EU-Commissioner Bienkowska: ‘I wouldn’t buy a Volkswagen anymore’
Three years after dieselgate burst out, what has really changed? “I wouldn’t buy a Volkswagen anymore”, says EU Commissioner for Industry Elzbieta Bienkowska (53) in an interview with Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad.
She grew up in communist Poland, being the daughter of a car technician. And it was she who got to deal with the biggest scandal evere in European industry. “When dieselgate surfaced, my heart was bleeding”, she says. “I love cars. But the industry has disappointed me deeply.”
Cheating for years
Volkswagen and other car manufacturers showed to have cheated for years with software. Their diesel cars complied with the standards while tested in the lab, but on the street they polluted ten times more than allowed.
One could expect that such a scandal would shake up the industry and the companies involved would do everything to erase the shame as soon as possible. But of 8 million cars that Volkswagen said to get rid of the cheating software, an unknown number is still driving around with it.
And other than in the US, where Volkswagen compensates clients up to 10.000 dollar, in Europe it does not. There never was a settlement like this, while there is no juridical obligation.
No hard deadline anymore
Will VW meet the deadline in removing the cheating software? “It’s November now, they still have some time”, Bienkowska says. “But they have disappointed me so many times already.”
Why aren’t these companies forced to take these polluting cars of the road? “This is a task for the national authorities and I’m very disappointed to see how they approach this problem”, the commissioner says.
“I would love to say that in two years all polluting cars will be taken of the road, but I’m not setting a hard deadline anymore. It takes all too long. Fines are rarely issued, a member state’s task, but this isn’t done either.”
Why don’t you take measures yourself? “The only thing I can do out of Brussels is start an infringement procedure against these countries to force them to apply fines. We’ve done that in two cases (Germany and Italy). I can’t tell you what’s on my desk now, but we’re working on it. Something has to be done. In many countries, also yours, cities are closing their boundaries for polluting cars.”
Has industry learned something from dieselgate? “From Volkswagen you might have expected a gesture towards the clients after all what happened. If I owned a Volkswagen and they’d only offer me to remove the cheating software without compensation, I would feel treated badly. I wouldn’t regain my confidence in the company and wouldn’t buy a Volkswagen anymore.”
Era of diesel is over
“What amazes me most is that the car industry is going to change completely. Cars are getting cleaner and I predict that within 15 years nobody in Europe is still driving on petrol”, adds Bienkowska.
“But car makers don’t even dare to say that the era of diesel is over, let alone that they dare to think about the end of the petrol engine. Like they don’t understand that the future of European car industry is at stake”.