European carmakers seek delay to tougher emissions testing

By Julia Fioretti and Barbara Lewis BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European carmakers are lobbying for a three year delay to new rules that would reduce the fuel-saving claims they can make for their vehicles, according to an industry paper seen by Reuters. The European Commission wants to tighten vehicle testing to close loopholes such as driving on an unrealistically smooth surface and taping up car doors and windows. It wants to introduce the tougher standards by September 2017, but a position paper from the European car industry trade group says it "cannot envisage vehicle testing beginning before 1 January 2020". The paper from the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA) -- whose members include BMW, Volkswagen and Fiat Chrysler -- goes on to say a further year's delay might be needed because of the time required for all manufacturers to have newly-registered vehicles tested under the new rules. Commission research published in 2013 showed lab techniques explained around a third of a recorded drop in average EU emissions from passenger cars of planet-warming carbon dioxide (CO2), linked to reduced fuel consumption. ACEA said it was "actively contributing" to the development of the more stringent rules and was committed to introducing them as soon as it is feasible. "When considering all the issues that have to be addressed in finalizing the work, it becomes clear that unrealistic deadlines for implementing WLTP (real-world testing) simply cannot be rushed into," ACEA said in an emailed statement. A meeting of EU member state representatives and the Commission on Thursday will decide which techniques carmakers will be allowed to use when testing their vehicles as well as the date of introduction of the new rules. "We all know by now that pumped-up fuel economy figures are the direct result of carmakers gaming the lab tests. EU governments have the opportunity this Thursday to stop this cheating as from 2017," said Greg Archer, clean vehicles manager of sustainable transport group Transport & Environment. The industry has already won a concession after Germany, home to Europe's biggest carmakers, led a campaign to delay by a year the Commission proposal to introduce an emissions limit of 95 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer from 2020. (Editing by Mark Potter)