EPA To Change Diesel Tests To Thwart VW-Like Cheating

25 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

EPA to Change Diesel Tests to Thwart VW-Like Cheating.

Volkswagen’s supervisory board is set to announce a new CEO after Martin Winterkorn quit the job this week over an emissions-rigging scandal that’s rocking the world’s top-selling automaker.

Volkswagen will name Matthias Mueller, the head of its Porsche sports car brand, as its chief executive, a source close to the matter said on Thursday, as the fallout from the U.S. vehicle emissions test rigging scandal broadened.German federal transport minister Alexander Dobrindt confirmed that diesel engines sold in European models featured the same software used to cheat US emissions tests.

As the crisis enters its fifth day, Maurice Blackburn Lawyers have announced an investigation into a potential Australian consumer law action against the troubled car maker. Mueller, 62, has been widely tipped to succeed Martin Winterkorn, who quit on Wednesday, when the German carmaker’s supervisory board meets on Friday.

Environmental Protection Agency plans sweeping changes to the way it tests for diesel emissions after getting duped by clandestine software in Volkswagen cars for seven years. The new CEO will replace Martin Winterkorm who quit the German carmaker amid a deepening scandal over its rigging of diesel car emissions tests in the United States. Campaign groups have long claimed that car firms are cheating on the official tests and say the results bear little relationship to real-life driving.

Does it go for a seasoned insider who knows the VW Group and its many brands inside-out or an untainted outsider with a track record for turning companies around? He will take responsibility for steering Volkswagen through the biggest business crisis in its 78-year history. “We have been informed that also in Europe, vehicles with 1.6 and 2.0 liter diesel engines are affected by the manipulations that are being talked about,” Alexander Dobrindt told reporters, adding it was unclear how many vehicles in Europe were affected.

He said Europe would agree on new emissions tests on coming months that should take place on roads rather than in laboratories and that random checks would be made on all manufacturers. A Volkswagen Group spokesman said the turbodiesel engine in question comes in three variants: 2-litre, 1.6-litre and a 1.2-litre three-cylinder version. As VW prepares for a massive clean-out of its top executives — and while Australian owners continue to be left in the dark — Maurice Blackburn class actions principal Damian Scattini said it was “likely” local buyers would be hit by the scandal. VW is in the midst of probably its biggest crisis ever, its reputation for trustworthiness in tatters following last week’s disclosure that stealth software was used in its diesel cars to dupe US testers.

Although Australia has weaker anti-pollution laws, they are unlikely to be 35 times weaker than those in the US — some VW cars were found to be 35 times over the limit for toxic emissions. “Disappointingly we are still yet to see anything definitive from Volkswagen about the impacts for Australian consumers, and if any cars here have been affected,” Mr Scattini said. Winterkorn, who had been CEO since 2007, said he took responsibility for the “irregularities” found by US inspectors in VW’s diesel engines, but insisted he had personally done nothing wrong. Separately, a group of at least 27 U.S. state attorneys general launched a multi-state investigation of Volkswagen’s representations to consumers about its diesel vehicles, and said it will send subpoenas to the automaker. “I am furious that the world’s leading car company wilfully took steps that polluted our environment and deceived consumers,” Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said in a statement. In Sacramento, California, that state’s top air quality regulator said her agency is preparing a series of actions against Volkswagen in response to the company’s admission that it cheated on tailpipe pollution tests. “Right now we are organizing ourselves for a major enforcement action,” said Mary Nichols, head of the California Air Resources Board. While the scandal centres on nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, if the EU test system is overhauled to reflect real-life driving conditions rather than test lab conditions, then it’s likely to result in higher official figures for both fuel consumption and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

The state also intends to order a recall of Volkswagen diesel vehicles sold in the state with software that enabled the cars to pass the agency’s emissions tests, but then emit far more pollution on the road. We will also be closely monitoring the outcome of the ACCC’s investigation into this matter.” Volkswagen is yet to confirm how many cars are affected locally, if at all. As well as the cost of regulatory fines and potentially refitting cars, Volkswagen faces criminal investigations and lawsuits from cheated customers and possibly shareholders. The agency did have on-road testing equipment — but it was assigned to monitor automaker gas mileage estimates and heavy-duty diesel trucks, where cheating had been uncovered in the past.

Ultimately it may also call into question the long-term popularity of diesel powertrains as a renewed focus on air quality may encourage governments to wind back the incentives and tax regimes that make diesels so popular. Grundler, who has been with the EPA for more than three decades, says the lack of on-road testing for diesels “might change in the future.” An announcement of the changes could come on Friday. VW has admitted to installing software on Volkswagen and Audi cars with four-cylinder diesel engines that switches on pollution controls when they are being tested.

The company is under pressure to act decisively, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel urging it to quickly restore confidence in a business held up for generations as a paragon of German engineering prowess. “There will be further personnel consequences in the next days and we are calling for those consequences,” Volkswagen board member Olaf Lies told the Bavarian broadcasting network. The EPA says about 500,000 U.S. cars including the Jetta, Golf, Beetle, Passat and Audi A3 have the cheating software, and VW says a total of 11 million cars have it worldwide.

VW was able to fool the EPA because the agency only tested the cars on treadmill-like devices called dynamometers and didn’t use portable test equipment on real roads. The software in the cars’ engine-control computers checked the speed, steering wheel position, air pressure and other factors to determine when dynamometer tests were under way. The scandal has sent shockwaves through the car market, with manufacturers fearing a drop in demand for diesel cars and tougher regulations and customers worrying about the performance and re-sale value of their cars. VW started the scheme with the 2009 model year, and may not have been caught without testing performed at West Virginia University on behalf of the International Council on Clean Transportation, a nonprofit group that advises governments on regulations. The European Commission urged all member states to investigate the use of so-called defeat devices by carmakers to cheat emissions tests and said there would be “zero tolerance” of any wrongdoing.

Analysts said a new management structure, possibly more decentralized but also with a clearer system of checks, was all the more urgent, with top executives apparently unaware of the emissions test cheating despite a tight control on decisions. But this process will take time – time for an analysis of the circumstances and time to initiate technical measures. “Please understand that we are currently not able to specify, which models and years of construction are affected. Bill Nelson of Florida is frustrated that regulatory agencies such as the EPA are failing to protect the public. “Seven years is way too long a time that the EPA has been asleep at the switch,” he says. He says the VW case has similarities to those involving General Motors ‘ defective ignition switches and Takata Corp.’s exploding air bag inflators, where it also took years before those problems were disclosed to consumers. However it looks likely that, while a recall is not necessary for safety reasons, management at Audi, VW, Skoda and Seat may instigate a recall for reassurance purposes.

European regulators were looking into VW’s on-road diesel emissions as far back as 2012, and since diesels make up half the cars there, the EPA decided to let Europe take the lead, he says. As the issue involves a software code on the engine management system of certain engines, if there is a recall it should be a relatively quick procedure to update the system. According to a spokesman for the Road Safety Authority, which oversees the NCT test, NOx emissions aren’t part of the criteria for the European roadworthiness directive upon which the test is based.

It’s understandable that people are concerned, given the favoured status of diesel amongst Irish buyers.Without getting into the ins and outs of what any individual car is likely to pass or fail on the NCT, the question here is obviously related to the constantly evolving scandal of VW”s cheating on its American emissions tests. In which case, it will probably be that the problem will be one for Volkswagen to fix and make amends for, not for its customers who were buying unawares. As far as the NCT is concerned, it looks at the vehicles hydrocarbon emissions, which for the registration period of the VW vehicles concerned, is set at 200-parts-per-million. Investigations have, obviously, been launched, but there’s as yet no evidence that the European tests, from which the NCT draws much of its own regulations, have been circumvented.

However campaigners have long accused the motor industry of using various “tricks” to get results in the EU testing regime that bear no relationship to real world conditions. The NCT does not require you to switch off stability or collision systems, so perhaps the software wouldn’t know to go in to cheat mode when being tested on Irish shores.

Some have suggested though that the software is hugely sophisticated, and can use many more inputs than just a stability control switch off to know of its surroundings. According to the New York Times, the admission came only after the EPA threatened to withhold approval for the company’s new diesel models, according to letters sent to company officials by the EPA and California regulators. Ironically VW is one of the brands at the forefront of developing these hybrid cars and has recently introduced full electric and petrol electric versions of the Golf and A3 to the Irish market, while a Passat version is due to arrive in the coming months. However, if authorities begin to focus on NOx and, for example, introduce limits on diesels in certain parts of the city, then petrol engines and alternatives will prove more popular and that will impact on the value of all diesel cars, not just those from VW Group brands.

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