New VW boss faces host of problems after emissions scandal

26 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

All car companies cheat on emissions tests—it’s just that most do it legally.

Washington: The US environmental regulator said on Friday that it will test all diesel car models for pollution “defeat devices” in the wake of the scandal over Volkswagen’s vehicles. The Environmental Protection Agency said it would test cars under actual road conditions rather than just newly produced cars in the lab, after Volkswagen vehicles were shown to have software that overrides pollution controls once they are in use. The EPA sent automakers a letter announcing expanded efforts to uncover “defeat devices” and other mechanisms to thwart air-pollution laws, agency officials told a news conference.

The German automaker this week admitted that 11 million of its diesel cars sold globally are outfitted with software that skirts emissions regulations. In a letter to car manufacturers, the EPA said it will add on-road testing to its regimen, “using driving cycles and conditions that may reasonably be expected to be encountered in normal operation and use, for the purposes of investigating a potential defeat device” similar to the one used by Volkswagen.

Christopher Grundler, Director of EPA Office of Transportation and Air Quality, said the agency would partner with the official Environment Canada agency to more rigorously test diesel cars. “Today we are putting vehicle manufacturers on notice that our testing is going to include additional evaluation and tests designed to look for potential defeat devices.” “Suffice it to say that the smart engineers at EPA and California Air Resources Board and Environment Canada have come up with some clever ways to do this.” But it had not focused on passenger diesel cars because they account for barely 0.2 per cent of all vehicles on the road in the United States. But the officials said details of the new procedures will be kept confidential to make it harder for the industry to use technology to circumvent them. A new report by the International Council on Clean Transportation, the research group that first flagged suspicious emissions patterns at Volkswagen, found that under normal conditions the average carbon-dioxide emissions for passenger cars are some 40% higher than the official amounts certified by European lab tests. The affected cars are Volkswagen and Audi models powered with 2-liter, turbocharged diesel engines: VW Jetta TDI (model years 2009-15), VW Beetle TDI (model years 2009-15), VW Golf TDI (model years 2009-15), VW Passat TDI (model years 2014-15) and Audi A3 TDI (model years 2009-15).

The overall economy expanded at an annual rate of 3.9 percent in the April-June quarter, up from a previous estimate of 3.7 percent, the Commerce Department reported Friday. The additional monitoring will help to ensure that “the industry is competing on a level playing field and that consumers are getting what they paid for,” she said. With the use of the defeat device, the car has more power and saves more fuel, but can spew more pollutants into the air, including nitrogen oxides, in amounts much higher than emissions standards.

Such testing can be expected in addition to the standard emissions test cycles when Emissions Data Vehicles (EDV), and Fuel Economy Data Vehicles (FEDV) are tested by EPA.” TL;DR? Volkswagen “very deeply within a hundred million lines of software code had a sophisticated algorithm designed specifically to defeat these tests”, Grundler said.

The agency is using random spot checks of production cars to make sure that automakers are being honest and to detect any other rule-breaking technology, like VW’s sneaky emissions software that tested clean in a lab but ran dirtier in real-world conditions. The second quarter expansion in the gross domestic product, the economy’s total output of goods and services, was a marked improvement from an anemic 0.6 percent increase in the first quarter when the economy was battered by a harsh winter. There are also class action lawsuits from angry car owners who paid a premium for cars that were advertised as being good for the environment. “Given the depths of the VW deception, the EPA really doesn’t have any other choice but to step up their tailpipe testing,” said Keith Stewart, who leads Greenpeace Canada’s climate and energy campaign. The German company is facing a potential $18 billion in EPA fines and has cost the job of chief executive Martin Winterkorn, who resigned on Wednesday.

The issue heated up this week on news that Turing Pharmaceuticals raised the price of Daraprim, the only approved treatment for a rare, life-threatening parasitic infection, by more than 5,000 percent to $750 a pill. And the ever widening gap in recent years suspiciously coincides with the 2009 introduction of mandatory emission-reduction targets for car fleets in the EU. Even though a smog check on an affected vehicle will trick the system by engaging the emissions controls only when the car is in test mode, “VW owners should continue to have their vehicles smog checked, when required, in order to renew their registrations,” said California Department of Motor Vehicles spokesman Jaime Garza. Its CEO, Martin Winterkorn, stepped down this week, and the company is under criminal investigation by the Justice Department and faces billions of dollars in fines.

Reuters points out a tweet posted Thursday by Italian Transport Minister Graziano Delrio stating there will be 1,000 sample checks for all automakers selling vehicles in Italy. From 2008 through 2014, average prices for the most widely used brand-name drugs jumped 128 percent, according to prescription benefit manager Express Scripts Holding Co.

The agency declined to be more specific. “They don’t need to know,” Grundler said on a conference call with reporters. “They only need to know that we will be keeping their cars a little bit longer, and we’re going to be driving them more.” Currently, the U.S. and Canadian governments test and certify some new car models as they enter the country. SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — For a change, Silicon Valley is buzzing about something besides a sleek new device, mind-bending breakthrough or precocious billionaire.

A rare visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi this weekend has captivated his extensive fan club in the area and commanded the attention of major U.S. technology companies eager to extend their reach into a promising overseas market. In Volkswagen’s case, the carmaker installed special software in some 11 million cars, explicitly designed to detect whether a car was being tested and reduce emissions accordingly.

It will also give Modi, a Hindu nationalist elected to office last year, an opportunity use the world’s high-tech capital as a pulpit to promote his plan to transform India into a hub of innovation. As cars became more sophisticated, relying more on software to monitor performance, emission tests shifted from actual tailpipe emissions to relying on the vehicle’s on board diagnostic (OBD) system. One possible solution is to reprogram the engine control unit so the car always runs the way it does during emissions tests, i.e. to meet U.S. emissions standards.

Older versions of the Passat should be fixed soon after that, but other models, including Golfs, Jettas and Beetles, will take longer because designing a solution “will require additional engineering development that will take longer,” Grundler said. He envisions a “Digital India,” where ubiquitous high-speed Internet access will empower entrepreneurs to build software and other technology products that will raise the standard of living in a country where many households are still impoverished. NEW YORK (AP) — As world leaders descend on the United Nations this weekend, former President Bill Clinton will be taking them to East Africa through virtual reality. Clean air laws have succeeded in reducing pollution, especially the kind of ground level smog associated with nitrogen oxide emissions, environmentalists said. “In 2005, in Toronto, the province issued upwards of 50 smog alerts. Unlike at Volkswagen, these techniques “strictly follow the letter of the legislation and are not concerned by its spirit,” according to the European Federation for Transport and Environment, a research group.

There, and elsewhere, real-world testing now might be introduced sooner—previous lobbying efforts to extend existing testing loopholes look even worse in light of the Volkswagen scandal. You feel as though you’re sitting in the same living room as Clinton chats with an entrepreneur in Karatu, Tanzania, who sells solar-powered products.

The artificial, and predictable, conditions under which cars are tested makes it easy for carmakers to engineer favorable emissions-test results without breaking any rules. If it opts to add a urea tank, it would make the emissions system more complex, take up space in the car and also add thousands of dollars to the cost of the repair, but it could preserve the cars’ performance. Others include removing all potential friction by disconnecting the alternator and brakes, testing only the lightest models with bare-bones features, using specially designed lubricants, over-inflating tires, and taping over indentations, cracks, and grills to improve aerodynamics. Suspicions are now turning to other carmakers, given that pretty much all of them show big gaps between how they’re rated in labs versus how they actually perform in the real world.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Worries about the global economy pushed American consumers’ spirits to the lowest level in almost a year, the University of Michigan reported Friday. Richard Curtin, chief economist for the survey, said consumers are disturbed by signs of trouble in the Chinese economy, the world’s second-biggest, and continued economic stress in Europe. OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — ConAgra employees will learn next week about upcoming changes that the company’s chief executive said Friday likely will include jobs cuts and a shuffling of operations that could boost the company’s presence in Chicago and lower it in Omaha. RIDGEVILLE, S.C. (AP) — Volvo has broken ground on its first auto manufacturing plant in North America, and says workers at the $500 million plant will build a car still being designed in Sweden. As an owner, “you don’t have to do anything affirmatively to join,” said Richard McCune, partner in the Redlands law firm McCuneWright LLP, which filed a class-action suit against Volkswagen on Monday. “That’s the beauty of a class action.

If the court certifies it, everybody is grouped together.” McCune estimates as many as 200 class-action suits could eventually be filed against VW in multiple states. Volkswagen has instructed its dealers not to sell its remaining stock of new 2015 TDI cars and to stop selling used models of affected cars, as well. Even the out-of-it others say they stumble on news while they’re catching up with friends on Facebook, scanning their Twitter feeds or looking for entertainment online.

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