Australia looks to improve vehicle emissions tests

Australia will review its standards and testing procedures for vehicle emissions, the government said on Saturday, after media reports said the recent scandal involving Volkswagen cars highlighted the country's relatively lax standards.

In a joint statement, the environment, major projects and energy ministers said they would set up a working group aimed at reducing harmful vehicle emissions and increasing fuel efficiency in cars sold in Australia.

The move comes after media reports following the Volkswagen scandal said Australia's standards for vehicle emissions were lower than in other developed nations, largely due to attempts to cut costs for the local car manufacturing industry, which has been unable to compete with imports and will cease production entirely in 2017.

On Wednesday European Union nations reached a tentative deal on tougher emissions tests for diesel cars after the Volkswagen scandal showed previous methods were ineffective. The slow phase-in of the new standards, however, drew fire from environmentalists.

Volkswagen is embroiled in a global recall scandal after tests showed that thousands of vehicles had been fitted with so-called defeat devices that were designed to mask the level of emissions.

This week the German carmaker was forced to take its first quarterly loss for 15 years, slightly deeper than analysts' forecasts, as it anticipated hefty payouts to consumers over the deceptive data on its diesel emissions and the potential recall of 11 million cars.