As the Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry into the dieselgate scandali begins its work in Brussels, a leaked lobbying document from the European car manufacturers’ lobby, ACEA (European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association), reveals a sophisticated, multi-faceted behind-the-scenes lobbying strategy aimed at weakening new emissions tests.
Last September’s dieselgate scandal exposed how car manufacturers were meeting legal NOx emissions limits in laboratory tests, but massively exceeding them on the road (by up to 40 times in the case of Volkswagen). While this was news to the general public, the European Commission had known manufacturers were vastly exceeding limits back in 2011 and was designing new on-the-road tests, or ‘Real Driving Emissions’ (RDE) tests, to tackle the problem in diesel cars. But as the leak shows, ACEA and its members had other plans. Their intention: to weaken and delay the new tests, scheduled to be finalised in 2015 and introduced in 2017, which could prevent thousands of premature deaths every year but would most certainly dent profits if implemented in full.
The leak comes in the form of a presentation by ACEA from February 2015, months before crucial votes on what would or wouldn’t be included in the new tests, how stringent they would be, and by when they should be introduced.
The document reveals how a secretive weekend meeting between the Commission and ACEA guided the latter’s four-stage negotiating strategy; how ACEA was prepared to compromise far further if pushed – but never needed to due to inside information from the Commission; and how it used EU member states to block proposals it didn’t like when the Commission didn’t prove sufficiently malleable.