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Summary

  1. The European Parliament’s special inquiry committee continued its investigation into the Volkswagen emissions scandal.
  2. The temporary committee was set up last December after the discovery of "cheat" devices in 600,000 VW diesel cars last year.
  3. MEPs took evidence from Gaspar Gascon Abellan, an engineering executive at Renault, and Ulrich Eichhorn, the chief technology officer at VW.
  4. They also approved their interim report, before it is debated and voted on at a plenary sitting in September.

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

Hearing ends

Emissions inquiry committee

European Parliament

Brussels

And with that, today's hearing comes to a (slightly late) end.

'No ethical dilemma' over VW public subsidies

Emission inquiry committee

European Parliament

Brussels

German MEP Marcus Pretzell, from the right-wing Alternative fuer Deutschland party, asks how the company assesses the "ethical dilemma" posed by its receipt of public subsidies. 

He says the firm is "almost a state company", and receiving €7bn per year in public support. 

In reply, Ulrich Eichhorn says this money primarily benefits consumers, not the company, as the payments were "introduced for the drivers to offset the higher taxation on fuel". 

He adds that he doesn't perceive the matter to pose an ethical dilemma. 

Marcus Pretzell
BBC

Some VW staff 'demoralised' - Eichhorn

Emissions inquiry committee

European Parliament

Brussels

German Conservative MEP Hans-Olaf Henkel asks what the feeling is within the company after the scandal. 

Ulrich Eichhorn says that many in the firm feel "demoralised", particularly those on the development teams who were not involved in the testing scheme in question. 

In a follow-up question, Mr Henkel asks that given different emissions legislation in Europe and the US, whether VW could simply adopt its own policy to abide by the highest standards. 

Mr Eichhorn replies that such a policy could see the company "lose the competitive edge" due to additional costs, and that the availability of different fuels in different areas has to be borne in mind. 

Hans-Olaf Henkel
BBC

Dutch MEP questions role of Bosch

Emissions inquiry committee

European Parliament

Brussels

Dutch Liberal Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy asks whether German car supply firm Bosch had warned VW in 2007 that software it was supplying to the carmaker "could be illegal".

Bosch admitted last September that it supplied VW with control components for its engines, but has said emissions limits are the responsibility of the car manufacturers. 

In response, Ulrich Eichhorn says he cannot comment on the matter due to the fact that investigations are ongoing. 

Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy
BBC

Eichhorn: VW faces 'long haul' to regain consumer trust

Emissions inquiry committee

European Parliament

Brussels

Ulrich Eichhorn tells MEPs that Volkswagen is "conscious of its responsibility" to learn lessons from the "huge mistake" made in the past. 

He says the company is attempting to regain people's trust, but that this will be a "long haul". 

He adds that a difference between laboratory testing and performance on the road has been "well known for a long time now to the authorities". 

He says that the company has put in place "new structures" in reponse to the scandal, and has an "integrity board" overseen by a former judge on the German constitutional court.

Ulrich Eichhorn
BBC

Change of witness

Emissions inquiry commmittee

European Parliament

Brussels

That's the first part of today's hearing finished, as Gaspar Gascon Abellan, an engineering executive at Renault, leaves the committee. 

For the second part of today's session, MEPs will shortly be taking evidence from Ulrich Eichhorn, the chief technology officer at Volkswagen. 

MEP questions location of car approvals

Emissions inquiry committee

European Parliament

Brussels

French centre-right MEP Francoise Grossetete asks why Renault has approved some of its cars in the UK and Italy, instead of approving all of them in France. 

Mr Gascon Abellan replies that the company once approved a car in Spain to relieve pressure on its French facility, but that he has no knowledge of cars being approved in the UK or Italy. 

He adds that he will "check" on the matter when he returns to the company base. 

Gascon Abellan
BBC

Test cars 'same as other vehicles'

Emissions inquiry committee

European Parliament

Brussels

Italian MEP Eleonora Evi, from the Five Star Movement, asks whether the vehicles used in laboratory tests are the same as the models used on the road. 

Mr Gascon Abellan replies that the cars used in the tests are  "samples taken from the production line" and are the same as all the other vehicles. 

Mr Gascon Abellan
BBC

Renault 'not considering' legal action against VW

Emissions inquiry committee

European Parliament

Brussels

German Conservative MEP Hans-Olaf Henkel asks Mr Gascon Abellan if Renault feels it has suffered from unfair competition as a result of Volkswagen's use of defeat devices. 

He replies that "we have been bashed" from what has happened, and that the scandal has not been good for the industry. 

Asked whether Renault has ever considered taking legal action against Volkswagen over the issue, he replies that it has not, since there is still a need to fully understand what happened and there is much that they "still don't understand" in relation to what went on at the company. 

Hans-Olaf Henkel
BBC

MEP questions EU rules on NOx emissions

Emissions inquiry committee

European Parliament

Brussels

Latvian centre-right MEP Krisjanis Karins asks about Renault's decision not to sell diesel cars in the United States - Mr Gascon Abellan says this is a market rather than a regulatory decision. 

Mr Karins also asks whether EU legislation is currently too focussed on reducing carbon dioxide emissions rather than nitrogen oxides. 

Mr Gascon Abellan says that different regulations apply at different levels and that "you have to comply with all the different constraints".  

Krisjanis Karins
BBC

The committee’s work so far

Emissions inquiry committee

European Parliament

Brussels

The committee has so far taken evidence from various academic institutes, trade associations and non-governmental organisations since hearings began in March this year.

At the start of today's session, they gave approval to an interim report which summarises the committee’s work so far and outlines plans for the second half of its one-year mandate.

It will be debated and voted on at a full plenary meeting of the Parliament in September.

Over the coming weeks and months, the committee says it now hopes to take evidence from car manufacturers and parts suppliers. 

Kathleen Van Brempt
European Parliament
Belgian social democrat Kathleen Van Brempt (L) is chairing the committee

Current testing conditions 'not in line with public opinion'

Emissions inquiry committee

European Parliament

Brussels

Spanish centre-right MEP Pablo Zalba Bidegain asks about the current state of EU regulations in the area of testing. 

In reply, Gaspar Gascon Abellan says that current standards are not sufficient and are "not in line with public opinion".

He says that there is a need to bring the testing systems in line with daily driving conditions - he adds that new rules being developed by the EU are "on the right lines" but need to be completed. 

Background on ‘defeat devices’

Emissions inquiry committee

European Parliament

Brussels

In September, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that many VW cars being sold in America had a "defeat device" - or software - in diesel engines.

The EPA has said that the engines had computer software that could detect when they were being tested, changing the performance accordingly to improve results.

According to the EPA, the software sensed test scenarios by monitoring speed, engine operation, air pressure and even the position of the steering wheel.

When the cars were operating under controlled laboratory conditions - which typically involve putting them on a stationary test rig - the device appears to have put the vehicle into a sort of safety mode in which the engine ran below normal power and performance.

Once on the road, the engines switched out of this test mode. 

VW car being tested
AP

Normal use 'must be neat concept'

Emissions inquiry committee

European Parliament

Brussels

Dutch Liberal Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy kicks off the session by asking whether the standard testing procedure for cars should be focused on performance in a laboratory or "what I would call normal use".

Gaspar Gascon Abellan replies that a definition of normal use "can mean a lot of different things" and is difficult to define. 

He says it is important that normal use is a "neat concept" and cannot be open to too much interpretation. 

However he says that it is not true to say the company designs its systems solely for the purpose of passing laboratory tests, although this is something it does have to do. 

'No fraudulent systems' in Renault cars

Emissions inquiry committee

European Parliament

Brussels

Gaspar Gascon Abellan tells MEPs that Renault "did not equip its system with any fraudulent system". 

He says that emissions regulations has meant the firm has meant the firm offers a a range of technologies" in its cars, up to and including electrical vehicles.

He says the firm announced last April measures to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions in its diesel cars, which should be rolled out "by the end of this month". 

He adds that the company has become a "pioneer" in the field of electrical vehicles, responsible for more than 50% of electric vehicles sold in the world. 

Gaspar Gascon Abellan
BBC

Background to today's hearing

Emissions inquiry committee

European Parliament

Brussels

Today the committee is taking evidence first from Gaspar Gascon Abellan, an engineering executive at Renault, and Ulrich Eichhorn, and then the chief technology officer at Volkswagen.

Renault recalled 15,000 new cars early this year following after tests showed emission levels from some of its vehicles were too high.

Three of the firm's sites were raided by fraud investigators – although the French government said it had not found any evidence of the defeat-style devices in use at Volkswagen.

Volkswagen’s chief executive at the time, Martin Winterkorn, resigned in the wake of the scandal breaking, adding that the firm had "broken the trust of our customers and the public".

The company has also launched an internal inquiry into the scandal; in May it more than doubled its provisions set aside to deal with the potential fallout from the scandal to €16.2bn. 

Renault
AP

Former EU commissioner to appear before committee

Emissions inquiry committee

European Parliament

Brussels

Belgian social democrat Kathleen Van Brempt begins the session by telling the committee that former EU industry commissioner Günter Verheugen has agreed to appear before them. 

The committee had previously said that Mr Verheugen had turned down an invitation to appear.

She adds that a provisional date for the hearing has been set as August 13th - and thanks MEPs for "standing firm" in their insistence that former commissioners should appear. 

Good morning

Emissions inquiry committee

European Parliament

Brussels

Hello and welcome to this meeting of the European Parliament’s special emissions inquiry committee in Brussels.

The committee – which has a one-year mandate – was set up last December after the discovery of "cheat" devices in 600,000 Volkswagen diesel cars last year.

A number of German carmakers have agreed to recall 630,000 diesel vehicles to tweak engine software – and Volkswagen has set aside €16.2bn for potential costs or recalls.

The committee is investigating whether the EU Commission properly reviewed emissions test cycles.

It is also looking into whether the Commission and national governments had evidence of “defeat devices” before the scandal erupted, and whether a legal ban on them was properly enforced.