So, it looks like VW really did do it then

Not seen anyone stating that it’s all a measurement mistake or anything.

So, who thinks what over this?

I do think that diesel manufacturers have a problem. One rather created by regulation. First it was we’ve got to get the mpg up, then reduce CO2….and diesel does both of those well. But then in came stricter regulations on particularates and NOX, which diesel does badly. But they’re already billions in the hole in engine design.

One can see the temptation, but it’s still amazing that they did what is alleged: if they did.

46 thoughts on “So, it looks like VW really did do it then”

  1. How did they think they’d get away with it when the product emitting the gases is out there for anyone to measure whenever they wanted?

    It’s almost fantastical to believe that a trivially uncovered conspiracy could’ve been contemplated.

  2. The lesson here, which will not be learned, is that government regulations are limited in use do to the fact that the regulated are almost always smarter, quicker, and one step ahead of the game. As one of the commenters in the previous thread pointed out, he had a washing machine with a programme which was designed for efficiency testing, not washing clothes. The government clowns who come up with this sort of stuff never imagine that there are people smarter than them, let alone that these smarter people will side-step the regulations by doing things like putting in programmes which can’t be used for washing clothes. The root cause is a form of hubris, the belief that top-down government regulation will work in all instances.

  3. Hat’s off to them.

    Basically it will become a cause celebre in which the argument will be quite rightly made that in order to achieve arbitrary and largely pointless targets the cars’ engine performance is being compromised both in terms of power and energy efficiency.

    I would be amazed if other companies weren’t doing something similar.

    Hopefully here might come some sense out this whole palaver.

    Right, I’m off down to my local VW dealers…

  4. Also…the US government has a history of fucking over successful foreign car companies in order to prop up sales of their own shit-heaps. PJ O’Rourke provided a good summary of the “sudden acceleration syndrome” which almost did for Audi some years back, which turned out to be (mostly) women no knowing which pedal to push. Then more recently I seem to remember them gunning for Toyota on similar grounds, with tales of Toyotas mysteriously driving themselves into bridges and walls, a phenomenon seemingly unique to the US.

  5. I would assume whenever the diagnostics were being interrogated the mapping would switch, monitoring something as prosaic as the ODB connector being inserted perhaps.
    The CO2 emissions are a nonsense of course, better to have taxed and tackled NOX and PM10s.

  6. Bloke in North Dorset

    It doesn’t help that the US and EU have different emissions and emissions measurement standards. This puts up costs and incentivizes manufacturers to find a way of making their engines fit for both sets of standards. Same goes for crash tests.

  7. VW have held their hands up and admitted to the deception. TN…America will always be gunning for European companies (Oil, Banks, Motor Vehicles…): they are both our best friends and our biggest competitors. There are no better people to share a bottle with, but our favourite cousins are not above stealing your car, shooting you in the leg and running off with the wife.

  8. I suspect Tim Newman is right here with regard to the US trying to see off some competition. GM has been struggling for some time and it doesn’t look like it’ll survive whole without another bailout from the US government.

    The EU does a similar thing with tech companies, only they seem to do it so they can get a nice big fat fine out of them to top up the budget.

  9. To your first question, the CEO admitted it – on the front page of the FAZ yesterday – so yes, they did do it, for real-world values of “yes”, “they” and “did” .

  10. I raise my hand above my shoulder (in defiance of victor’s justice imposed on Germany) and salute their audacity.

  11. Is it illegal? The EMU will have multiple modes for different driving conditions, this is normal. I would such is standard across all types. Is having one for testing illegal or standard practice across the industry?

    Secondly, it is legal to buy after market chips to remap your engine for increased power – including a “stealth” mode to return to standard performance when diagnostics are connected to protect the warranty. If this legal, why would the company be chastised for doing exactly the same thing?

  12. There’s plenty of examples of clever rule bending/braking when it comes to vehicle construction and use.

    Examples include Porsche and Alfa Romeo fitting valves in to the exhaust pipes of their cars so that they sound fruity when you boot them but still pass drive by noise tests and MG Rover plugging a fuel vapour trap hose in to a subframe cavity rather than running a pipe back to the fuel tank

  13. As far as I know, “chipping” a car isn’t legal. Like almost all mods, it violates Type Approval. So a chipped car should be individually certfied to comply with regs. I’m wondering if those VWs are street legal. They’re violating the type definition they were approved certified under.

  14. The question is whether whatever they did is illegal. I think they may have some sort of leg to stand on. They were told to produce a car for a test. They did not say the test had to be under real world conditions. Everyone knows they tweak the cars for the tests. They can say everyone knew that the results applied to cars under going a test and that test only.

    But it does look like the Feds protecting the UAW.

  15. BIS>

    No. Doesn’t work like that. There’s a points scheme for modifications, and minor mods won’t go over the threshold where an IVA is required. You can swap the whole engine and gearbox without needing an IVA (and suspension and brakes, IIRC) so a chip is fine.

  16. Manufacturers are already starting to back away from diesels in Europe because the new emissions standards are becoming unreachable.

    Our CO2 emissions have been gamed for years; at least one manufacturer pumps air into the exhaust after the cat. As emissions are measured as a percentage of volume rather than an absolute value, that air effectively “reduces” the emissions down to a lower tax point.

    Anon for obvs.

  17. There are rumours in the electronics industry that the same thing has been happening for cellphones. Specifically, that the SAR spec – the amount of radiation that goes into the head – has been gamed. The rumour I heard was that a large manufacturer has a different software mode that is enabled only during the SAR test.

  18. Can anyone tell me the position on the VED
    which I recall was based on emissions.
    Have diesel drivers been avoiding the tax or evading it -gotta be something for those tax gappers to pursue .

  19. This sort of bollocks is what goes on when regulations are set by magical thinking arts graduates. You can have either high mpg or low emissions, not both together, because… Well, because engineering & physics.

    The same thing happens with energy ratings for appliances. You will find a special green mode, unknown to the wider public, only to be used for testing. In dishwashers and washing machines this means it does not actually wash, clean, or dry in this mode, but it gives a lovely low energy rating.

  20. “with tales of Toyotas mysteriously driving themselves into bridges and walls,”

    Err …. not quite. Toyota had two problems; some cars that randomly accelerated, and some that wouldn’t stop. Worse, they knew of the problems and tried to cover them up. People really died, so not

    GM are being done over ignition switch failures, which was also covered-up. (Tim N: GM are US, and this is happening in the US).

  21. I dimly recall VW injuncting a University over some research showing their figures were wrong somewhere in their engines a while back. I guess that they may owe some money there as well then…

  22. @SMFS,

    The manufacturers are very unlikely to fight this. Since there has blatantly been some wrongdoing they will play ball (and probably rat out competitors they know to be up to the same tricks) in order to keep the prison sentences low. This does mean that they don’t get to argue their position. To us that’s an unintended consequence, to the FEDs it’s justice in action.

  23. @Seb Weetabix,

    The standards VW gamed their engines to meet under test conditions were voluntary. There is no statutory reason at all that they had to meet them, it was purely a marketing decision.

  24. typical vehicle test is undertaken within a controlled environment say 24 deg c +/_1 degc humidity is optimal for the best results and the driver trained to an inch of his life to follow the set point on the drive cycle. Add to that the vehicle is finessed, nicely run in, older tyres and the squeaky bits well worn in (but within the age limits set by the testing authority. so all in all its a fudge from the the start. To avoid the VW solution the car is tested to a set number of predetermined points ( can’t remember how many these days) with a couple of random ones chuck in to test for a defeat mechanism – now I suspect this is what VW have figured out.
    The up shot is this all changes in a year or so’s time (they realised the manufactures were designing cars to the test) when WLTP is implemented – essentially the car is tested on the road in real life road conditions, not in a lab. That should give more accurate fuel and emissions results – however here’s the rub -the manufacturer has to test every variant of car- in the local area! different tyre- new test, different wheel size – new test, roof rack – new test, no air system – new test. etc etc. really tricky if your factory is in the middle of a city, dam expensive these tests are also. Plus all the cars that need to be made. So all in all, look out for a price rise in your dealer soon and fuel economy figure dropping like a brick in a swimming pool. .

  25. There’s a points scheme for modifications

    This used to get abused as hell back in the days of tax-free motoring for Land Rovers over 25 years old (thanks for stopping that Gordon Brown, you miserable cunt). The points system basically solves the “Trigger’s broom” issue of what actually constitutes a vehicle: once you’ve swapped out the engine, chassis, panels, gearbox, wheels, and differentials is it the same car? It was common years ago for Land Rover enthusiasts to find a rusting remains of a Land Rover over 25 years old in a farmer’s hedge and restore it to its former glory using entirely new parts but not being entirely truthful about which parts were new and which were found in the hedge. That way, you could end up with a new-ish vehicle which is tax exempt.

  26. Our CO2 emissions have been gamed for years; at least one manufacturer pumps air into the exhaust after the cat. As emissions are measured as a percentage of volume rather than an absolute value, that air effectively “reduces” the emissions down to a lower tax point.

    People go apeshit if you do that with water rejected to the sea during oilfield operations. The requirement is that it is treated to 30ppm hydrocarbon content, but this can be got around by diluting the dirty water. This is such a no-no that nobody actually does it.

  27. Worse, they knew of the problems and tried to cover them up. People really died, so not

    Yes, this is what was claimed. And sure, people died: but was it Toyota’s fault? And how come this didn’t happen anywhere else?

  28. How come Toyota owned up?

    Oh, please. Have you not seen how the US justice system works:

    1. Sieze a suspect (individual or company)
    2. Give him/her/them two options: a) confess and get off with a smallish fine and/or lightish sentence; or b) deny it and face crippling fines and the rest of your life in jail.

    Unsurprisingly, most confess.

  29. Toyota had a problem with floor mats getting stuck under pedals. Speaking as someone who’s driven a car like that myself, being so unable to cope with it that you have a fatal crash makes you a bad driver. They may also have had a problem with sticky accelerator pedals. Again, not difficult to deal with: you could brake, for instance. The combination of the two is admittedly much worse, and very unfortunate. But, again, I have driven old knackered cars where I’ve been forced to stick my foot under a pedal and lift it up. Alarming, but shouldn’t be fatal.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sudden_unintended_acceleration#Sudden_Acceleration_in_Toyota_Vehicles

    the NHTSA noted that there was no statistical significance showing that Toyota vehicles had more [Sudden Unintended Acceleration] incidents than other manufacturers.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009%E2%80%9311_Toyota_vehicle_recalls

    The NHTSA and NASA tested Toyotas for ten months and concluded there was no fault with the electronics. But a jury decided that the NHTSA and NASA were wrong, and that Toyotas could be made to accelerate uncontrollably by cosmic rays.

    COSMIC RAYS!

  30. Oh, and Toyota also faced a class-action lawsuit from Toyota owners suing them for the loss of value of their cars should they wish to sell them second-hand. Pretty sure that’d be laughed out of court in the UK. And they were also forced to pay out to shareholders upset that the share price had dropped, which makes me wonder if Americans understand what a share is.

  31. This from the Toyota investigation Wiki article:

    One investigator says most of the cases involved “pedal misapplication” – that is, “the driver stepped on the gas rather than the brake or in addition to the brake.

    Which is exactly what happened with the Audi case a couple of decades before. Americans think car manufacturers should be sued because some drivers don’t know which pedal to press. It is hard to believe there is no protectionist motivation behind the government’s decision to pursue this bullshit.

  32. It’s such a common trope in Hollywood scripts: murder by disabling the brakes. You know someone’s going on a journey that includes a fast bit with a sharp bend at the end, so you cut their brakes, and they don’t notice until they get to that bit of road. And then they cope with the lack of braking by frantically pressing both pedals. And not using the hand-brake. And staying in gear.

    I’d always thought this was hopelessly unrealistic, but maybe Americans really are that bad at driving.

  33. Audi:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sudden_unintended_acceleration#Audi_5000

    Jesus wept.

    60 Minutes aired a report titled “Out of Control” on November 23, 1986,[31] featuring interviews with six people who had sued Audi after reporting unintended acceleration, including footage of an Audi 5000 ostensibly displaying a surge of acceleration while the brake pedal was depressed.[32][33] Subsequent investigation revealed that 60 Minutes had not disclosed they had engineered the vehicle’s behavior — fitting a canister of compressed air on the passenger-side floor, linked via a hose to a hole drilled into the transmission[31][32] — the arrangement executed by one of the experts who had testified on behalf of a plaintiff in a then pending lawsuit against Audi’s parent company.[34]

    Why were 60 Minutes (America’s most respected current affairs program, I believe) and this “expert” not prosecuted for this? Both stood to gain (60 Minutes sell advertising slots and the “expert” from the lawsuit), so this blatant lying is fraud, isn’t it?

    As of early 2010, a class-action lawsuit filed in 1987 by about 7,500 Audi 5000-model owners remains unsettled and is currently contested in county court in Chicago after appeals at the Illinois state and U.S. federal levels.[29] The plaintiffs in this lawsuit charge that on account of the sudden acceleration controversy, Audis had lost resale value.[32]

    Oh, for crying out loud. Could this case not be solved a little more quickly by digging a big hole, throwing the plaintiffs therein, and pissing on them?

  34. Tim Newman:

    “not being entirely truthful about which parts were new and which were found in the hedge. That way, you could end up with a new-ish vehicle which is tax exempt.”

    I of course would never stoop to such a thing, but when I emigrated to Australia it could theoretically have been possible to not pay the GST on my rather expensive computer and electronic equipment in a similar way.

  35. I understand what they’ve done, how they have cheated. But I don’t understand the logic behind them having a recall. Surely they can’t fix these cars to meet all the mutually exclusive requirements? They can’t fix the emissions and maintain the performance.
    What is it they are proposing to do with these cars if and when they get them back for rework?

  36. I don’t understand the problem. Manufacturer’s MPG/L100km figures are total gash, unachievable on any planet other than planet Murph. So the same manufacturers game the government regs on emissions, which are totally arbitrary and do not reflect how the vehicles are actually driven.

    It is just an arbitrary way of collecting tax by blaming it on manufacturers. It has no real life significance. Does anyone seriously believe you are damaging the planet by driving a diesel car?

    Don’t believe the scientivist bullshit. The necessary changes to diesel engines have been done already. And remember that most of Africa runs off old diesel generators. Where is the real problem?

  37. My comment might seem gnomic. Emission control is just another tax, except it pretends to be a Pijou tax…… Ha Ha ha

  38. Whenever I see a large corporation fined many bllions just rolling over, I assume a deal has been struck to “lend” the government the money.

    Modern version of the East India Company, innit?

    And of course the CEO that agreed it will refuse to resign, meaning they have to sack him and pay him millions.

    Thanks awfully old chap – see you down the club?

    Such entities used to be called buccaneers? Piracy under government licence.

  39. Diogenes,

    Cars are taxed at different rates depending on their emissions test performance. After the recall, the cars’ emissions will be significantly different, and their owners’ taxes will increase. So, from some consumers’ point of view, this is arguably going to end up being fraud.

    Also, we could argue about government emissions standards being stupid because they’re drawn up by arts graduates etc etc, but the answer to that problem is to lobby to change the regulations. Given that the regulations are what they are, VW broke them. Knowingly and deliberately. That’s simple criminality. How is it not a problem?

  40. The Daily Telegraph is now saying this:

    Crucially, the software “knew” when it was being tested, allowing it to switch emissions controls on and off. It knew this thanks to the software’s algorithm, which used information about steering patterns, engine use and even atmospheric pressure to tell whether it was under scrutiny.

    Anybody know whether the Telegraph is talking sense? Sounds implausible to me.

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