Volkswagen emission scandal most recent in automaker deception
On Tuesday, Sept. 22, Volkswagen became the most recent in a long line of automakers to issue a recall for an error that could’ve been avoided. Following in the footsteps of Toyota, GM and Takata, VW is the latest automotive scandal affecting millions of consumers.
A little known clean air group spent part of last year investigating exhaust emissions from the VW Passat, Jetta and the BMW X5. The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) wasn’t conducting the study in an attempt to uncover any secrets. In fact, it was more curiosity and confusion that led them to the startling conclusion, starting in Europe and spreading to the United States.
When lab and road tests of the vehicles didn’t add up, despite months of testing from several parties, VW was forced to admit it installed a ‘defeat device’ in its software to recognize when it was being tested. This allowed the VW vehicles to appear to comply with emission standards while releasing five to 35 times the allowed limit.
The first announcement came Friday, affecting 500,000 diesel-powered vehicles in the United States programmed with the glitch to emit lower levels of harmful gases while being tested compared to road driving. A few days later, emission discrepancies were found in 11 million diesel vehicles around the world.
Because VW claims ‘Clean Diesel’ in its marketing attempts, the ICCT wanted to support these claims with tests. Looking to West Virginia University’s Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions for assistance, the group began road tests in the US to compare to tests completed in Europe. During this time, the California Air Resources Board conducted lab tests that the vehicles ultimately passed.
Upon receiving the results of the road tests, the ICCT was astounded to learn that while the BMW X5 passed, the Passat surpassed the US nitrogen oxide emissions standard at 5 to 20 times the limit and the Jetta exceeded it by 15 to 35 times. This information led to watchdog group involvement as well as the Environmental Protection Agency last May. VW attempted to replicate the tests and results received from WVU, leading to an initial recall last December to fix software.
As the recall continued, the California watchdog continued to test the vehicles, convinced the software patch didn’t work with real world tests. On July 8, the agency shared the confirmed findings with VW and the EPA. Regulators examined the 2016 VW line but doubted certification given all the scrutiny around tailpipe emissions. It was this and other investigations that ultimately led to the decision for VW to come clean and admit the deceit in the software.
Unlike the GM, Toyota and Takata flaws, this wasn’t an error that came from a bad company culture, lack of responsiveness or attempt to cut corners in production; VW deliberately made the decision to lie to regulators and consumers in order to sell more diesel-powered vehicles. Initial projections predict VW will pay more than $12 billion related to this scandal, which is billions more than the other companies recently fined for long-term automotive problems.
The European Transportation and Environment (T&E) organization believes other automakers are behind in properly testing real-world emissions. The T&E, dedicated to promoting sustainable transportation, is using the study by the ICCT to prove the ‘urea treatment’ missing from the affected VW vehicles doesn’t guarantee safe emission levels. A recent report cites BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi for selling cars with tailpipe emission levels above the standard.
Shake-ups at the company have already begun, including the resignation of VW CEO Martin Winterkorn. He served as CEO for eight years, with an upcoming meeting to determine if his contract would be extended. Despite denying any wrongdoing, Winterkorn felt it was the right move for the company. Industry experts expect more top executives to lose their positions as more details are revealed.
Below is the list of cars currently associated with the VW diesel-powered emission scandal. If your vehicle is listed, please contact us immediately to discuss potential legal action.
Volkswagen Models Involved
- Jetta TDI, 2.0-liter (2009-2015)
- Jetta SportsWagen, 2.0-liter (2009-2015)
- Passat TDI, 2.0-liter (2009-2015)
- Golf TDI, 2.0-liter (2009-2015)
- Beetle TDI, 2.0-liter (2009-2015)
- Audi A3 TDI (2009-2013, 2015)
- Bomey, “Analysis: Deception fuels Volkswagen emissions scandal,” USA Today (Sept. 23, 2015). [Link]
- Bomey, “Volkswagen emission scandal widens: 11 million cars affected,” USA Today (Sept. 22, 2015). [Link]
- Hull & J. Plungis, “VW’s emissions cheating found by curious clean-air group, “BloombergBusiness (Sept. 19, 2015). [Link]
- Jaynes, “Report suggests automakers besides VW cheated emissions too,” Mashable (Sept. 23, 2015). [Link]
- Liakos & M. Thompson, “Volkswagen CEO quits over ‘grave crisis,’ CNN Money (Sept. 23, 2015). [Link]