BERLIN (Reuters) — Volkswagen Group’s luxury diesel cars in Europe including Audi and Porsche models are fitted with the same software that U.S. regulators say was used to cheat emissions tests in the United States, the automaker said.
Regulators have said that about 10,000 VW cars in the U.S. – including some Audi and Porsche models – were equipped with auxiliary emission control devices (AECD) that masked the fact that the cars could emit up to nine times the allowed amount of smog-causing nitrogen oxide.
VW told Reuters on Thursday that the same devices were installed in cars in Europe – VW Group’s biggest market, accounting for around 40 percent of its sales.
VW declined to say how many cars in Europe were equipped with the software. Analysts at Barclays said the European number could be 20 times larger than in the U.S.
AECDs were used in seven models of the Audi, Porsche and VW brands in model years 2014 through 2016, of which five were Audis, VW said. They were also used in some 2.0-liter engines of model year 2016, it said.
Audi and Porsche deliveries together account for a fifth of VW’s global group sales.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday said VW had failed to inform them that the AECD software fitted in 3.0-liter engines used in luxury SUVs. This widened the VW scandal, which had previously focused mainly on smaller-engined mass-market cars.
VW said the AECD system did not violate regulations in Europe or the United States.
“AECD software does not alter emissions levels, but it ensures after a cold start [of the engine] that the catalytic converters quickly reach their working temperature and emissions cleaning takes effect,” VW said. AECDs also protect engine parts amid the combustion process which ensures the durability of after-treatment of exhaust gases, it said.
The EPA says that by definition, an AECD “is an element of design which senses temperature, vehicle speed, engine RPM, transmission gear, manifold vacuum or any other parameter for the purpose of activating, modulating, delaying or deactivating the operation of any part of the emission control system.”
Comments from Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board in Los Angeles, indicated VW has a formidable task to persuade U.S. authorities.
She told Reuters that regulators repeatedly saw the engines cycle through tests with a relatively low amount of emissions, only to see an increase in pollution a couple of seconds later.
“It’s almost impossible to explain something like that in any way other than something about the software that controls the operation,” Nichols said.
The EPA accusations forced Porsche’s North American division to stop sales of diesel-powered Cayenne SUVs from model years 2014 to 2016 until further notice and Audi to halt U.S. deliveries of affected A6, A7, A8 and Q5 models.
In Europe, VW already faces a recall of 8.5 million cars with smaller diesel engines after it admitted to installing different, so-called “defeat devices” to cheat emissions tests.