The effects of Volkswagen AG's emissions scandal are more far reaching than previously thought. Now, regulators are taking longer in examining new vehicle emissions before giving their approval, affecting all carmakers from around the world and resulting to delays in their vehicle launches.
Though it was only Volkswagen that was accused of emissions test manipulation, executives of several car manufacturers complain that US and European regulators are now extra careful with regards to emissions testing, an indication that these regulators are now a little untrusting with automakers as a group and not just the Volkswagen group.
Dieter Zetsche, Daimler AG CEO, laments that while the certification process would have typically taken around four weeks before the emission scandal, it now takes three months to do it. This means that launching new cars will have to be delayed by two additional months.
Zetsche added that it might not just be a Mercedes-Benz experience but could also be the experience of other carmakers as well. This observed stricter stance among regulators came after VW admitted to rigging the emission testing for around 11 million of its diesel-powered vehicles last year by using software that suppresses the true levels of nitrogen oxide emitted by these vehicles.
Europe and U.S. regulators responded by implementing more thorough testing procedures, more audits and, as top executives put it, a generally tougher stance for new models trying to secure emissions approval.
Sergio Marchionne, CEO for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, explains that he thinks it’s all part of the adjustment process, an “overreaction” for when large scale breaches are discovered.
More Thorough Testing
Immediately after the VW emissions violations was exposed, the EPA started testing for cheating devices that might have been used by other carmakers In addition, extra testing was done on all diesel-powered vehicles on the market.
Even gasoline models did not escape this fate as the same additional tests were applied to gasoline cars wanting certification for compliance with U.S. clear-air laws. While it was not revealed how many vehicles underwent additional testing, the testing has considerably slowed down by several weeks EPA's approval process. This lengthier approval process had already affected at least one vehicle launch – BMW's X5 diesel.
It was reported that BMW had to delay X5 diesel's production by a month due to the additional tests. It seems the delayed approval process might continue and is set to affect more vehicles. EPA already announced that the additional tests are now standard in all emissions-certification process for new vehicles for both diesel and gasoline variants.
Automotive news reported that an EPA spokesman confirmed that new unpredictable ways of testing vehicles are now being adopted by the agency. For this reason, it would take a longer time for EPA to test vehicles. Takahiro Hachigo, CEO of Hondo Motor Co., notes that it is taking about a month longer to secure EPA approval.
Fortunately, the longer processing time has not resulted to higher development costs for the Japanese carmaker. The delays are also cited by Ford and Nissan executives. To deal with the longer EPA approval, Nissan Motor has added weeks to its prelaunch process to give room for the anticipated delays, according to Trevor Mann, chief performance officer of Nissan.
Mann added that EPA is now being more interrogative after the emission scandal broke out. Fiat Chrysler is currently reviewing its own vehicle software code as well as code from suppliers to make sure everything is compliant. Marchionne confirms that no deviations have been uncovered so far.
Toyota Executive Vice President Didier Leroy said that the loss of trust from regulators stems from the possibility that if VW did it, everybody could be doing it as well. The same thing is happening with European regulators who have launched their own compliance testing, with each European country doing its own testing according to Jim Farley, President of Ford Europe.
However, the European Union regulators' emission targets are broader compared with the "highly prescriptive" rules set by EPA, according to Marchionne. Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Renault-Nissan explains that in Europe, there is a variety of possible interpretations of the targets, which somehow need to be clarified.