VW emissions scandal: Volkswagen contemplates next steps

VW group cars

Volkswagen Group board members are meeting today to thrash out its next steps admidst its manipulation of emissions tests in the US. 

Over 11 million Volkswagen Group cars sold worldwide are equipped with the ‘defeat device’ software that allowed the German car giant to cheat US vehicle emissions tests.

The VW Group has already halted the sale of some of their diesel cars in the US after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded both Audi and VW installed software in their cars to trick emissions testers – and is now facing growing pressure about recalls. 

Board members will meet today to discuss what action Volkswagen Group should take to regain customer confidence. It’ll take place under a cloud of intense speculation its CEO, Martin Winterkorn, will step down.

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In an effort to cover the cost of the scandal, the Group has set aside £4.7bn, and in a video statement, Winterkorn said: “I don’t have answers to all the questions at this moment. We are going to clarify the background unsparingly, and at this very moment, everything is being put on the table as quickly, thoroughly and transparently as possible.”  

Four-cylinder Type EA 189 engines found in both Audi and VW diesel cars sold worldwide were built with a sophisticated software algorithm to fool emissions tests, according to the EPA. The software detects when the vehicle is undergoing emissions tests and only then turns the full emissions controls on. 

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The net result is cars that pass emissions limits under laboratory settings, but when unplugged from the testing rigs, the EPA claims they emit nitrogen oxides (NOx) up to 40 times the legal limit. In the US emissions standards are based on either federal or California requirements and each state can choose which standard to follow.

Winterkorn also said: “The irregularities with these engines contradict everything for which Volkswagen stands. We want to continue to work closely with the relevant state departments and authorities.” 

Currently, US authorities claim the scandal affects over 482,000 diesel passenger cars sold in the States between 2008 and 2015, with the affected models including the VW Golf, Jetta, Beetle, and Passat as well as the Audi A3. Each car that violates the US Clean Air Act faces a fine equivalent to £24,000 – meaning VW could face have to pay £12 billion in US fines alone. 

Audi A3 Saloon front cornering

A VW spokesman said the Group is halting the sale of some of their diesel cars, while earlier in the week, Winterkorn apologised to the public: “I personally am deeply sorry that we have broken the trust of our customers and the public.

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“We will cooperate fully with the responsible agencies, with transparency and urgency, to clearly, openly, and completely establish all of the facts of this case. Volkswagen has ordered an external investigation of this matter.”

Martin Winterkorn

The Volkswagen Group’s share prices have fallen nearly 20 per cent since the allegations began. However, Volkswagen have confirmed that new vehicles from the Volkswagen Group meet the latest EU diesel emissions regulations.

In the UK and Europe, all new diesel cars must meet the new Euro 6 standards where each new car sold cannot exceed 0.080g NOx per km. 

Volkswagen said:”New vehicles from the VW Group with EU 6 diesel engines currently available in the European Union comply with legal requirements and environmental standards.” VW have been unable to confirm whether pre-Euro 6 cars sold in Europe are affected by the software. 

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has issued a statement on the UK implications of the scandal:

“The UK automotive industry understands the concerns consumers may have following the actions of one manufacturer in regard to emissions testing and the subsequent decision to recall a large number of its cars. This is, however, an issue affecting just one company and there is no evidence to suggest that any other company is involved, let alone that this is an industry-wide issue.

“Consumers should be reassured that cars sold in the UK must comply with strict European laws. All cars must complete a standard emissions test, which, unlike in the US, is independently witnessed by a government-appointed independent agency.”

Our view on VW ‘dieselgate’ emissions scandal

By Auto Express editor-in-chief Steve Fowler

Volkswagen Group

This is one of the biggest scandals I’ve ever seen in over 25 years of reporting on the car industry. For a company like Volkswagen, which prides itself on engineering excellence, to admit to rigging emissions tests erodes trust not only among its own customers, but all car owners.

It remains to be seen whether any cars in other territories are involved, but if the company is capable of cheating emissions tests in the US, surely it could be doing it everywhere. And if Volkswagen is doing it, many assume that rivals are doing the same – after all they often share technologies and parts suppliers.

If I was a VW customer who’d invested my hard earned cash in a car that was sold to me and marketed as being environmentally friendly, I’d be very angry knowing that the information I based my buying decision on might have been falsified. And I’d probably be looking for recompense. I’m not sure that near-£5bn VW has put aside to take care of this issue will be enough. And I’ll be really interested to learn exactly how they plan to fix the problem on the 11 million cars affected.

We’ve known for many years that the tests used for creating mpg and emissions figures are ludicrously out of touch with the real world, but now we know that car makers are capable of cheating in official tests, too. This is a very bleak time for the Volkswagen Group and the car industry in general. Much work needs to be done to restore the trust of existing and potential customers – and fast.

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