VW cheated smog testing on almost a half-million cars

The EPA is accusing Volkswagen of illegally using software to cheat emissions standards, allowing the German automaker to sell half a million cars that produce nitrogen oxide, which creates smog, at up to 40 times the legal limit.

In a notice of violation of the Clean Air Act sent to Volkswagen AG, Audi AG, and Volkswagen Group of America, today, the EPA said diesel-powered VW cars used a “defeat device,” a kind of “a sophisticated software algorithm [that] detects when the car is undergoing official emissions testing, and turns full emissions controls on only during the test. The effectiveness of these vehicles’ pollution emissions control devices is greatly reduced during all normal driving situations.”

The accusation applies to 482,000 diesel-powered, four-cyclinder Jetta, Beetle, Audi A3, and Golf cars sold between 2008 and 2015 in the US, and to Passat cars sold from 2014 to 2015…

The White House has directed VW to recall the affected cars, and the automaker will be required to fix the problem, at no cost to car owners.

“Clean diesel,” by comparison to old standards [think drippy Oldsmobiles] works well and produces better miles per gallon figures. Some of the systems require a bit more owner management which VW may assume Americans aren’t disciplined enough to perform.

The majority of diesel-powered passenger cars in the country are sold by the Volkswagen group – which includes Audi.

Pretty sleazy.

33 thoughts on “VW cheated smog testing on almost a half-million cars

  1. drugsandotherthings says:

    Sad, Here in N CA our sole producer of biodiesel produced with used vegetable oil closed this year- partially due to the “hippies” running it not being so good on the business side- but also largley due to federal tax credits ending which caused their new loan to evaporate.

    And while I’m not an expert in the matter, my understanding is that in Europe, where diesels are far more commonplace, they use a much cleaner diesel formulation (blue diesel? ) then we do on the US- a reality which causes huge problems for the likes of Mercedes, BMW, and Audi/VW who manufacture their engines for Europe, and which tend to perform less well with the dirtier US diesel.

    As a side note- I am in the market for a used, full sized diesel work truck. And it is near impossible to find one that hasn’t an egr bypass chip or a “performance” chip installed- the former illegal in on road vehichles and the latter of questionable legality (these are what the rednecks use to “roll coal”- ie: blow black smoke to, ahem, “protest” the evil EPA pollutin restrictions. Or simply “increase performance” or get a “cooler sound” from their truck- while in reality altering emissions to a point they violate the law.

    • eideard says:

      1. I believe current low-sulfur US diesel is “cleaner” than EU flavors. This doesn’t lessen particulate pollution or NO2 pollution.

      2. Saying that, we’re very much a diesel extended family. Especially including Cummins-Dodges with power chips in vehicles towing RVs. The power chips used remove many extraneous bits of programming w/o affecting emissions. I still think abt changing the chip in my ancient gas-power Dodge pickup because of silly comfort programming that turns off AC under engine load. Absurd.

      3. Cummins rules the world of diesel – though smaller sizes, new goodies from Fiat, Ford, Cummins (too), GM, Isuzu, many folks, are efficient and cleaner. For a pickup, Cummins followed by Ford’s Powerstroke (which I think is Detroit Diesel) are the rule.

      I admit to owning a few shares of CMI because of their worldwide engineering leadership. I also admit if I wasn’t retired – buying a used diesel work truck – it would be Cummins-Dodge and an adjustable power chip that takes it to the clean side of emissions. They do exist. It takes a specialized, damned good mechanic btw to get the whole setup right. RVers in the family plot journeys West through Las Vegas because of a world-class diesel tuner in business there.

      • Update says:

        “Was Volkswagen alone in cheating on diesel emissions tests? The researchers who initially uncovered Dieselgate now allege that’s not the case.
        A team of scientists led by chemist Axel Friedrich presented the results of a new emissions analysis earlier this week in Berlin. The data apparently demonstrates that Mercedes and BMW also manipulated vehicle emissions values in order to meet legal limits, just as Volkswagen admitted doing. …Daimler-AG, which owns Mercedes, has called the results “questionable.” BMW claims the abnormalities may be due to different conditions in the lab and on the road and denied the accusations of impropriety, according to Frontal 21 (link in German).” http://motherboard.vice.com/read/researchers-who-uncovered-vw-dieselgate-are-now-accusing-mercedes-and-bmw Also “Trucks and 18-wheelers today are showing considerably fewer emissions than cars,” said Friedrich, who worked for a German environmental agency before he became an independent researcher and activist.”

        • Bescheuert says:

          (July 15, 2016) “Since at least 2010, the European Commission has been in possession of concrete evidence that automobile manufacturers were cheating on emissions values of diesel vehicles, according to a number of internal documents that SPIEGEL ONLINE has obtained. The papers show that emissions cheating had been under discussion for years both within the Commission and the EU member state governments. The documents also show that the German government was informed of a 2012 meeting on the issue. The scandal first hit the headlines in 2015 when it became known that Volkswagen had manipulated the emissions of its diesel vehicles. http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/commission-has-long-known-of-diesel-emissions-manipulation-a-1103249.html

      • Fritz says:

        Today the FTC filed a complaint in federal court charging the auto giant with repeatedly making deceptive claims about its cars’ “clean diesel” features in a series of ad campaigns. The complaint urges the court to issue an order requiring the company to compensate American consumers “who bought or leased an affected vehicle between late 2008 and late 2015” while also preventing VW from making such false claims in future campaigns.
        Last October, the organization announced it had joined forces with the EPA and the Justice Department to investigate these claims less than one month after the EPA issued a notice of violation regarding VW’s now-infamous TDI diesel engines. Today’s announcement specifically concerns a series of ads created by the Los Angeles offices of Deutsch, which has been VW’s U.S. creative agency of record since 2009. The agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
        The complaint “was made because VW made widespread, demonstrably untrue claims that were material to the sales of all of its TDI vehicles,” said James Kohm, the associate director for the enforcement division of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/ftc-wants-volkswagen-compensate-american-consumers-deceptive-clean-diesel-ads-170480

    • Ampelmännchen says:

      Re: Diesel exhaust see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diesel_exhaust (“…There is little controversy, however, that the public health impact of diesels is higher than that of petrol-fuelled vehicles despite the wide uncertainties.”) Also: “In polluted environments, diesel fumes may be reducing the availability of almost half the most common flower odors that bees use to find their food, research has found. The new findings suggest that toxic nitrous oxide (NOx) in diesel exhausts could be having an even greater effect on bees’ ability to smell out flowers than was previously thought. NOx is a poisonous pollutant produced by diesel engines which is harmful to humans, and has also previously been shown to confuse bees’ sense of smell, which they rely on to sniff out their food. Researchers from the University of Southampton and the University of Reading found that there is now evidence to show that, of the eleven most common single compounds in floral odours, five have can be chemically altered by exposure to NOx gases from exhaust fumes. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/uos-sas101915.php

  2. moss says:

    Not especially different from software companies – who are applauded by many – for building in switches in their software to produce superior results when confronted by tests from standard benchmarks.

    Maybe VW made more$ per cheat.

    • Prophets says:

      Volkswagen had made increasing its sales in the U.S. a priority. Part of the way to meet that goal was to increase diesel’s appeal with Americans re: performance and fuel efficiency. A delay in meeting new EPA emissions targets for diesel models would have been very costly for Volkswagen. Rather than delay diesel introduction as others, including Honda and Mazda, did, Volkswagen decided to go ahead, but it appears that it was unable to reach emissions targets as it had hoped without resorting to the software-hardware combination that deceived the EPA. Volkswagen’s “Clean Diesel” models (which regulators say emit nitrogen oxides, or NOx, at 10 to 40 times the federal limit) accounted for 22.9 percent of its total U.S. new car sales in August. In comparison, BMW’s diesel vehicles accounted for just 6 percent of its U.S. sales in all of 2014. http://abcnews.go.com/Business/volkswagen-risked-allegedly-cheating-emissions/story?id=34011457

      • Situational ethics says:

        (NYT Oct 4th) “Volkswagen installed software designed to cheat on emissions tests in 2008 after realizing that a new diesel engine, developed at great expense, could not meet pollution standards in the United States and other countries, people with knowledge of the automaker’s internal inquiry said on Sunday.
        Rather than stop production of the engine and throw out years of work and investment, managers decided to cheat, the people said, confirming a report in Bild am Sonntag, a German newspaper. They did not want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.” http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/05/business/engine-shortfall-pushed-volkswagen-to-evade-emissions-testing.html

        • Fahrvergnügen says:

          “Volkswagen: A Decade Of Deception – Full Chronology” @ http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-10-02/volkswagen-decade-deception-full-chronology (re: BlueTec see process @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BlueTec ) Germany’s Federal Motor Transport Authority gave Volkswagen a deadline of Oct. 7 for submitting plans as to how it intended to solve its emissions problem, telling the company that if it failed to do that the German government would have no choice but to ban the 2.8 million affected cars from driving on that country’s roads. German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt issued a statement yesterday describing Volkswagen’s proposal http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-10-08/volkswagen-diesel-engine-fix-to-get-started-in-september-2016 saying “It’s important to us that we come to a conclusion very quickly, especially about the technical details,”. The Federal Motor Transport Authority, or KBA, will need several days to review the company’s proposals, he said. Volkswagen wasn’t immediately able to comment on the hardware fixes required in Europe.

          • Gefickt says:

            “Volkswagen AG will embark on one of the biggest recalls in European automotive history, affecting 8.5 million vehicles, after German authorities threw out the carmaker’s proposal for voluntary repairs.
            The Federal Motor Transport Authority, or KBA, demanded a recall of 2.4 million cars in Germany after reviewing proposals Volkswagen filed last week to fix cars fitted with software designed to cheat on pollution tests, German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt said Thursday in Berlin. The mandatory recall is the basis for callbacks throughout Europe, where diesel accounts for more than half the market. …Volkswagen must share technical details of its fix with authorities by mid-November, and the recall will begin in January. The KBA will test vehicles to ensure the repairs were successful, Dobrindt said. New parts necessary to fix some vehicles will probably be ready by next September, he said. Throughout Europe, Dobrindt has estimated that Volkswagen will probably need to exchange or rebuild parts for about 3.6 million engines.” http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-10-15/vw-faces-mandatory-recall-in-germany-over-diesel-cheating

          • Stay tuned says:

            “U.S. Pursues Several Paths in Volkswagen Probe : Investigators expand review, evaluating pollution rules, official statements and consumer claims” (WSJ Oct 16th) http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-pursues-several-paths-in-volkswagen-probe-1444938924 “The U.S. attorney’s office in Detroit and the Justice Department’s Fraud Section joined a sweeping federal probe of Volkswagen AG over emissions-test cheating, said people familiar with the matter, signaling the government’s intent to cast a broad net and explore numerous paths to a possible criminal case. The number of U.S. offices now involved in the Volkswagen case suggests an investigation could target the German auto maker and its employees for alleged offenses ranging from pollution to misleading government officials to claims made to consumers. The Federal Trade Commission, which investigates fraudulent advertising, confirmed its involvement, suggesting a focus on potentially misleading claims regarding the emissions.”

  3. Häää? says:

    “Martin Winterkorn, engulfed by a diesel-emissions scandal at Volkswagen AG, amassed a $32 million pension before stepping down Wednesday, and may reap millions more in severance depending on how the supervisory board classifies his exit.” http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-09-24/rewarding-failure-volkswagen-ceo-receive-32-million-pension “The supervisory board’s executive committee said in a statement Wednesday that Winterkorn “had no knowledge of the manipulation of emissions data,” and that it respected his offer to resign and request to be terminated. It also thanked him for his “towering contributions” to the company. The annual report also mentions another piece of his pension: He can use a company car in the years that benefit is being paid out.”

  4. Harry Lime says:

    Switzerland has banned the sale of Volkswagen Group cars equipped with software designed to skirt emissions regulations in the wake of an emissions-rigging scandal that erupted in the United States earlier this month. Thomas Rohrbach, spokesman for the Swiss federal office of roadways, said Friday that the ban is on all cars with diesel engines in the “euro 5” emissions category. It includes all VW models — as well as Seat, Skodas and other vehicle brands owned by Volkswagen Group. But the ban only affects cars not yet sold or registered, not ones already in circulation. It also doesn’t apply to cars currently in production with “euro 6” engines, which aren’t affected by the emissions scandal. http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/9/26/switzerland-bans-sale-of-some-volkswagen-cars.html

  5. Preponderance of the Small says:

    “Meet John German: the man who helped expose Volkswagen’s emissions scandal. Automotive engineer’s research connected the dots to how the automaker manipulated diesel emissions tests – but that was never the intention.” http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/sep/26/volkswagen-scandal-emissions-tests-john-german-research “He may have helped uncover one of the world’s biggest corporate scandals, but German earns a modest salary as US co-lead of the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) a small nonprofit organisation dedicated to helping to reduce vehicle emissions and has an annual budget of just $12m.” See also related content below the fold

  6. Flimflam says:

    “Volkswagen knew about shady emissions practices years ago” (9/27/15) http://www.engadget.com/2015/09/27/volkswagen-told-about-emissions-worries-years-ago/ “Volkswagen’s recently departed CEO may have been caught off-guard by his company’s attempt to hide true diesel car emissions from regulators, but there are now signs that some VW higher-ups knew the truth. German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagzeitung claims that technicians had warned about dodgy emissions practices in 2011 {see link to translation}, while Bild maintains that key supplier Bosch told “top circles” at VW about its emissions concerns back in 2007. {link to translation included}. See also “Why Did it Take California Officials 18 Months to Act on VW’s Scam?” (9/24/15) http://www.laweekly.com/news/why-did-it-take-california-officials-18-months-to-act-on-vws-scam-6079909 Also

  7. Das Auto says:

    Volkswagen to recall, refit vehicles equipped with illegal software, a move that could cost more than $6.5 billion http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/9/29/volkswagen-to-refit-11-million-cars-affected-by-emissions-scandal.html The company is under huge pressure to address the worst business crisis in its 78-year history, which has wiped more than a third off its market value, sent shock waves through the global car market and could harm Germany’s economy. …Volkswagen said previously about 11 million vehicles were fitted with software capable of cheating emissions tests, including 5 million at its VW brand, 2.1 million at luxury brand Audi, 1.2 million at Czech division Skoda and 1.8 million light commercial vehicles.

  8. Béla Barényi says:

    The auto sector’s turnover in Germany is $430 billion, about 20 percent of the nation’s industrial revenue. Germany accounts for a third of Europe’s automobile production. One in every five cars worldwide is a German make. The industry turbo-powers Germany’s booming export trade: a record-breaking 77 percent of cars produced in Germany last year were sold abroad. In Germany alone, the auto industry employs 775,000 people. VW leads in every category — size, earnings, exports and number of workers — and employees 600,000 worldwide (“VW has run out of ideas : Coddled by German politicians, the car maker has fallen behind the competition in developing green transportation” http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2015/10/vw-has-run-out-of-ideas.html )

  9. Wunderbar says:

    “Volkswagen has disclosed to U.S. regulators that there is additional suspect software in its 2016 diesel models that would potentially help their exhaust systems run cleaner during government tests. The news comes as a German magazine reported at least 30 managers were involved in the emissions scandal despite the company’s U.S. chief executive saying last week only “a couple of software engineers” were responsible.” http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/10/14/2016-vw-diesels-equipped-with-suspect-software.html See also “Here’s why Europe should be very worried about the Volkswagen scandal” (Fortune) http://fortune.com/2015/10/14/volkswagen-scandal-europe/

  10. kanpai! says:

    “Volkswagen Loses Global Sales Lead to Toyota Amid Diesel Scandal” http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-10-26/toyota-regains-global-sales-lead-as-vw-s-focus-shifts-to-scandal “As Volkswagen stumbles, Toyota is now preparing to begin deliveries of its updated Prius hatchback. After almost seven years without a redesign, the company is promising a sportier ride for its top-selling hybrid, an improvement in fuel economy of about 10 percent and an even bigger boost for an Eco version of the model. Sales begin in Japan before the end of the year.” See also link in sidebar “Volkswagen Testing Takata Air Bags as U.S. Weighs Wider Recalls” (Oct 25th) “…A NHTSA order to expand Takata air bag recalls could deal another blow to Volkswagen as the manufacturer prepares to retrofit 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide that were rigged to meet emissions tests. The company is considering a combination of software and hardware repairs that could take more than a year, Michael Horn, Volkswagen’s U.S. chief executive, told a House committee this month.”

  11. Update says:

    “VW Emissions Issues Spread to Gasoline Cars” http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-11-03/volkswagen-emissions-woes-deepen-as-800-000-more-cars-affected “Volkswagen said an internal probe showed 800,000 cars had “unexplained inconsistencies” concerning their carbon-dioxide output. Previously, the automaker estimated it would need to recall 11 million vehicles worldwide — more than Volkswagen sold last year. It was unclear how much overlap there was between the two tallies. The company said the new finding could add at least 2 billion euros ($2.2 billion) to the 6.7 billion euros already set aside for fixes to the affected vehicles but not litigation, fines or customer compensation.”

  12. Achtung! says:

    Here’s how Volkswagen’s $15 billion proposed settlement would be divided up : The settlement will be largest ever between an automaker and regulators. http://arstechnica.com/cars/2016/06/heres-how-volkswagens-15-billion-proposed-settlement-would-be-divided-up/ this settlement can’t go into effect without a judge’s approval but according to Elizabeth Cabraser, the court-appointed lead counsel for Volkswagen consumer plaintiffs, she expects preliminary approval to be granted on July 26 and final approval sometime in early October. “There will be no delays because of any appeals,” she asserted. The consumer plaintiff class has set up a website that will soon include a VIN-lookup tool so that owners of the affected cars can see what their options are.

  13. Update says:

    “VW Still Choking on Diesel as Damages Surge to $30 Billion” (Bloomberg 9/19/17) https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-29/vw-still-choking-on-diesel-as-damages-surge-to-30-billion “The latest reminder that the crisis is far from over came Friday when Volkswagen announced it will take a charge of 2.5 billion euros ($3 billion) because plans to buy back or retrofit tainted U.S. diesel cars proved more complex than expected. That brings total damages to about $30 billion and raises questions about whether Chief Executive Officer Matthias Mueller has the situation under control.”

  14. Epilogue [1/37] says:

    “Pilot’s stunning aerial desert picture wins National Geographic’s 2018 photo contest” https://www.nationalgeographic.com/photography/proof/2018/12/grand-prize-winner-photo-contest-environment-cars-mojave-desert-california/
    “Thousands of Volkswagen and Audi cars can be seen sitting idle in the middle of California’s Mojave Desert. Models manufactured from 2009 to 2015 with 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engines subverted emissions tests mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency. Following the scandal, Volkswagen recalled millions of cars and established 37 storage facilities throughout the U.S. to store the cars returned by owners.” https://www.nationalgeographic.com/photography/proof/2018/12/grand-prize-winner-photo-contest-environment-cars-mojave-desert-california/#/grand-prize-mojave-desert-california-airport.jpg

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