More than three quarters of the 43m cars tampered with in the Dieselgate emissions test cheating scandal are still on the road four years later.
It will probably take another two years to recall the remaining 33m vehicles that were tampered with, according to analysis of unpublicised European commission figures which was released last week.
Florent Grelier, the clean vehicles engineer for Transport and Environment which conducted the analysis, said: “The current snail’s pace to clean up diesel cars across Europe is unacceptable. The industry has had four years since the diesel scandal broke but has failed to deliver even on its own commitments to fix manipulated cars.
“It’s time for governments to get tough and order mandatory recalls across the EU. This does not require any new laws, just political will.”
EU sources accepted the analysis but said they did not want to “emotionalise” the debate by framing the lack of action by member states as unacceptable.
One official said: “We agree that much more needs to be done on recall actions and we’ve been stressing that from the beginning. It’s a delicate balance as we have a responsibility to work with member states in a constructive spirit and it is not our role to blackmail specific states. But if their cars are not in line with EU legislation, that needs to be remedied.”
Under current single market rules, national type-approval authorities are responsible for recalling faulty vehicles. This can create a problem if a car was, for example, approved in Luxembourg before being marketed in France and then sold in Romania.
From 1 September 2020, the European commission will be given powers to increase checks on new cars, directly initiate their recall and impose fines of up to €30,000 (£25,000) per non-compliant vehicle.
However, this will not affect Dieselgate-era cars, 350,000 of which were exported to Poland alone in 2017, mostly second-hand vehicles from Germany.
In the UK, while 75% of Volkswagen (VW) EA189 engines at the heart of the Dieselgate scandal have been reclaimed, no data for recalls of any other affected engines – including two Jaguar models found to be breaching pollution limits in March – has been submitted to Brussels.
“The EU single market fails when it comes to car emissions,” Grelier said. “It only works for selling cars, but not for recalling them when things go wrong. There must not be any second-class citizens in Europe. Every European has an equal right to clean air.”
In 2015, tests revealed that VW and several other carmakers were disabling or turning down the exhaust after-treatment systems of vehicles in order to pass vehicle air pollution tests.
In real world situations, the automobiles emitted more than three times the legal limits for pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, which is responsible for 72,000 premature deaths across Europe each year.
The scandal shocked the world and more than 250 European cities have since taken action against polluting vehicles on their roads.