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Volkswagen admits using software to cheat emissions tests


VW Golf

Senior Volkswagen directors will decide on what action to take after the company was caught manipulating emissions tests.

The German carmaker has admitted that it used dodgy software on 11 million vehicles to deceive US regulators.

According to America’s Environmental Protection Agency, certain cars had devices that could tell when they were being emissions tested.

During the testing, the software would reconfigure the car’s performance to improve test results.

The device seemingly put the cars in a low-power, low-performance mode that reduced emissions.

When running normally however, the car engines were found to be emitting nitrogen oxide pollutants up to 40 times the legal limit in the USA.

The “defeat devices” in question were found in a number of different vehicles, including the Audi A3, as well as VW’s Jetta, Beetle, Golf, and Passat.

Speaking to press, VW America’s boss Michael Horn said “we’ve totally screwed up”.

An official statement released by the company reads as follows:

“Further internal investigations conducted to date have established that the relevant engine management software is also installed in other Volkswagen Group vehicles with diesel engines. For the majority of these engines the software does not have any effect.”

It continues: “Discrepancies relate to vehicles with Type EA 189 engines, involving some eleven million vehicles worldwide. A noticeable deviation between bench test results and actual road use was established solely for this type of engine. Volkswagen is working intensely to eliminate these deviations through technical measures.”

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As a result of the scandal, Volkswagen has been forced to recall 500,000 cars across the US.

It’s had to set aside £4.7 billion to cover the costs of the recall.

However, the BBC notes that the EPA has the power to fine a company $37,500 per vehicle in breach of regulatory emissions standards.


September 23, 2015, 2:50 pm

It's ok VW, I still love you as your cars are years ahead of so many other manufacturers. My first car was a Polo and we have always had at least one VW in the family to date. The fines will be paid and it will all be forgotten soon...Remember Toyota


September 23, 2015, 4:18 pm

Recall? This is pure fraud on a massive scale. Not only have VW dumped millions of tons more pollution into the environment but they've also they've also cheated numerous governments out of tax revenues based on false pollution readings and adversely affected the health of people who live in big cities due to the extra pollution created. VW = vile company. I hope they face a criminal prosecution from every country where these cars were sold.


September 23, 2015, 6:47 pm

The authorities determine the test regime: the car must accelerate at a given rate to a given speed, etc, etc. Of course the manufacturers will optimise the engine management to do well under those conditions. That is what they are supposed to do! Just as previously a car's gear ratios and the rest were optimised to give best results under the old 'constant 56 mph' fuel economy test.
The cars are designed to pass the test - what else can they do? The figures were achieved under test conditions. If the authorities dont like that, they need to change the test, not persecute a manufacturer for making the test look stupid.


September 23, 2015, 6:57 pm

How is it fraud? There is no suggestion that VW breached the test conditions. They just designed their cars to, very specfically, perform optimally under test conditions. But what are they supposed to do?

That is the bar set by the authorities and it is the job of the car manufacturers to do well by it. It is the job of the authorities to devise a test which is fit for purpose.

The fraud here is the US regulators once again looking to gouge the eye out of their European competition.

Johnny Walker

September 24, 2015, 3:27 am

I agree with toboev. It would depend on whether it can be legally proved that cars on the road can be expected to perform exactly or reasonable like under test conditions. VW may have grounds for defence on the test itself being too artificial and unrepresentative, hence it cannot be responsible for how cars actually behave in non test conditions. It's not against the law to make a car perform well to a test, in fact, that is what the test demands.


September 24, 2015, 6:02 am

Logically, one would expect that it is up to the test regime to model normal driving rather than for normal to have to conform to the test regime.

Hamish Campbell

September 24, 2015, 7:28 am

Are you crazy? There is a test, you submit your product for testing and then you sell it. You do not submit a different product and then sell the first product with the other products test results.

Whether you like the test or not is irrelevant.

VW are in a heap of trouble, and we'll see whether authorities are brave enough to make them accountable. Even for the cars do not show a different result there is a major issue of an intent to defraud.

I would also hope they are investigating all other manufactorers, as even though I'm amazed that VW would stoop to this level of deception, there's a good chance others will have done the same.


September 24, 2015, 8:57 am

Where does the idea that they are substituting a different product in the test come from? If that is true then I'd agree they are at fault. But that is not my understanding of what is going on here.

Hamish Campbell

September 24, 2015, 9:02 am

When testing is occuring they are running the engine with certain parameters.

When the car is used any other time the engine runs differently.

That is a different product.

Here's a quote from a BBC article

'When the cars were operating under controlled laboratory conditions - which typically involved putting them on a stationary test rig - the device appears to have put the vehicle into a sort of safety mode in which the engine ran below normal power and performance. Once on the road, the engines switched from this test mode.

The result? The engines emitted nitrogen oxide pollutants up to 40 times above what is allowed in the US.'


September 24, 2015, 9:38 am

The key word is "appears". There is much info yet to come out.
Does the car have a motion sensor that detects that it is not actually moving, and so switches mode? Or is it simply that whereas if you drove the test schedule on a real road you would get the same results, no one in reality ever drives like that?

I see it analogous to the situation with a maths exam. You are taught in school to pass the exam. That does not make you a good mathematician, it makes you good at passing the exam. It depends on how well the exam tests real mathematical skills and competencies as to how effectively passing the exam translates into real mathematical skill.

As to "The result? The engines emitted nitrogen oxide pollutants up to 40 times above what is allowed in the US.'"
Surely what is allowed in the US is defined by the test, which the cars passed. If a Porsche passes the test, do you honestly believe it will return the same set of figures when driven by its owner?


September 24, 2015, 10:39 am

Everyone is VW bashing and mud slinging and the Media Love This. Lets be calm first.

This needs settle down first and then look at the facts before trying to understand what VW did before all finger pointing & bashing etc.

This is a very old and established business that did not wake up oneway and decide to go out and ruin itself deliberately.

We do not fully understand all the facts other than what the Media want us to follow. As for America I sense there is a lot of auto politics in play here for a myriad of reasons!

I am sure VW without no doubt are in a lot of trouble but name calling the brand is childish and 10s if not 100s of 1000s of peoples jobs could be at risk because of this, not mention the amount of revenue they bring to the economy and not just the USA!

We need to gather the facts keep calm and look at this after the inept Media Frenzy as per usual settles down.

Mike Williams

September 24, 2015, 2:34 pm

Then why aren't VW saying this? They have admitted to behaving badly. They accept they've done wrong so why are you trying to defend them?


September 24, 2015, 4:33 pm

Why are VW not arguing their case? Corporates have learned the hard way that the first rule of damage limitation is not to argue in public, it just looks bad.

I defend them because I think companies find themselves in an invidious position when they are forced to play a game with bad rules. The game, the rules, they are set by the regulators, and to enter the market you have to play.

In this case you must produce a car which competes on the basis of a usage regimen which is nothing to do with how people drive cars or why they buy them. I don't know much about the US test, but in the UK it involves driving like Miss Daisy. It is nothing like how anybody drives, but you have to compete for figures on that basis.

So what can you do - ignore the stupidity of the prescribed test regime, no. All you can do is programme the engine mapping so that if the car is driven by Miss Daisy, on a rolling road, then it will yield figures within regulation and better than your competitors.

But a car that only appeals to Miss Daisy won't actually sell. So you also have to make the same car, which returns a fantastic set of figures for Miss Daisy, that same car must also drive and perform like a Porsche, or a Passat is expected to. And sadly, because the regulators are not looking at that performance, there is no marketable benefit in making it produce good emissions figures under those conditions. If you tried you would simply be outcompeted by others who chose not to bear that altruistic burden.

So you end up with a car which adapts itself to the test, and to the market, and hence pleases both. Then people cry foul when the car does not produce the same emissions figures under real world conditions. Go figure.


September 25, 2015, 9:15 pm

The point is that when the cars were NOT being tested, the car systems reverted to less than optimal conditions. They were gaming the system. Maybe it would have been more expensive for VW to produce a vehicle which could achieve the necessary emission standards at all times, rather than just during a short-term test. I would be surprised if someone didn't go to jail over this.


September 26, 2015, 10:34 am

You can't have it both ways. Of course the cars do not return the same emissions figures under non-test conditions. But we seem to be in a world now where people are surprised by that.
If you drive the test conditions you get the test results. Drive differently, expect different results. If the authorities are not happy with the fact that we do not drive in the manner the test prescribes then they should either change the test, or legislate the way that we can drive to match the existing test.

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