Emissions scandal leads to Swiss VW sales ban

Petition: Mary Hemphill. Picture: John Devlin
Petition: Mary Hemphill. Picture: John Devlin
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SWITZERLAND has temporarily banned the sale of Volkswagen diesel-engine models which could have devices capable of providing false emissions data.

It said the move could affect 180,000 cars – not yet sold or registered – in the Euro 5 emission category.

A VW is tested for emissions. Picture: PA

A VW is tested for emissions. Picture: PA

The move comes after VW, the biggest carmaker in the world, admitted cheating on emissions tests in the US.

The row erupted after it emerged that some VW cars being sold in the US had devices in diesel engines that could detect when they were being tested, changing the engine performance to improve results.

The US Department of Justice has said it will join the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) investigation into VW and leave “no stone unturned”.

In a statement, the Swiss Federal Roads Office said VW models that have 1.2-litre, 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre diesel engines – including VW’s Audi, Seat and Skoda brands – could be affected.

The ban does not apply to vehicles that are already in circulation or cars with Euro 6 emission category engines.

The Swiss authorities have also set up a taskforce to fully investigate the issue.

Meanwhile, UK ministers are facing questions about the effectiveness of Britain’s automotive testing regime in the wake of the Volkswagen emissions scandal. Former Liberal Democrat transport minister Norman Baker has claimed David Cameron delayed imposing new emission limits following a personal request from German chancellor Angela Merkel in order to protect the German motor industry.

Baker, who was transport minister in the coalition from 2010 to 2013, said the move provoked furious protests from other ministers and from British manufacturers.

The chairman of the Commons transport committee, Louise Ellman, said Baker’s claims raised serious questions over the effectiveness and the independence of the whole testing regime.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced last Thursday that diesel cars in the UK would be retested in the wake of the disclosure that Volkswagen installed sophisticated “defeat” technology in some of their vehicles to fool emissions testers.

Baker told BBC2’s Newsnight that efforts to curb harmful emissions had been undermined by Cameron’s insistence on deferring to Merkel. “Angela Merkel rang the Prime Minister and asked him effectively to defer the arrangements that had been carefully negotiated. He agreed to that, idiotically, and got something inconsequential in return,” he said.

“That could have unpicked the whole thing. What we saw then was Cabinet ministers writing formally to the Prime Minister and to the foreign secretary to complain about that behaviour.

“The motor industry at the time was furious, The motor industry was saying to me ‘Is the Prime Minister on our side or the side of German manufacturers?’”

Ellman said Baker’s comments raised a “very big question” about outside influences on public safety. “There is certainly a major question about the influence of the motor industry against the interests of the public,” she told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

“The whole issue of independence is the key issue here. Testing should be independent of manufacturers and of government and it doesn’t seem that that has been the case.”