Most European Manufacturers Unable To Meet EU Emissions Standards

According to Thomas Goettle, automotive expert for PA Consultant Group, most European manufacturers are in trouble when it comes to meeting new European Union emissions standards. They face the possibility of enormous fines as a result. The problem is compounded by new procedures adopted by the EU for measuring emissions. Instead of doing so under laboratory conditions, the new tests will be conducted in the field using portable testing equipment. Most observers expect the real world tests to be about 10% more rigorous than current in-lab procedures. The new test procedures will begin in January, 2017.

Emissions Standards in UK

PA Consulting partner Lars Erik Maurud tells Norwegian newspaper Bergens Tidende, “On an annual basis we measure emission values ​​from different automakers. A new test — Worldwide Harmonized Light Duty Test Procedure (WLTP) — will provide a more realistic emission figures than current tests, which have been criticized for not showing what the cars actually use in real life.” Maurud says some of the Continent’s biggest manufacturers will not be able to meet the new regulations, despite spending nearly $40 billion a year on research and development.

Maurud thinks BMW, Jaguar Land Rover, Hyundai-Kia and Volkswagen are in the worst trouble. Although they are bringing hybrid and electric cars to market, the number of those cars being offered is too small to bring them into compliance on a company-wide basis. Right now at Volkswagen, only 0.1% of its sales are electric cars while 2% are plug-in hybrids. Maurud believes VW could face up to $10 billion in fines as a result.

BMW is also in a bad situation because is sells so many large and heavy SUVs. It could be looking at fines of up to $1 billion, Maurud says. Of the European manufacturers, only Peugeot/Citroen, Fiat, Renault/Nissan, Toyota and Volvo have a good chance to meeting the tougher standards. Each of them has already managed to achieve fairly large reductions in the average emissions of all the cars they sell.

The problem is partly due to the culture at individual companies. While Toyota has pressed forward aggressively with its hybrid technology, many of the others are depending on new techniques for lowering emissions in traditional gasoline and diesel engines. Maurud says BMW in particular is reluctant to give up on the powerful gasoline engines that have been its hallmark for the past 50 years. Much of Volkswagen’s diesel cheating troubles can be traced to senior managers who refused to believe diesels could not compete with Toyota’s hybrid technology and do it for less money.

The upcoming emissions standards will show no respect to any manufacturer because of its past accomplishments or proud heritage. Those who cannot comply will be unable to stay in business. It’s a simple as that.

Special thanks to Leif Hansen, who pointed me to the Bergens Tidende news article. 

Photo credit: Berit Rolad/NTB Scanpix via Bergens Tidende


Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.