What’s the Fix for Volkswagen’s ‘Defeat Device’? Experts Unsure

28 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Audi says 2.1m cars have cheating software.

Volkswagen’s (VW) top-of-the-range automaker Audi yesterday said that 2.1 million of its diesel cars worldwide are fitted with the sophisticated software enabling them to cheat emission tests. German prosecutors have opened an investigation into former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn amid an international scandal over the auto maker’s cheating on diesel emissions tests.The cancellation was confirmed Monday — when German prosecutors said they were investigating Winterkorn over VW’s emissions-rigging scandal — by the Hungarian subsidiary of Audi, majority-owned by Volkswagen. The criminal probe will attempt to ascertain who was responsible for allowing the world’s largest carmaker to equip 11 million diesel-run vehicles with ‘defeat devices’ designed to subvert U.S. emissions testing. Winterkorn denies involvement in the scandal, though Bloomberg News reported last week that the deception was run out of VW headquarters in Wolfsburg.

This scandal, which was sparked by tests performed by researchers at West Virginia University, has turned into the greatest crisis befalling the 78-year-old German company. “We are investigating Winterkorn and other responsible people,” the spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office told The Wall Street Journal. “We are pursuing every possible lead.” Since the scandal started, $25.7 billion has been wiped out from Volkswagen’s market value. The company is also setting aside $7.3 billion to deal with the issue, which could come in the form of recalls, retrofitting vehicles with more compliant software and hardware, and combating a potential mountain of lawsuits.

The carmaker’s supervisory board on Friday agreed to put a number of employees on leave until the details of VW’s emissions cheating scandal were cleared up, without providing names. Prosecutors in Braunschweig said Monday that the investigation would concentrate on the suspicion of fraud committed through the sale of vehicles with manipulated emissions data.

It has also fired several leading executives, has moved to decentralize decision-making, and will be addressing deep-seated cultural issues. “My most urgent task is to win back trust for the Volkswagen Group – by leaving no stone unturned and with maximum transparency, as well as drawing the right conclusions from the current situation,” Mueller said. The new report from Transport & Environment (T&E), which works closely with the European Commission, said its data did not prove other carmakers were using such devices. In a statement yesterday, it said the gap was too wide to explain through well-known practices that have been tolerated in testing, such as taping up car doors to reduce wind resistance and using special driving surfaces and tires. T&E’s analysis found the gap between official test results for carbon dioxide and the real world rose to 40 percent on average last year from 8 percent in 2001 for EU cars.

A European environmental organization says it has found some new models of Mercedes, Volkswagens, BMWs and other new cars consume much more gasoline than lab tests claim. Mercedes cars had an average gap between test and real-world performance of 48 percent and their new A, C and E-class models more than 50 percent. “The Volkswagen scandal was just the tip of the iceberg,” Greg Archer, clean vehicles manager at T&E, said, adding the carbon dioxide gap costs a typical driver 450 euros (US$504) per year. Only Japan’s Toyota would have met the industry’s EU target of 130 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer this year without exploiting test flexibilities, T&E said.

The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, which represents top carmakers, has said there is no evidence the use of defeat devices, illegal in the EU, is an industry-wide issue.

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