The scandal over false vehicle emission data affecting 11 million Volkswagen cars worldwide may have little bearing on India as the standards employed in the country are far lower than those in the US.
Volkswagen AG, the world’s largest automobile maker, is battling its biggest scandal in its 78-year history and could face fines of up to $18 billion for cheating in emission tests.
As India progresses towards implementing Bharat Stage IV (BSIV) emission norms, most of the country is still under BSIII. Europe, meanwhile, has moved to Euro 6 (Euro norms are nearly equivalent to Bharat Stage).
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A senior functionary of the government-funded Automotive Research Association of India said, “The government has not been asked to check Volkswagen cars thus far. Generally we conduct random checks on all cars. We did that on VW cars, too, but did not find anything unsatisfactory.”
Volkswagen uses the same family of common-rail diesel engines, EA 189, in India that has put the company in the line of fire in the US. An email to Volkswagen seeking replies on whether cars sold in India would be affected by the scandal did not elicit a response but a spokesperson confirmed the company used EA 189 family engines in Skoda and Audi cars.
“Emission standards in the US are the strictest in the world. Indian emission standards are much lower. It will take a few years for us to catch up with them. I do not see a situation where there can be fudging of emission numbers in India,” added the functionary of the Automotive Research Association of India.
Volkswagen’s US arm finds itself in a position similar to what General Motors was in two years ago in India. The US car maker was accused of fudging emission data, leading to the largest recall of that time of 114,000 Chevrolet Taveras made at its Gujarat plant.
“The government has the right to decide if it wants to check Volkswagen cars with the involvement of research agencies, but so far there has been no intimation,” said a senior functionary of the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers.
The German company, which sold 45,000 cars under the Volkswagen brand and a further 15,000 cars under sister brand SkodaAuto in the last financial year, has a minuscule combined share of 2.3 per cent of the Indian passenger vehicle market, according to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers. However, its luxury brand Audi is one of the top two luxury car brands in India.
US laws allow car makers to self-certify they are meeting standards. Emission regulations are administered by the Environmental Protection Agency. India relies on a third-party approval process similar to that in Europe.
“The Road Transport and Safety Bill is yet to be tabled in Parliament. Until it becomes law, the issue of vehicle recalls will be fraught with uncertainties,” said a market watcher.