The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has required Volkswagen to recall nearly 500,000 TDI and Audi3 clean diesel vehicles after it was discovered that the automaker intentionally sold cars with “defeat device” software designed to fraud emissions testing.
VW Emissions Fraud Investigation Update: 3/13/2016
Volkswagen is conducting an internal investigation of at least 17 people who may have had knowledge or involvement in the diesel emissions scandal, according to the New York Times. International regulators are conducting investigations of their own, as are attorneys general in all 50 states. The U.S. Justice Department filed a civil lawsuit in January, and Volkswagen also faces multiple complaints from owners seeking compensation for the declining value of their vehicles.
What’s the Problem?
Volkswagen has been accused of cheating emission tests by making its “clean diesel” vehicles appear more environmentally friendly than they actually are. The EPA discovered that there are approximately 482,000 of these cars on U.S. roads emitting 10 to 40 times more nitrous oxide (NOx) fumes than permitted - and VW has since admitted the cheat affects some 11 million vehicles worldwide, according to the New York Times.
Is Your Car Affected by the Recall?
Vehicles suspected of having defeat device software include:
- 2009 VW Jetta, VW Jetta Sportswagen – test groups 9VWXV02.035N/9VWXV02.0U5N
- 2010 VW Jetta, VW Jetta Sportswagen, VW Golf, Audi A3 – test group AVWXV02.OU5N
- 2011 VW Jetta, VW Jetta Sportswagen, VW Golf, Audi A3 – test group BVWXV02OU5N
- 2012 VW Jetta, VW Jetta Sportswagen, VW Golf, Audi A3, VW Beetle, VW Beetle Convertible – test group CVWXV02OU5N
- 2012 – VW Passat – test group CVWXV02OU4S
- 2013 - VW Jetta, VW Jetta Sportswagen, VW Golf, Audi A3, VW Beetle, VW Beetle Convertible – test group CVWXV02OU5N
- 2013 – VW Passat – test group DVWXV02OU4S
- 2014 - VW Jetta, VW Jetta Sportswagen, VW Golf, Audi A3, VW Beetle, VW Beetle Convertible – test group DVWXV02OU5N
- 2014 - VW Passat – test group EVWXV02OU4S
- 2015 VW Jetta, VW Jetta Sportswagen, VW Golf, Audi A3, VW Beetle, VW Beetle Convertible, VW Passat – test group FVGAV02.0VAL
Volkswagen Sales Down After Emissions Controversy
VW reported slumping sales for September, in its first monthly sales report since the EPA announced the company’s 2.0 liter diesel cars were equipped with software designed to cheat emissions testing. According to the New York Times, VW sold 3,060 TDI models last month, compared to 5,715 in September 2014. Click here to learn more.
VW Investigated by U.S. Justice Department: Bloomberg Video
Volkswagen CEO Steps Down, Takes Responsibility for Scandal
On September 23, Martin Winterkorn resigned as chief executive of Volkswagen, taking responsibility for the emissions scandal that has irreparably damaged the automaker’s reputation.
“As C.E.O., I accept responsibility for the irregularities that have been found in diesel engines,” Winterkorn said in a statement. However, he insisted that he personally had committed no misconduct. “I am not aware of any wrongdoing on my part.”
Scandal Widens to Include Other Automakers
As fallout from the VW emissions cheat probe grows, two top engineering figures from Audi and Porsche have been dismissed, according to CNBC. Meanwhile, reports have surfaced that BMW’s diesel engines were also “significantly” exceeding exhaust limits in Europe. Click here to learn more.
How VW Tricked Emissions Tests
Volkswagen’s “defeat device” is not actually a physical device, but a program in the engine software that knows when the vehicle is being driven under test conditions - and only then does it activate its full anti-pollution features. According to the Washington Post, “clean diesel” engines cut emissions through adjusting air-fuel ratios and exhaust flows, and in certain models injecting a solution that renders nitrous oxide harmless. However, when running under normal conditions, the vehicles require greater performance and do not operate nearly as clean as when tested.
Emission Cheating Found by Clean Air Group
The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) performed on-road emissions tests on the Volkswagen Passat, Jetta and BMW X5. According to Bloomberg News, these vehicles were tested on 5 routes on similar lines to the EPA simulated tests: highway, urban, suburban and rural uphill/downhill driving. The emissions performance of the VWs was so much worse than expected that the ICCT performed additional testing using a dynamometer. Under these circumstances, the Volkswagens passed easily. It was at this point that the ICCT contacted the EPA.
As a result of the coverup, far more harmful NOx emissions (including nitrogen dioxide) have been released into the atmosphere than was previously believed – in one analysis, between 250,000 to 1 million extra tons annually. The hidden damage from these Volkswagen vehicles could equate to all of the UK’s NOx emissions from power stations, vehicles, industry and agriculture combined, according to The Guardian.
VW Scrambles to Cover Costs
Volkswagen is seeking to cut costs and boost cash flow, and could sell more shares if the price of cleaning up the emissions scandal puts its credit rating at risk, according to Reuters. In addition to the cost of refitting up to 11 million vehicles worldwide, Volkswagen also faces potential fines, numerous lawsuits and a sales hit from its damaged reputation. Click here to learn more.
Volkswagen to Adopt New System for Controlling Diesel Emissions
VW will switch to a ‘selective catalytic reduction system’ to decrease emissions from its diesel engines in Europe and North America, according to the New York Times. The system, which is not part of the solution to fix vehicles affected by the current recall, involves adding a tank of a urea-based fluid to clean exhaust in future models. Click here to learn more.
Study Links VW Emissions Cheating to 60 Early Deaths
November 2 - The Volkswagen emissions scandal has already cut at least 60 American lives short, according to a new peer-reviewed study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. The researchers' calculations could carry significant weight as VW faces fines and a criminal investigation into the software that allowed its diesel vehicles to pass emissions tests while emitting up to 40x the legal limit of nitrogen oxide (NOx). Click here to learn more.
VW Recall Set for January
October 8 - VW announced this week that it will begin recalling diesel vehicles affected by the emissions scandal early next year, in an effort the automaker says should be completed by the end of 2016. According to the Wall Street Journal, the recall will begin once German authorities have approved Volkswagen’s plans to fix the vehicles. Click here to learn more.
Volkswagen Suspends Quality Control Chief
October 20 - Volkswagen AG has suspended its chief quality-control official, Frank Tuch, the automaker’s 5th senior executive to be put on leave in connection with the emissions cheating scandal, according to the Wall Street Journal. The move indicates that investigators are still focused on VW’s most senior executives involved in overseeing diesel engine development, production and quality control. Of the 5 confirmed suspensions since news of the scandal broke last month, all belong to the company’s top tier management.