German prosecutors investigate ex-VW CEO Martin Winterkorn

28 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Fixing Volkswagen: VW faces daunting challenges in fixing emissions cheating; bill may top $38 bn.

Volkswagen faces daunting challenges in fixing software that enables cheating on diesel engine emissions tests, a task that’s becoming more urgent because of growing anger from customers.German giant Volkswagen’s worldwide pollution cheating scandal threatens to backfire on diesel, the fuel that powers most new cars in Europe and is defended by manufacturers as a vital means to curb global warming.Volkswagen has been rocked by a diesel-emissions scandal that has shaken its executive suite and prompted investigations by governments around the world.

Revelations that Volkswagen equipped 11 million of its diesel cars worldwide with software that can switch off those pollution controls — except when it detects it is undergoing official testing — have sharpened the focus on diesel’s risks. But experts say it’s likely to cost much more as VW tries to comply with U.S. clean air regulations while appeasing diesel owners who paid extra for the cars, thinking they could help the environment without sacrificing performance. ”We understand that owners of the cars affected by the emissions compliance issues are upset,” VW said on a consumer website launched Sunday.

Automobile manufacturers were reluctant to comment on diesel’s attributes in the midst of the Volkswagen scandal, which cost the group’s chief executive Martin Winterkorn his job. But so far the diesel-emissions scandal hasn’t involved any of the products Volkswagen makes with its joint-venture partners in its biggest single market. But former Renault boss Louis Schweitzer laid bare the worst fears of major manufacturers when he told French business daily Les Echos: “It would be disastrous to conclude that diesel must die”. “Let’s stop lying to the French people by encouraging them to buy so-called ecological cars… clean diesel does not exist,” said Emmanuelle Cosse, French national secretary of Europe Ecology — The Greens. In France, where most drivers use diesel, 59.6 percent of people say they do not believe the fuel is clean, according to a Harris Interactive survey published this week. According to IHS Automotive, China produced just 9,046 diesel cars in 2014, a paltry tally in the country where total passenger vehicle sales reached 19.7 million last year.

But experts said VW will have to strike a careful balance to appease government regulators, make customers happy and avoid emptying the company cash box. A separate survey by Tilder/LCI/Opinionway asked 1000 people if the Volkswagen revelations had changed their view of diesel cars: 27 percent said they now had a “more negative” opinion while 70 percent said it made no difference. “This scandal may yet be seen as a turning point in automotive history. Diesel is crucial to the Chinese economy, widely used in sectors ranging from manufacturing, agriculture, power generation to industrial transport, though diesel is currently plentiful because of the country’s economic slowdown. Hybrid and all-electric technologies, in which Apple and Google are poised to pounce, could be the beneficiaries,” the Times of London said in an editorial. “Diesel is in the firing line of the authorities and some ecological activists, and the Volkswagen case is not going to help things, it could make them worse,” said Meissa Tall, automobile industry analyst at management consultancy group Kurt Salmon. A more expensive fix that adds a treatment system wouldn’t hurt performance, but it would cost thousands per car and by one analyst’s estimate, could total more than $20 billion including vehicles in the U.S. and Europe.

Lawmakers will have a significant influence on whether people choose petrol or diesel engines because subsidies for diesel have greatly helped its popularity, she said. Carmakers in Europe argue that diesel cars are essential to achieving a mandatory European Union target of reducing average carbon dioxide emissions from new passenger cars to 95 grams per kilometre by 2020. “Any sign of a political desire to remove diesel from the options available to achieve the average CO2 targets will be to the detriment of manufacturers’ ability to reach the targets,” Renault chief executive Carlos Ghosn, who is also the current head of the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, said in June. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board accused VW of installing secret software on 2-liter four-cylinder diesel engines that turned on pollution controls for lab tests and shut them off during real-world driving.

Putting old-style diesel engines in the same basket as the new Euro 6 compliant models would be “unfair” considering the efforts carmakers have expended to make their vehicles less polluting, he said. However, these diesel-powered vehicles accounted for nearly 70% of all nitrogen oxide and more than 90% of all particulate matter emissions from China’s motor-vehicle sources in 2013, latest data from the Ministry of Environmental Protection show.

As a result, 482,000 Jettas, Beetles, Golfs and Passats from the 2009 to 2015 model years belched out 10 to 40 times as much ozone-causing nitrogen oxide as U.S. law allows. Diesel emissions of nitrogen oxide contribute to the formation of ground level ozone, which also irritates the respiratory system, causing coughing, choking and reduced lung capacity. Software in the main engine control computer figured out when the cars were being tested on a treadmill-like device called a dynamometer that the EPA used for verification and turned the controls on. With the pollution controls on, the cars are less efficient and won’t accelerate as fast, the two main reasons why people bought the VW diesels, said Matt DeLorenzo, managing editor and a diesel expert for Kelley Blue Book.

Reducing these emissions requires expensive equipment, such as a technology that uses urea, the same chemical found in urine, to reduce nitrogen oxide. To satisfy China’s emissions standards, maintaining a diesel car would cost at least 15% more than a gasoline vehicle, says Huang Yonghe, chief engineer at the China Automotive Technology & Research Center. But that would anger customers and likely would force VW to compensate them for the reduced mileage, just as Hyundai did when it got caught with inflated fuel economy estimates, DeLorenzo said. ”If it’s really sluggish and doesn’t get out of its own way, that’s a bigger issue (to customers) than fuel economy,” DeLorenzo said. ”People notice that big of a change in performance.” The other option is to add a diesel exhaust treatment system that’s used by other manufacturers and even by VW on larger diesel engines. VW probably tried to avoid urea systems in the beginning because their cost would have driven Jetta and Golf prices above competitors, especially gas-electric hybrids, DeLorenzo said.

China has offered generous incentives to encourage consumers to buy environmentally friendly cars in a bid to reduce pollution and curb its dependence on imported oil. Before the 2009 model year, U.S. diesel emissions standards weren’t as strict, so those cars likely passed the tests without a defeat device, DeLorenzo said. Whenever the fix comes, it’s possible that owners might not get it done if it hurts their cars’ mileage and performance, and the EPA can’t force people to take their cars in for repairs.

Here you can write a commentary on the recording "German prosecutors investigate ex-VW CEO Martin Winterkorn".

* Required fields
All the reviews are moderated.
Twitter-news
Our partners
Follow us
Contact us
Our contacts

About this site