Wednesday, Aug 17, 2022

Das Auto Faces Desi Fallout

In India, ARAI is working out the ways to test Volkswagen's cars. Expect a backlash against diesel

File - AP Photo/ Manish Swarup

The big question on everyone's mind in India is whether Volkswagen, which admitted to cheating on emission levels in its cars, has cheated on similar lines in India or not.

The ministry of heavy industries, which oversees the automotive industry, has ordered an enquiry into the issue. Also the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) — the government approved testing agency — has started its investigation. It is looking to see if cars from Volkswagen India were also fitted with similar cheating devices and software to show lower emission levels when tested or if there was any manipulation with the emission claims of the company's cars.

This fear among Indian authorities comes from the fact that out of the 11 million cars that are supposed to have been fitted with the "defeat device", a little under 3 million were sold in Germany while the rest were sold in other countries. And since some of the models are also sold in India, there is also suspicion whether some of those cars would have found way into India.

The implications of the Volkswagen scandal could be manifold, even in India. First, across the world, authorities would look at claims made by carmakers for their diesel cars with suspicion and may even subject them to more stringent tests or tighten the norms and conditions under which diesel cars can be sold. This is especially possible in the US where the Volkswagen scandal has broken out. The EU too is looking into this with great concern and may come up with new norms for diesel cars.

In India, where there is already a lot of noise about diesel cars from various bodies like the National Green Tribunal, there could be a fresh round of anti-diesel activism in the wake of the Volswagen scandal.

Across countries, authorities are now taking a fresh look at emission claims made by various carmakers on their diesel cars and examining systems employed by companies to declare their vehicles' emission levels. Volkswagen itself is facing enquiries and investigation in about 10 countries including India, South Korea, France, Italy, Canada, UK and its home country Germany.

The revelation from Volkswagen, which is seen as a symbol of German identity, has come as a shock for the entire world. The German company, which employs close to 600,000 people worldwide, was at the best of its performance in years, declaring a profit of 14.8 billion Euro in 2014 and recently overtaking Toyota as the world's largest carmaker. But now it can face a fine of up to $18 billion in the US. If proven for the offence in other countries, other penalties may also be levied.

This could weigh in heavily on the company and some analysts are of the opinion that the company may have to sell some of its brands to tide over the situation.

In India ARAI is working out the ways to test Volkswagen's cars. It is yet to ascertain whether random samples will be picked up for such testing or not. It has sought details from Volkswagen about their cars' emission levels and will act once the company responds. Whatever the response and the results of the tests, things are likely to get difficult for not just Volkswagen but all makers of diesel vehicles. There is also talk that the government may come up with fresh norms for testing of diesel vehicles and make emission declaration and checking more stringent.