DETROIT (Dec. 14, 2015) — The Volkswagen A.G. cheating scandal over doctoring its vehicles to pass emissions tests has created an important opportunity to forge a single global standard for auto emissions.
Dan Nicholson, General Motors Co.'s global powertrain chief, said he'll use his upcoming presidency of the International Federation of Automotive Engineering Societies to push regulators — especially in the U.S. and Europe — to harmonize tailpipe regulations.
For years, auto makers have longed for less complexity in emissions rules in world markets. They argue it's wasteful to devote scarce resources to engineer, develop, build, maintain — and regulate — autos to meet dozens of separate national emissions standards that essentially all seek the same thing: better fuel economy and fewer greenhouse gases and toxins.
The fact that Volkswagen sold dirty vehicles that met emissions limits only when tested might make regulators resist change. But Mr. Nicholson's pitch plays off the deliberate nature of VW's cheating and the humiliation of regulators that failed to catch the auto maker for years.
If individual national regulators can barely monitor auto makers trying to comply, they have no chance against intentional deception unless the watchdogs pool their limited resources to focus on a single standard.
Even so, emission-rules harmonization is a tough sell. Governments jealously protect their right to set policy. And specific conditions dictate rule-making priorities in different locations, from low-density energy exporters to high-population petroleum importers. Even geography can shape emissions rules, especially when mountainous terrain affects air quality in urban areas such as Los Angeles and Mexico City.
Mr. Nicholson should keep pushing. Auto makers need their engineers for other urgent tasks. Regulators need more from their modest staffs and budgets.
Of course, cleaner air and less environmental damage should always be more important than clinging to multiple sets of emissions rules and testing methods.
Harmonized emissions standards would aid manufacturers and regulators, benefit motorists and help the planet. That's worth fighting for.
This editorial appeared in Automotive News, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business. Have an opinion on it? Send your comments or a letter to the editor to [email protected]. Please include your name, title, official company name, city and state, along with a daytime phone number at which you can be contacted.