VW cheated on US pollution tests for “clean diesels”

19 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

EPA says Volkswagen intentionally violates clean air standards.

Logo of German car maker Volkswagen (VW) is pictured on a VW car during the shareholders’ annual general meeting of VW in Hanover, central Germany, on May 5, 2015.The Obama administration on Friday directed Volkswagen to recall nearly a half million cars from the road, saying the German automaker used software intentionally designed to circumvent environmental standards for reducing smog.Volkswagen called them “clean diesels,” branding them as the fun-to-drive alternatives to hybrids as it dominated the U.S. market for the engine technology. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says nearly 500,000 Volkswagen and Audi diesel cars built in the past seven year are intentionally violating clean air standards by using software that evades EPA emissions standards. (Gene J.

Turns out the increasingly eco-conscious buyers of the sporty German cars have been unwittingly pumping smog into the air — because of software VW installed to cheat on U.S. emissions tests. The allegations cover 482,000 diesel cars sold since 2008, including Jettas, Beetles, Audis A3 and Golfs for the model years 2009 to 2015, and Passats for the model years 2014 and 2015. The device is programmed to detect when the car is undergoing official emissions testing, and to only turn on full emissions control systems during that testing.

According to the agency, Volkswagen put a device in those vehicles so that they would pass an emissions test but that doesn’t work the rest of the time. (©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. Volkswagen VOW, -3.30% VOW3, -3.23% could be on the hook for more than $18 billion in civil penalties plus other penalties and fees for violating the clean-air rules, based on a maximum levy of $37,500 per car, an EPA spokesperson said. The software allegedly gamed the system by detecting when the cars underwent official emissions tests and turned on full emission controls only during the tests, not during normal driving conditions. “This results in cars that meet emissions standards in the laboratory or testing station, but during normal operation, emit nitrogen oxides, or NOx, at up to 40 times the standard,” the EPA said. E.P.A. will continue to investigate these very serious violations.” The software was designed to conceal the cars’ emissions of the pollutant nitrogen oxide, which contributes to the creation of ozone and smog.

Ltd. 005380, +1.22% and Kia Motors Corp. 000270, -0.57% settled with the EPA and the Department of Justice to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act. This challenges everything they’ve been saying about those vehicles.” “It’s just a blatant disregard and intentional manipulation of the system,” said Priya Shah, a San Francisco owner of a 2012 VW diesel Jetta station wagon. “Not only lying to the government, but also lying to your consumer. Affected diesel models include the Volkswagen Jetta (model years 2009-15), Volkswagen Beetle (model years 2009–15), Audi A3 (model years 2009–15), Volkswagen Golf (model years 2009–15) and Volkswagen Passat (model years 2014-15).

Depending on the complexity of the repair and the lead time needed to obtain the necessary components, it could take up to one year to identify corrective actions, develop a recall plan, and issue recall notices. People buy diesel cars from VW because they feel they are clean diesel cars.” Justin Balthrop, of Topanga, has driven four VWs over many years and just bought a 2015 Golf TDI because of its mix of performance and fuel efficiency. Consumers haven’t yet been ordered to return to their dealers for a recall, and it’s safe to keep driving the cars, said Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator of the agency’s Office of Air and Radiation. It had been surprising that Volkswagen diesel models were able to get impressive horsepower output and fuel economy performance using less costly pollution control technology than employed in some other automaker’s engines, said Bill Visnic, an independent auto analyst in Weirton, W. O’Donnell accused VW of “cheating not just car buyers but the breathing public.” He said the charges undercut industry rhetoric about “clean diesel” cars.

The Volkswagens likely perform better with the emissions controls defeated than they do with them on, said Aaron Bragman, Detroit bureau chief for the Cars.com automotive shopping and research site. Otherwise, he said, there would be no reason to have a setting that turns on the controls for tests and turns them off for regular driving. “Obviously it’s changing the way the engine operates somehow that may not be pleasing to consumers,” he said. “It would follow that it would put it into a very different feel in terms of operation of the vehicle.” The EPA has been concerned about how well its laboratory tests reflect conditions that consumers experience in the real world, amid consumer complaints. The agency announced last July it would overhaul the tests, which involve allowing computers to drive cars on a dynamometer to ensure accurate, repeatable results.

Additionally, researchers at West Virginia University, working with the International Council on Clean Transportation, a nongovernmental organization, raised questions about emissions levels. Air board investigators started testing the vehicles on a special dynamometer — a kind of treadmill for vehicle testing — and on the open road using portable equipment. Officials did not specify VW’s motivation for cheating, but some benefits might be to increase real-world performance or fuel economy, Sullivan said.

In addition to fines, VW will likely face consumer lawsuits on two fronts, said Steve Berman, a class action attorney in Seattle who has successfully brought such cases against Toyota, Hyundai among others. Berman said he is already preparing a lawsuit on behalf of a Marin County, Calif. owner who bought a VW because it was marketed as a clean car and “now they find out it was polluting the environment at 40 times standards.” VW also will face what is known as a “diminished value” lawsuit because the vehicles are likely to lose a portion of their resale value because of the problem, he said. “Tightening government standards are making cars cleaner, and it is disturbing to learn that VW is flouting those standards,” Tonachel said. “The EPA action is important to protecting public health.” Consumers should not read VW’s action as an indictment of all diesel cars, said Don Anair, research director for the Clean Vehicles Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “There has been major progress in advancing emissions controls for diesels over the past 10 years,” Anair said. “That’s a fact.

This is a problem with the manufacturer, not the technology.” VW will have to develop a fix to bring the cars into compliance with federal and state clean air, regulators said.

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