment of seven of its executives.
The penalties have had a big impact, Christopher Grundler, director of EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality, told reporters after remarks to a meeting of automotive engineers in Washington.
"It gets everybody's attention," he said.
Grundler noted that EPA nominee Scott Pruitt told a Senate panel earlier this month he would review the decision when asked whether the EPA, under President Donald Trump, could reverse the Obama administration's decision to finalize the 2022-2025 vehicle greenhouse gas emissions limits in its final days.
"We will be prepared to brief him and his team on the work we did," Grundler said.  A new EPA administrator must follow the same process even though it can revisit a regulation, Grundler noted.
In order to resolve its diesel emissions scandal and to mitigate the U.S. civil and criminal charges against it, the German automaker agreed to plead guilty and pay $4.3 billion in fines earlier this month. Hence to address claims from owners, environmental regulators, U.S. states and dealers, VW has now agreed to spend up to $22 billion in the United States in total.
Having admitted in September 2015 that in order to cheat exhaust emissions tests and make them appear cleaner than they were on the road, Volkswagen had installed secret software in hundreds of thousands of U.S. diesel cars, the company also had admitted that across the world, as many as 11 million vehicles could have similar software had been installed.
Key to automakers complying with emission rules is aggressive enforcement, Grundler said.
"Without a broad expectation of accountability, we know the inevitable result will be a race to the bottom -- to whatever level is the lack of EPA oversight will allow," Grundler said in his remarks.
"We aim with our enforcement to make sure the cost of non-compliance is always much higher than the cost of complying with our laws."
He said that "we need to avoid being too predictable in our compliance oversight," is the one lesson that EPA learned from Volkswagen.
The EPA also found that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV were illegally using hidden software to allow excess diesel emissions to go undetected after the VW episode when the EPA launched a new round of real-world compliance testing in September 2015.
Fiat Chrysler has denied wrongdoing.
In order to boost transparency, more information such as emissions recalls and defect reports, which are non-business confidential information in nature, would  be made publicly available, Grundler said.
EPA wants vehicles to perform the same in the laboratory as on the road, he also added. "We want to discourage manufacturers from simply designing to the tests," Grundler said.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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