VW scandal: EU knew of rampant cheating since 2013

The European Commission knew of ''widespread concern'' that car manufacturers were cheating in emissions tests as long as two years ago, according to a report.

In February 2013, the European Union's then environmental commissioner, Janez Potocnik, wrote to Antonio Tajani, then industry commissioner, in February 2013, warning that several EU countries believed a ''significant discrepancy'' between emissions from cars in the real world and emissions during testing was the ''primary reason'' that air quality was not improving, The Financial Times reported.

The issue only became an international scandal this year after US officials found Volkswagen had fitted so-called 'defeat' software designed to fool emissions tests on millions of its diesel cars.

In his 2013 letter, Potocnik wrote, ''There are widespread concerns that performance [of cars] has been tailored tightly to compliance with the test cycle in disregard of the dramatic increase in emissions outside that narrow scope.

''My services and I are often put in an uncomfortable position when defending the perceived lack of action by the commission and member states in addressing the obvious failure to ensure this.''

He stressed that cars were meant to comply with emission limits ''in normal driving conditions''.

Potocnik suggested that Tajani should threaten to require car makers to take ''remedial action'' to address the situation or face being prevented from selling particular models on emissions grounds.

Tajani, now a vice-president of the European Parliament, told the FT that he had tried to introduce ''real driving emissions'' tests.

''I have not refrained from ensuring that the issue of real drive emissions is dealt with and followed up appropriately, in close co-operation with my fellow commissioner Potocnik and our respective services,'' he said. Potocnik, who is no longer a commissioner, declined to comment.

However, after news of the VW scandal broke, he wrote on Twitter, ''Do we really always need scandals and disasters to do the right thing?''