Burnham-On-Sea’s Member of the European Parliament has this week claimed the name Volkswagen “has become a dirty word” following the revelation that the firm manipulated US diesel car emissions tests.

Julie Girling, Conservative environment spokesman in the European Parliament, said the company’s admission of wholesale cheating has completely changed the political and legislative mood.

“One of the biggest names in motor manufacturing, if not down and not out is on the ropes and reeling. In a few hours, a household name has become a dirty word,” she said in Parliament Magazine.

“I believe the scandal will focus our attention still further on what can be learned from the United States, the place where this cheating was detected and where the story broke.”

Mrs Girling, who is the lead MEP on legislation currently going through the European Parliament on air quality, added: “The US runs a very different system of regulation from Europe. There, they set standards and then do random tests (known as surveillance testing) on vehicles…they take cars off the road and test them for emissions performance throughout their on-road life.”

“In the EU, by contrast… we lay out the performance standards on new vehicles, test them and then put them on the road without any further testing. We assume that what happens on the road for the car’s life is the same as at the pre-launch test station.”

“Over the last decade, the EU Commission and the industry have known that the on the road, in real driving conditions, vehicles do not perform as the tests suggest they would. Can that really remain the status quo?”

“If a company as big and reputable as Volkswagen could buck the system – how can we trust the system at all?”