Auto industry VW Epic Fail

Published on September 18th, 2015 | by Jo Borrás


VW Cheats EPA Tests, Faces Up to $18 Billion in Fines

September 18th, 2015 by  

VW Epic Fail

Unnamed sources within Volkswagen have confirmed that the German automaker fitted its “clean” TDi diesel cars with devices meant to detect when the car is undergoing official emissions testing, and will activate full emissions controls only during the official test. That confession comes after findings from West Virginia University, which uncovered the defeat devices, led to company officials being questioned by both CARB and the EPA.

The device in question deactivated key emissions controls systems, and the popular VW TDi models fitted with the cheat — a list that, so far, includes the VW Golf, Jetta, Beetle, and Passat TDi models, as well as the Audi A3 and A4 — produced up to 40 times more nitrogen oxide and other dangerous emissions, in some cases.

For its part, the EPA is absolutely losing its s*** about this, stating that “it is incumbent” on Volkswagen to initiate a recall fix for all the affected cars. “Using a defeat device in cars to evade clean air standards is illegal and a threat to public health,” said Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Working closely with the California Air Resources Board, (the) EPA is committed to making sure that all automakers play by the same rules. (The) EPA will continue to investigate these very serious matters.”

If the EPA and CARB decide to press the dual issues of Volkswagen deliberately cheating environmental testing procedures and marketing their TDi models as “clean diesels,” it could levy fines of up to 18 billion (with a b) US American dollars on VW. An amount which could be enough to force VW out of the US market.

What do you guys think about this mess? Should Volkswagen be held liable to the fullest extent of the law for violating the public’s trust by willfully and maliciously manipulating the EPA test procedures? Should VW be given a slap on the wrist because we all love the Beetle? Is this just the tip of a fraudulent clean diesel iceberg that will soon sink Mercedes-Benz and BMW, too? Let us know what you think in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

Source | Images: AutoGuide, IIHS.

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About the Author

I've been involved in motorsports and tuning since 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the Important Media network. You can find me on Twitter, Google+, or at my shop in Palatine, IL.

  • J_JamesM

    I knew something was up with those smelly, phlegmatic things. They always seem seriously out of whack when one passes by.

    And yeah, the EPA had better put the fear of God into Volkswagen. How else are they supposed to discourage this kind of brazen fraud?

    • Right!??

      • J_JamesM

        Passed a few of those “clean diesels” today… This was running in my mind:

        • The_Art_Vandelay

          And if this retarded video was on your mind, James, then you don’t have much of a mind, and I suspect you were breaking the speed limit too, which any mindless person can do. Doofus.

          • J_JamesM

            What, I’m not allowed to have a childhood? And I was walking, Inquisitor Vandelay.

          • The_Art_Vandelay

            Rrrrrright, James.

          • AaronD12

            Relax. Take a pill.

    • jonas brave

      I’m amazed a large German company would try to pull this off, and so foolishly as domestic shame alone could really sink this legacy company. This is not a culture that endures such a scandal well, nooo it’s a BIG problem.

      Diesel became an extremely popular fuel choice in Germany once petrol gas prices went through the roof. Car companies are probably doing anything to keep people buying cars they can afford to fill up & are fun to drive. At some point, Volkswagen traded some integrity for marketable appeal, and hoped nobody would notice… stunning.

      This will be financially staggering for even the world’s biggest auto producer.

      • Michael G

        Integrity and VW should not be used in the same sentence unless NOT is used as a modifier. See my reply to J_JamesM

        • jonas brave

          Must be a lot about car companies I don’t (want to?) know!

          I meant that the principle of diesels emitting minimal NOx is a quantifiable measure of ‘integrity’, which VW sneakily abandoned so they could (as I understand it) market a car more fun to drive & easier on fuel.

          Interesting anecdotes, thanks – so all these companies are cheating just to keep up with the Joneses?

      • I dunno, they seem to have endured the scandal of WWII pretty well.

        • jonas brave

          More than pretty well… Japan too, considering!

          • stumptrump

            Jo and Jonas Jones, do we really want to keep up with you, when your opinion is yet another indication that racism is alive and well in America. How are you folks coping with previous and current scandals of bombing nations with whom you have ideological, or trade differences? Pax Americana adds pounds to US waistlines and waste-lines, and reduces need for thought – all troubles emanate abroad – everything rosy in the land of the free (from thought). You too are part of the problem; but hey, fire up the Crown Vic, your Glock beside you, and look out for tanned teenagers – they are probably ruining your view of America the beautiful. After JJJ the next triple letter sequence is . . . but maybe you’re there already.

          • You seem to be exactly the kind of idiot I do not need keeping up with me. Be on your merry way, sir. The conspiracy sites need more page views.

          • jonas brave

            That’s not even good trolling, stumpy. You think you’re clever with words but you’re cognitively-challenged & lack any clear, rational thought process. I’m almost sorry for you.

          • stumptrump

            Thank you for the
            near commiseration Jonas. And your understandable diagnosis Jo. I blundered in,
            to object to your casual racism: holding up an outside mirror of your shared
            prejudice. The Japanese and particularly the Germans, have done much to atone
            for that war. But 20’s US stock market hedonism, and Commodore Perry also
            contributed to the problem.
            Gents, clink a glass
            with me; Jonas a Sapporo, Jo – Lowenbrau, me the Czech Budweiser (it’s the
            real, real thing). My beer? – because under a VAG Czech ‘bonnet’ (for you Jo,
            just love that cheery ‘English’ chivalry), I have the ethically challenged 1.9
            tdi that you were discussing –great performance so far, gearbox too
            temperamentally teutonic though. Is this where that great PKL VW introductory
            campaign: ‘Think small.’ ends?
            But Euro auto
            triumphalism ever upward: In the US the Pope drives Fiat, a Fiat Accompli? Still
            wheels roll on, and maybe Chrysler’s and VW’s future masters will be FAW –
            China’s first automobile works –their first product, a copy, via Russia, of the
            IH K series trucks of the 40’s.

    • The_Art_Vandelay

      Haters gonna hate, right J_JamesM? First of all, you show your ignorance because you can’t smell that these cars are diesels. And yeah, VW haters like you, and media, will make a bigger deal out of this than it is. VW was morally wrong for doing this, but even after they correct the issue, these cars will still be more economical to drive than the vast majority of vehicles out there. And the diesels are great, reliable cars, very common in Europe and the rest of the world. Only here in the uber-restrictive USA, with our Gestapo-like government is this even an issue. And yes, throughout Europe, which doesn’t have EPA standards, the air is just fine, even where diesels are the majority. You seem seriously out of whack to me, James.

      • Jim Smith

        VW shills gonna shill, right The_Art_Of_Shilling? so it is okay for VW to commit fraud on a massive scale? 18 billion is not about 180 billion?

        • The_Art_Vandelay

          Right, Jim, let’s just put a company out of business because a government says so. Nice. Soon, well all be driving Lada’s and riding bicycles or mass transit. Your idea of paradise, Jim? Not mine. This is way overboard, and until this news story broke, I’ll bet you never thought twice about auto emissions, right? And why? Because it’s not really that big a deal! You want justice? Then let’s put Obama and Hillary in handcuffs and cart them both off to federal prison wearing orange jumpsuits for not only fudging the numbers that matter, but for crimes against the American people and really violating the laws that matter. That would be justice! VW paying an $18 billion fine for fudging some superficial numbers that really don’t matter? Maybe not so much. Get a grip and some genuine perspective, genius!

          • Jim Smith

            too bad for the company committing massive fraud. Very simple, don’t commit massive fraud which directly contributes to the death of people and you don’t have to worry about anything. The government says you can’t go around killing people, by you logic, no one should go to jail for that. Keep shilling…it is funny how you serve your VW masters.

            Hillary should be in federal prison but that is irrelevant to the discussion. Nice try…

      • J_JamesM

        Get down off that cross of yours. Comparing the EPA to the Gestapo? Because Volkswagen flouted their rules? That’s just pathetic.

        • The_Art_Vandelay

          No, pathetic is you exceeding the speed limit as you “drive past (VW’s). The EPA has gone way too far and is the reason we don’t get some of the great cars the rest of the world gets to drive. You want to live under oppression? Might I suggest North Korea for you? Or how about Cuba? You won’t have to put up with any VW diesels there! Clown!

          • J_JamesM

            What the hell is wrong with you? I told you, I didn’t drive past these things, they drove past me. Walking. Which is how I was able to observe their clattering engines and the nasty exhaust they emitted.

            And you seriously need to grow up if you think that the United States’ environmental regulations can even be compared to the very real oppression in North Korea and Cuba.

          • The_Art_Vandelay

            It’s an apt comparison, Jimmy Boy. And since there is no visible emissions from VW diesels, no different from any gas powered engine exhaust, you’re just a liar. I’m wondering what your take is on the auto manufacturers including here in the USA who actually ignored problems that actually killed consumers? I’ll bet you were mute on those! But this “error” by VW, well that’s just over the top! How many people have had their lives adversely affected by VW’s dishonesty? I know it’s hard, especially for someone who has that cartoon scene in his brain, but I can answer the question for you. Zero. Absolutely zero. That’s the number of people who “suffered” from VW’s dishonesty.

          • J_JamesM

            For heaven’s sake, stop making ridiculous assumptions, you daft little shill. I said I “observed” the engine noises too, do you think I can visibly perceive the vibrational frequencies in the air? In context, I was obviously referring to the nasty smell the things emit.

            And no, actually, I was not mute on GM’s chicanery either. But “someone else did something bad!” is not an excuse, and does not absolve VW, so stop trying to cravenly change the subject.

          • But, but… pollution harms exactly 0 people! 😉

            (I don’t recall the last time I saw something so idiotic written here.)

          • AGTMADCAT

            Wait, hold up. Ignoring everything else for a minute – are you saying you can’t smell a car that’s emitting too much NOx? It’s a very distinctive smell, one I’m all too familiar with as I have a farty old car that I have to keep patching up to get to pass smog. I can tell when it’s running lean or rich just from the smell of the thing.

          • “Error?”

            And you obviously don’t understand why there are these regulations. Do you think they are simply for fun? They are indeed because the pollution from diesels harm and even kill people.

          • I dunno, I’ve had to read your ridiculous drivel. Isn’t that suffering? I feel like it is.

          • The dude is clearly insane or a hired troll. I’m finding the comments humorous in their absurdity, though.

          • J_JamesM

            I’ll take Insane for $400, Alex.

        • Art’s not pathetic. That would imply that his cause elicited emotion and pathos. He’s probably just stupid.

      • AaronD12

        If “the air is just fine”, why has France recently banned diesels (not just VW group vehicles) from Paris?

        • The_Art_Vandelay

          Check the date. Not all diesels were banned and it was to address a temporary inversion. When’s the last time YOU were in Europe, eh? We were just there and the air is quite clean everywhere we went, and guess what they were driving? Diesels!

          • Erneuigkeiten

            You can hear and smell a diesel car very easily. They are loud an reak of NOx. I drive a bike in Vienna, so I know for a fact. Carmakers admit that they are cheating the test cycle in Europe, because they are protected by the german government anyway. “Clean diesel” is pure BS.

          • Raymond Boyle

            I was wondering how the German speaking press is reporting the issue, can you share any insight?

          • Erneuigkeiten

            Basically reporting the facts, highlighting the possible fine of 18 billion dollars, explaining that they probably did it because everything you do to make diesel cars cleaner messes with the performance. Environmental groups see confirmation for what they have been saying for years, demanding investigations in germany/europe. Famous car expert Ferdinand Dudenhöfer wants VW CEO Winterkorn to take his hat and also investigations in germany. Daimler saying that they don’t manipulate in this way.

          • I have lived in Europe for 7.5 years. They are very noticeable and very disgusting, as well as very harmful.

          • James Rowland

            Temporary inversion? Is that like a temperature inversion?

            Yeah, I think you’re the one who needs to do some fact checking.

          • AaronD12

            That specific article highlights only one of many times where air quality was negatively affected by auto exhaust, whether it is diesel or petrol.

        • Don’t feed the trolls.

      • Raphael Sturm

        I live in Germany and we have lots of diesels. And the air is still breathable, but sometimes and with growing cities, it has become a problem. The far more outrageous thing is, that while other companies spend lots of money to reduce emissions, VW just added a cheating software. I have read a test, made by a German NGO, in which some companies had 9-40 times the allowed NOX emissions, but others were still close or even below the limit ( in this Test just BMW, but they didn’t test every make, or every car of one make). Regulations have reasons and if cheating gives you a financial benefit, it makes it even worse.

      • jonas brave

        Does anyone driving a 4-cylinder diesel VW or Audio really notice their own car’s fumes… if not, it’s all part of the ‘clean diesel’ illusion that sells the cars, it would seem. A frequent cyclist or pedestrian might have more, not less to say about it.

        VAG’s emissions cheat was to make the cars more sporty to drive, to sell more cars. Now the existing 2009-2015 owners face a performance downgrade – so it’s not even the car they believe they paid for, forget about whether the diesels are ‘still more economical’ or not. This is not a ‘no harm, no foul’ situation putting all to right in the world, far from it.

        I don’t hate VW (loved my Jetta) but am deeply disappointed in them as a car consumer and air breather that they care so little. 2¢.

      • European TUV standards are backed up by heavy taxes on engines larger than 2 liters, which I’m sure you’d call “draconian” if you had the vocabulary.

      • Kathleen

        You don’t know what you’re talking about – diesel is popular because it’s taxed differently which makes it cheaper. However, diesel emissions pose a severe public health problem in Europe – Paris had worse air than Beijing for nearly a week last spring leading to uber-restrictive road space rationing and free public transport. I live in Bordeaux, a smaller city, close to the coast thus usually spared the worst of pollution, and air quality alerts are becoming common whenever we have nice weather, which sucks for us. OMG, I just realized you’re a troll! Oh, well.

        • The_Art_Vandelay

          One whole week, Kathleen? One whole week? Guess what, inversions happen. You can call me all the names you want if that makes you feel smug. Tell me how is it just fine for GM to kill people and incur less financial liability for an actual crime resulting in death and injury to consumers when VW never killed anyone. No one died when VW lied. Get it? You, like Jo Borras, lack perspective, pure and simple. You go with your knee-jerk reactions and emotions first without ever bothering to use reason. But then, that’s what statists do. Fail to reason. I just spent a month traveling Europe and sure haven’t seen the harm that VW or anyone else has bee doing. The air was as clean and breathable as it is in the states. So yes, Kathleen, I DO KNOW what I’m talking about.

    • evfan

      IMHO the best way to discourage this fraud to send the CEO to jail. Fining the company does not hurt the CEO, it is not his money.


        Why not both? 😀

        Get the pitchforks!

        • It will very likely be both, and many of the peons along the way will go down, too.

          • AGTMADCAT

            Yeah, it’s gonna be a bad time for a lot of people. Hopefully if VW’s market share implodes, the line workers will be able to move to another automaker which picks up the slack in demand.

    • Michael G

      When I worked at the EPA finding these defeat devices was “part of the job”. We never had any trouble with the Japanese but all the other manufacturers were doing highly suspect things. With microprocessor engine controls in every car it is very hard to find what is going on.

      Once a VW was in the middle of failing a 100K mile driving test (pollution devices had to work for 100K miles) and suddenly caught fire so the test had to be restarted. EPA engineers joked they were sure they saw a broken “Molotov cocktail” on the road next to the car. There were some other VW shenanigans but they were too complicated to explain. I owned a VW at the time but it was falling apart constantly so I had no sympathy whatever for VW.

      Chrysler got caught doing something like VW but was caught in testing so they paid a smaller fine.

      Ford lied like crazy and the EPA director had a big photo over his desk of the million $ check for a fine they had to pay. They were also ordered to “behave cooperatively” as opposed to the snarling obnoxious behavior they had formerly exhibited.

      I also caught Ford in a defeat device and had to write a memo to them asking for written info instead of the lying (but sooo friendly) PR guys they sent out. They never answered so my letter was used in court as proof that we had tried but they hadn’t cooperated.

      GM was no better but they were cleverer so we couldn’t catch them in testing. Enforcement division out in the field got them.

      Honestly, it was just an “EPA doesn’t tell US what to do” attitude – it would have been cheaper for them if they had followed the Japanese example and just made clean cars to begin with.

      • J_JamesM

        Sometimes it seems as if corporate structure merely exists to exacerbate the short-sightedness of human nature. If given the choice between paying thousands now or billions later, why does the latter seem to be such a popular option?

        • sjc_1

          Management is paid to make the quarterly numbers NOW. Wall Street says meet estimate expectations THIS quarter.

        • jonas brave

          Perhaps to offer an ‘impossible’ result, in this case a clean, AND efficient & sporty diesel 4-cylinder anyone can afford?

          Only a guess: the illusion or lie was cheaper and more marketable, so to sell cars this was the path of least resistance. But I suppose for seven years you could at least go to the Wolfsburg plant & watch your own lie being created?

      • Holy cow.

      • GM is definitely cleverer when it comes to cheating. I mean, come on- do you guys really think a ’91 GMC Syclone will run a 13.3 1/4 mile out of the box?

      • Catrin Manel

        Michael G. Can I have a chat with you about this? I work for the BBC in the UK. Can you email me on

      • neroden

        Um, WOW.

        What is wrong with these people? It’s whacked that the Japanese companies just complied, but the American and German companies continuously attempted to commit fraud. W. T. F. ?

      • Jan Salden

        Hello Michael G., I am intrigued by your comments, and would like to aks you some more questions. I am a journalist working for Dutch TV. Would you be so kind to email me on: Thanks!

  • James Rowland

    So, they’ve been betraying trust and jeopardising health. They were following market forces though; internal combustion engines can’t run cleaner without compromises, thus cheating is incentivised.

    Electrification can’t come soon enough.

    Also, eighteen billion dollars would be nearly a quarter of VW Group’s current market cap. Some market analysts are still saying “buy;” if that figure’s for real, I guess they really don’t have a clue.

    • I think the overwhelming consensus is that average people (us) will leave VW in droves, but VW probably won’t have to pay the fine or will weasel out of it in some other way.

  • Steve Hess

    According to Arstechnica it was 10 to 40 times, not 40%. “If the car was driving under normal conditions, the car’s nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions were increased by 10 to 40 times above the level of NOx emissions permitted by the EPA.”

    • Whoa! That’s 4000% more!! I’m going to stick with Autoguide’s 10-40% until I see otherwise (it just seems more reasonable, honestly), but if the EPA or CARB start talking bigger numbers, then the maximum fines will be even more of an option.

      • James Rowland

        If you’re talking about real driving conditions versus test conditions, 10-40x lab NOx results on the road is actually typical. That’s a separate issue from cheating in the lab, though.

        The current tests are horribly unrealistic, but they do at least provide some basis for fair comparison – unless someone’s cheating. Classy move there, VW.

        • Source?

          • James Rowland

            Emissions Analytics did some testing of diesel cars a year or two back using PEMS gear – test apparatus strapped to the rear of the car during regular driving. IIRC they saw ~10x official figures, though there was a lot of variability.

      • Andre Needham

        It’s 10-40 times. The EPA letter to Volkswagen is right here:

        See the top of page 4. “…emissions of NOx increased by a factor of 10 to 40 times above the EPA compliant levels…”

  • smartacus

    i personally can’t even be seen in a Jetta or Golf or AUDI A3.
    They’re just so blah.
    They tell the world “i can’t afford better”

    • jonas brave

      Why do you care what the world thinks?


        Why else do you buy a car?

        • James Rowland

          To go somewhere, maybe? 🙂

          I do take your point though; for the status-obsessed, a car purchase is a statement about who you are – or think you are, at least.

          The thing is, the message being conveyed depends as much on the observer as the object.

          For example, the Range Rover is a popular choice among middle class posers in the UK. They seem to think it conveys an air of superiority and sophistication, whereas I see an obnoxiously large and inefficient folly lumbering around like a sweaty, flatulent fatarse, eating all the food, stinking up the air and getting in everyone’s way.

          Probably not the message they wanted to project, but that’s what I’m getting.

          The VW Golf is regarded by many (including me) as a classic; supremely practical and great to drive. It’s one of the more upmarket choices among the small hatchbacks that right-thinking people buy here, and is priced accordingly.

          As for visual presence, the rear of the current generation is not great, but everything else is good. When I see a Golf, I commend the owner for their good taste and judgement.

          This doesn’t alter my contempt for VAG in the wake of these shenanigans, though.

          • AGTMADCAT

            Just so! It’s a method of social signaling, a way of demonstrating tribalism, or any one of a number of other things. Just like I would never buy a Prius, because the vast majority of Prius drivers I’ve interacted with have been terrible drivers and/or inconsiderate assholes, but if I see someone in an old MG I think they’re awesome, other people have a similar range of reactions based on their own experiences. Here in California, a Range Rover (NOT pimped out) is actually the classy choice for a large SUV, since they remain sufficiently uncommon. Our equivalent of what you describe is, I feel, people who buy Lexus SUVs.

            It would be fascinating for someone to compile a big list of the commonly held opinions of various marques in various countries around the world. =)

        • sean t

          I buy the car for myself, not for the world, including you.

          • jonas brave


          • AGTMADCAT

            And what car you buy tells others something about your priorities and personality. Just like the clothes you wear, and anything else that’s publicly visible.

            Even so, my comment was in jest, in case that wasn’t clear. =)

          • sean t

            Who cares?

          • AGTMADCAT

            Most people care about the image they present to others, even if that image is “I do not care to curate the image I present to others”, which appears to be what you’re going for. We are social creatures, and intentionally or otherwise, we modify our actions to suit our current or desired place in society. This is a fascinating aspect of human nature, which can explain a great deal about how the world operates the way that it does.

          • sean t

            OK, some people do care, some people do not.

      • smartacus

        They can’t possibly be buying those cars for themselves.

        • jonas brave

          I’m sure some sense of identity is tied up in a vehicle purchase, if the marketing dept. is doing its job.

          Not sure how much ‘the world’ cares, and how often it matters. For making a lifestyle impression on clients and so forth, that’s a material justification.

          • smartacus

            some sense of identity?
            purchasing a VW is nothing else BUT.

          • jonas brave

            Well then it’s good you can tell every VW purchaser exactly why they are buying it.

          • smartacus

            Every VW purchaser tells us

          • jonas brave

            I’ve known a few too.

  • Kenneth Segovia

    I don’t see any source links to the EPA or CARB that vet this story, not a cool thing to do being that VW TDI owners are known for our, almost, cult-like loyalty. In this age of great disinformation and cut-throat competition, inter-corporate animosity is the norm. In other words, by “any means necessary,” is what people resort to in order to “win”. Having said that, I wonder how other companies stack up against VW in their “enviro-friendly” tests because I’ve been behind MANY gas-powered, brand-new cars that reak of un-burned gas fuel. Sounds like a “haters-gonna-hate” attack on TDI’s, to me.

    • jonas brave

      Diesel or no, however it works out for VW, Kenneth I hope the Agencies get tougher on ALL ‘real world’ emissions. Sneaking pollution past the regulations is not a good game for auto makers to play, and the EPA had to start with a big company as an example of how everyone must behave.

      BTW – and not even to disagree – but are you sure those gas vehicles were warmed-up with broken-in engines? I notice my Honda smells gassy only very occasionally, eg starting in extreme cold. (Emissions test today showed extremely low numbers, given the 337,000 kms on the old 2,2l.)

      I’m certain there’s some corner-cutting where small margins and fickle buyers are concerned.

    • Rich
    • evfan

      VW TDI owners are indeed very loyal, I think just like Prius owners. Until now they were loyal to VW and their green principles. Now that VW cheated in a flagrant manor, I think they will be very unhappy. Many of them will ask for their money back, because the car they got does not match what they intended to purchase, nor the image they intended to project.

  • Steve Hanley

    I will fully support the maximum fine against Volkswagen…….just as soon as the first Wall Street banker goes to prison.

    Why, we haven’t had a scandal like this since MG fitted its cars with special front springs that would raise the headlight of the MGB to the minimum height and then settle back to normal ride height after a year or so.

    I will tell you this, however. Volkswagen it not the first, nor will it be the last to devise ways to cheat on fuel economy/emissions tests. It is common practice in the industry.

    The EPA needs to take a deep breath. Yesterday the gummint fined GM a half billion dollars for faulty ignition switches that are known to have caused 124 deaths. Now they propose to whack VW with a fine that is 36 times greater because of some nitrous oxides?

    The EPA would do well to consider that VW contributes a great deal to the US economy. If it takes its ball and goes home, the nation will suffer an enormous economic loss.

    • jonas brave

      Well. We can’t give Volkswagen a free pass either as ‘general economic benefactors.’ (That is indeed Wall Street-style pandering we don’t need!)

      This enforcement against the #1 auto makers (VW) will demonstrate how ALL auto makers must now comply, and ensuring stricter emissions controls may pass on a small consumer cost and/or performance disadvantage to all vehicles, equally. This is as useful a precedent as would be putting banker-crooks in jail.

      As this ‘level playing field’ puts none of the automakers at a competitive disadvantage there is little economic impact in simply enforcing regulations that protect the air we breathe.

      Let Volkswagen settle whatever fine it must pay, and if they do ‘go home with the Fussball’ then so what; they aren’t as dominant over here. Toyota sells 4.5 times as many cars in the USA, and now this scandal will weaken VW’s market position further.

      In fact, the VW conglomerate might want to supplement/replace their dealer networks here with Skoda, since those models are already far better-value equivalents and not tainted by any of the negatives of VW/Audi. I’d buy an Octavia in a heartbeat. This would shake up the whole market.

    • evfan

      Steve, the 3 biggest auto manufacturers are Toyota, GM and VW. I guess they got ahead of themselves, and though they were “to big to be accountable”. Toyota and GM have been fined $1.2b and $0.9b respectively for their transgressions. In both cases they covered up faulty parts, that turned out bad, but they were not designed to fail.

      I think VW is worse. They designed the system to cheat. They knew about this fraud and represented these cars as clean to the EPA and public.

      It was a mistake to let the bankers of the hook, but that is no reason to let VW get away, even though I love their cars, and I have bought 5 of them to date.

      • The_Art_Vandelay

        And which companies covered up problems that kill people? Does VW fit into that category? NO! What’s the matter with your judgment? You people are twisted — completely twisted!

        • evfan

          Some things kill quickly, some kill slowly, but they still kill you. Diesel exhaust fumes are not your friend.

        • Jim Smith

          how about you put your mouth around the tail pipe and breath it all in? Emissions don’t kill, after all….

    • Nitrous oxides are particularly harmful, and there was very much an intent to deceive and defraud not only the government(s) involved, but the customers buying the cars as well. Whacking VW will be too good for them, especially once people start bringing up their historic/financial ties to Nazi Germany … but that’s none of my business.

  • James Rowland

    Upon further reading, I found that this has nothing to do with the lab testing of vehicles for type approval. It is routine testing of vehicles already sold that’s the issue.

    Apparently, California’s inspection doctrines do not include the use of gas sampling probes. Instead, they check for tampering and interrogate the car’s engine management systems to verify values are within tolerance. The allegation is that the systems deliberately send false values over the bus when interrogated.

    Of course, if they had a mechanism for OTA updates similar to Tesla’s, this would be a near-zero cost fix requiring no recall.

    • Ed

      The actual cheat is probably pretty easy. Here in California, all ICE cars go on a roller dyno to sniff the exhaust. A cheat system that recognizes that the wheels are turning, but the car is not moving (from the vehicle stability system) could set all control parameters to “clean” during the test. Simple. The emissions test does not care about performance or fuel economy, only emissions.


      Gas sampling probes are certainly used here – the issue is that the car knew it was being smog checked, and set up its ECU to be on its best behavior. Then it really WAS running clean, but was sacrificing performance and/or efficiency in order to do so. The fix for all these cars should just be software telling them to run like that all the time – it will be interesting to see how performance and/or economy suffers because of that change.

  • Dries V

    It is not a fine but the estimated cost of the recall. And it is 40 times the value and not 40%. Check with greencarreports.

    • AaronD12

      The fine can be up to $32K per vehicle, regardless of the sticker price.

    • dogphlap dogphlap

      The EPA letter does say on page 4 “as a result the NOx emissions increased by a factor of 10 to 40 times above the EPA compliant levels” but I have read that that is an error in the letter and it should have read ‘by a factor of 1.4 or 40%’. The 40% number is more believable I think, hopefully this will be clarified by the EPA in the near future.

      The worst part to me is the blatant (and until now wholly successful) deliberate deception.

      To see the EPA letter just Google “vw-nov-caa-09-18-15.pdf”.

  • tmac1

    I think this is murder plain and simple.

    Air pollution causes heart attacks and lung disease.
    These Germans should be prosecuted and imprisoned.

    • I think the murder charge is a bit over the top, here. That said, I’m sure there will be prison time.

      • neroden

        I’m sure they didn’t intend to kill people. They just intended to harm people, and as a result people got killed. So manslaughter charges would be appropriate.

        • You think they INTENDED to HARM PEOPLE? You maaaaay be a little bit nutty, you know? Far more likely/less conspiracy-nutter-y: they didn’t think there would be any harm, so why incur the extra cost?

    • The_Art_Vandelay

      Actually tmac1, GM is the one who murdered. What your pal Jo Borras and everyone else on here lacks is perspective — you don’t have any. GM due to negligence failed to correct a known problem resulting in actual death and injury — no fines I’m aware of and only the cost to recall ($4.1 billion) and to fund victim lawsuits ($150 million). Can you name the victims who were harmed by Volkswagen, other than those of us who own them having our resale value diminished in all likelihood? C’mon. Name them. You too, Jo Borras. Name the victims. By the way, Jo Borras, I’ve got more vocabulary in my pinky finger than you could ever conjure up in your wildest nightmares. Got it, pal?

  • Kalyphornyia

    Since these cars were never “legal” in the first place why are they allowed to be on the road? They should be force to stop driving the cars BECAUSE STOPPING CLIMATE CHANGE IS BIGGER THAN YOUR NEED TO DRIVE SOMEWHERE. Sorry VW owners go sue VW. I’m sure some of you VW snobs were laughing at Toyota or GM for their problems but now it’s your turn.

    How come the EPA didn’t raid the North American offices of VW like they did to the Fender Guitar company was for being accused of using wood from endangered lands. The EPA feels their job is just as important as the DEA or CIA.

    I just had the smog check performed on my 95 Honda Accord and it passed. Had it failed and I didn’t have the money to fix it. The messed up state of Crappyfornia would not let me drive it or even park it on public roads until it was fixed.
    20 y/o Honda passes and new VW doesn’t

    I only say it because president Barry said 99% of scientists say climate change is real and if we don’t do something now our grandchildren will pay the price.

    • Knetter

      Did i read your comment right? You’re saying Barry’s a muslim foreigner?


      Actually if you really didn’t have the money, the state would help pay for your repairs, up to a certain amount. Even though it’s caused me personally a great deal of hassle (I’ve only owned old cars), I still strongly support California’s smog laws. Every time I visit another state, and some old fartbox is stinking up the whole road with a cloud of exhaust from a poorly-maintained engine, I appreciate that here in California, it’s not a problem I have to deal with. Every now and then when there IS a car like that around here, a call to 1-800-EXHAUST helps make sure they’ve got it sorted out at their next smog check.

      Also I think we should be clear that the problem is not one of excessive carbon dioxide emissions – diesels are actually excellent in that regard. The issue here is with Nitrous Oxide emissions (An old enemy of mine in my old cars!), which are a particularly vigorous problem with diesels. Getting the state’s NOx emissions sorted out is what’s removed a good amount of smog from our state – a real victory for public health and welfare. We still have smog problems, especially down South, but our NOx emissions are well below where they were in 1970, even though we have a whole lot more cars driving a whole lot more miles.

  • Ed

    Obviously, this “let’s cheat” strategy had legs fairly high up in the organization. The cheat spans two car divisions of VW, suggesting collusion at the executive engineering level. Let’s let it play out….but this answers the question many have asked, “How is VW able to meet EPA requirements with so simple a system when others cannot?!” I strongly suspect that Mazda – I believe they gave up on their diesel for the US – and others have fed suggestions to the EPA on this matter.

    The actual cheat is probably pretty easy. Here in California, all ICE cars go on a roller dyno to sniff the exhaust. A cheat system that recognizes that the wheels are turning, but the car is not moving (from the vehicle stability system) could set all control parameters to “clean” during the test. Simple. The emissions test does not care about performance or fuel economy, only emissions.

    All of this says horrible things about Volkswagen management. Heads must roll. One positive outcome could be a more serious leadership commitment to Zero Emission Vehicles at VW, both to meet future mileage and emissions requirements…and as an act of contrition for this very stupid management decision to cheat.

  • otse970

    I’m tipping my hat to VW. It’s not secret CARB hates diesels, and a well known fact that since the forced introduction of 15ppm diesel fuel, the longevity of diesel engines has gone by the wayside. The EPA needs to relax some of the requirements being imposed on vehicles. The general public needs vehicle options that provide high MPG, reliability, and longevity. Unfortunately, with current standards and emissions equipment being so restrictive and harsh on engines, longevity haslong gone away.

    • Bert

      I don’t think you understand why the EPA exists. Ensuring that you have long lasting diesel engines is not a part of their job description. In the automotive department, their real job description is to facilitate a relatively smooth transition to cleaner engines, and then, eventually, away from internal combustion engines all together.

      You can debate whether or not they should exist and pursue their objectives. However the US government has decided that having cleaner technologies and vehicles is important, so it’s not really up to you.

  • ken b

    Volkswagen cyber-attacks customer website to destroy images of their defective cars!

    The website.

    Ken Boulange

  • Marsha Lewis

    na na na na hey hey hey goodbye VW… Mercedes Benz is next

  • Taha

    That is really embarrassing. Shame on VW. I was always suspicious about Clean Diesel, thinking they cannot make good hybrids so offered inferior product,s but still can’t understand why cheating. And this is a matter of public health.

  • Kenneth Segovia

    Here’s a video from people suing.

  • Festavarian

    If the EPA is committed to public safety, then why weren’t they the ones that discovered the fraud? Typical government paper pushers.


      Because we only give them so much money in their budget, and except them to do the best they can with those resources. While I’m not opposed to increasing their funding so that they can inspect more things themselves, I have a feeling that getting that through a Republican-controlled house would be difficult if not impossible.

  • Petrah

    How else are they going to get the money to clean up the Animas River.

  • GP

    This really sucks for the buyer. You pay for a vehicle that doesn’t do what you paid it to do. The fix will likely impact the car’s performance, so you don’t get what you paid for. The value of your car drops a lot. Selling or trading in your vehicle will suck because of the situation and the loss of trust. I think buyers have a legitimate claim to get their money back for paid off cars. Those who still have a lien on their car should be able to give the dealer the car back and get out of their loan. If I owned one of these cars, I wouldn’t want the car due to the potential loss in resale value and ability to sell it.

  • Daniel Girald

    And many of us were thinking the Cruze Diesel wouldn’t be competitive to the Jetta TDI because of the SCR. Now, probably a next U.S.-spec TDI would also require the SCR…

  • From another commenter: “According to a French investigation, diesel emission kills about 40,000 people in France a year which is 10 x as much as the number of people who get killed by car accidents. So, this is very serious and the must have known what they were doing,”

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