A great leap forward

Does the government know about automaker's emission warranty?

Published: Tuesday 31 July 2001

People asked for it and the automobile industry gave it to them, but does the government even know about it. Six months after the automobile industry announced that it was willing to take responsibility for the on-road emissions from their vehicles, emissions warranty finally came into effect from July 1, 2001. This announcement from the Society of Indian Automobile manufacturers ( siam ) first came in February this year in the face of a strong public demand sprearheaded by cse 's Right to Clean Air campaign. This is a voluntary offer from all automobile manufacturers to provide a warranty on the emission performance of vehicles sold from this date onwards for a period specified according to the certified life of devices like catalytic converters. If during the agreed life of the warranty anything goes wrong with the emissions control systems and the vehicles emit more than they are legally allowed to, the manufacturers will take back the vehicle, repair the fault at their own cost and return it to the users.

This is the first significant step towards establishing manufacturers responsibility for the on-road emissions performance of the vehicles in India. But the significance of this is completely lost on the Union government and there is no sense of urgency to take this forward and establish a legal framework for its enforcement. Without a regulatory framework it is not possible to get the best out of this system. In more environmentally conscious countries in the West such as Sweden and the us , emissions warranty is implemented along with a recall system to control on-road deterioration of emissions from vehicles. In this case the government takes the responsibility of testing a sample of vehicles on road from each batch of vehicles after these have completed a stipulated life against the emissions norms in force. If the sample fails the tests it proves that there is an inherent technical snag that cannot be taken care of only with proper maintenance by the users. Such an eventuality requires the automobile company to recall the entire batch of vehicles, repair them at their own cost and return them to the consumers. If they fail to comply with the rules, they have to pay a heavy penalty. Such a practise has been very effective in controlling on-road deterioration of emissions from in-use vehicles as manufacturers take care with long-term performance of emissions control technologies.

If industry has taken one step forward the least the government can do is to meet it halfway. But the government is more eager to blame the victims of air pollution by forcing the pollution under control certificates on them, and ignores the virtues of a system that establishes manufacturers responsibility and can go a long way to ensure better consumer cooperation in establishing good maintenance practices in this country.

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