Automakers must be kept from cheating their way through emission testsby Opinion Express March 11, 2019 0 comments
While NGT has increased the fine for Volkswagen’s cheat devices, only stop-sales caveats will keep carmakers in check
Do fines work for car majors, who violate emission norms from country to country by implanting cheat devices to escape test thresholds? Do they work for our cities that are already reeling under vehicular pollution? So though the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed Volkswagen India to deposit a sum of Rs 500 crore as part of a case against the carmaker for violating emission norms, fact is this amount has been raised from the earlier compensation of Rs 171.34 crore as a means of “creating deterrence.” Clearly, there has been no corrective by the carmaker in the interim since 2015, when the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) found discrepancies between the laboratory and on-road emission testing of VW’s EA189 diesel engine — a discovery that led to a voluntary recall of over three lakh vehicles. Last year, the NGT pulled up the carmaker as it was yet to recall nearly 36 per cent of its fleet. Truth be told the company has been riven with allegations of environmental violations in many other countries, forcing a mass recall of its cars. Some Volkswagen executives have even been sentenced to years in jail. But for all the punitive measures and compensation payouts, Volkswagen, and other car majors with equal cheat sheets, have continued to sell millions of cars. In fact, most car companies get by with paying carbon fines knowing full well that they can get the amount back by selling millions of cars every year. Consumer rights or their deception don’t matter. Nor does the incremental overload of pollution with each vehicle that runs. Faulty cars are being replaced with vehicles from the same company and as it turns out people still want to buy offending brands in big numbers.
There’s only one way to ensure compliance. Governments everywhere should put a ban on their sales if cars are found violating norms. Once a stop-sale condition throws the assembly line out of gear, the carmakers would feel the pinch and realise that compensation cannot be a worthy investment and a guilt trip could no longer generate revenue. The same actions should be taken across the world, so that it impacts company finances and reduces profits. As a big company, you only learn valuable lessons when you lose money. That’s when you realise that things must change and that you can’t lie and get away with it. Remember that VW’s on road emissions were 1.1 times to 2.6 times higher than the applicable BS-IV norms. The government needs to sharpen testing modules and have a uniform penalty policy for all manufacturers. Also with diesel’s days limited and electric cars the new reality, not in the short term, but definitely in the long run, carmakers should realise that they cannot play around with emission norms.
Courtesy: The Pioneer