WASHINGTON -- The tougher auto emission tests that U.S. regulators adopted in the wake of Volkswagen's violations are permanent and could lead to more regulations down the road if more problems surface, a senior EPA official said on Friday.
Christopher Grundler, director of the EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality, said that new emission tests announced on Sept. 25 would continue "indefinitely" as part of the agency's effort to detect so-called defeat devices of the kind Volkswagen AG has admitted using to elude EPA laboratory emission tests for diesel vehicles.
Volkswagen employed a software algorithm that turned the diesel vehicles' emission controls on during lab tests but left them off during normal driving. The new EPA regime includes on-road emission tests, the approach that first raised questions about Volkswagen vehicle emissions in independent tests.
"We are permanently changing the oversight system," Grundler said in an interview. "We are integrating new tests and evaluations that we will be applying to both production vehicles and pre-production vehicles, as well as in-use vehicles."
The tougher emissions tests could increase engineering and validation costs for automakers and suppliers.
The scale of the Volkswagen scandal, combined with reports of potential emission hurdles for other automakers, has raised speculation within the industry that the EPA could decide not to limit on-road tests to defeat device investigations but instead require automakers to undergo more stringent tests while certifying new vehicles for sale in the U.S. market.
The Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit environmental group, petitioned EPA this week to require on-road emissions tests for all cars, SUVs, vans and light trucks.