This year, we saw VW stock plummet. We saw VW forced to pay out billions in government fines and massive settlement payouts to enraged customers and dealers, all because of cheating. You would think Volkswagen would have learned to stop cheating on emissions tests, by now. It turns out, they haven’t. Worse, yet: they haven’t learned how to avoid getting caught.
That’s right, kids. While everyone was out at the polls trying to decide whether Orange Hitler, Grandma Nixon, or What is Aleppo would be the least-popular President-elect in history, prosecutors were widening an inquiry into suspected market manipulation by managers at Volkswagen and Audi. Audi is being named specifically here, because the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has figured out how Audi cheated on a run of “several hundred thousand” cars fitted with the ZF 8-speed automatic. That is, it should be noted, a transmission specifically marketed to manufacturers by ZF as a “fuel saving” unit.
That’s several hundred thousand more Volkswagen-built Audis added to the growing list of millions. It’s a horrific abuse of the public trust and probably illegal. That said, it’s a pretty clever cheat.
Audi Emissions Cheat is SO Simple
It works like this: when the car starts up, its transmission computer (either a “TCU” or an “EGS”, depending on on who you ask) automatically goes into a “low CO2” program. This setting short-shifts gears to keep engine RPM and, therefor, emissions artificially low. If the steering wheel is turned more than 15 degrees at any point, the TCU goes into a “standard operating” mode and shifts higher in the RPM range. This burns more gas and produces more CO2, putting the Audis outside of spec.
Audi figured that the only time the car would run without the wheel moving would be with the car on a dyno. That, or stationary at an emissions test facility. And, in fairness, they’re probably right- and hiding the cheat in the transmission was just super evil.
I have yet to see an official comment from Audi concerning the CARB tests. VW stated to German authorities, however, that, “Based on a thorough examination by internal and external legal experts, the company reaffirms its belief that (Volkswagen) management fulfilled its duties to inform the capital market.”
Expect more German heads to roll, shortly. In the meantime, if your primary reason for choosing a Volkswagen or Audi is that they’re a trusted, eco-conscious carmaker- well, just don’t.