Car firms "inflated" costs of ELV directive

Newspaper reports German government now estimating industry liability much lower than claimed

German car makers have over-estimated their coming financial liabilities under the EU's draft end-of-life vehicles (ELV) directive by a factor of four, according to a report published in the Berliner Zeitung newspaper on Tuesday.

Earlier this year, the industry caused serious embarrassment for German environment minister Jürgen Trittin, who twice blocked progress on the directive under pressure from chancellor Gerhard Schröder, a former director of Volkswagen (ENDS Daily 23 June) (ENDS Daily 11 March).

German car manufacturers have been particularly concerned by the proposal to introduce EU-wide mandatory producer responsibility for scrap cars because they have produced, and will therefore become responsible for, some 40% of the 160m vehicles currently on the road around the union.

German car makers' association VDA estimates that scrapping existing cars, which were not designed with maximum recycling in mind, will cost euros 153 (DM300) each on average or even more. On this basis, it has claimed that the cost to its members of the scrap cars directive implementation around Europe will be euros 10.2bn annually. According to the Berliner Zeitung, the German government now puts their liability at euros 2.56bn, just a quarter of the industry estimate.

Contacted by ENDS Daily today, a German government spokesperson could neither confirm nor deny the existence of the paper cited by the Berliner Zeitung. The VDA said that it stood by its estimate of liabilities at euros 10.2bn annually. Meanwhile, an official at the German environment agency suggested that the new figure cited by the newspaper was the more likely to be accurate, though exact costs would depend on how recycling costs are collected.

Intended to raise average recycling rates of scrap cars from about 75% now to at least 85% by 2015, the EU's scrap cars directive has been at the centre of a huge political row for most of this year.

Under the European Commission's original proposal, EU-wide producer responsibility would have been introduced for all cars reaching the end of their lives from 2003. Following the bitter arguments over costs to car makers during Germany's EU presidency term, senior EU diplomats have now proposed a new compromise, under which producer responsibility will be applied to new cars alone from 2001, extending to all cars reaching the end of their lives from 2006 (ENDS Daily 22 July). The European car industry remains unhappy with the plan, which it claims amounts to retrospective legislation, and has threatened to take legal action (ENDS Daily 26 July).

Follow Up:
Berliner Zeitung, tel: +49 30 23279; VDA, tel: +49 69 97500. References: "Weniger Kosten für deutsche Auto-Konzerne".

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