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EU proposes tougher tests for cars amid emissions scandal

The European Union's executive has proposed wholesale changes to tests for new car models to crack down on excessive emissions and avoid scandals like the one that hit Volkswagen and the sector last year.

Emissions from cars on the road in the EU have been found to be four to five times above the official limits.

That is largely because the current tests are done in labs, where car-makers are able to cut corners to pass. The back seats might be pulled out to reduce weight, for example, or the doors taped over to reduce air drag.

Under the new rules, the member states and the EU Commission would be allowed to carry out spot tests on cars that have already been released on to the market.

The EU also wants to do away with a system whereby car companies can pay technical services to carry out the testing and thereby cut any possible financial links between the industry and the testers.

Vehicle testing, which is currently carried out in individual states, would come under greater centralised European oversight under the new rules.

EU commissioner Jyrki Katainen said that in the wake of the VW scandal "it is essential to restore a level playing field and fair competition in the market".

The proposals now go to the EU member states and the European Parliament for further debate before they can become law.

"To regain customers' trust in this important industry, we need to tighten the rules but also ensure they are effectively observed," Mr Katainen said.

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