VW to freeze promotions due to emissions scandal: report

24 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Directors Say Volkswagen Delayed Informing Them of Trickery.

At least three members of Volkswagen’s board said they were left in the dark about the company’s emissions cheating for two weeks after top executives admitted the deception to American environmental officials.LOS ANGELES • Volkswagen has shown how easy and tempting it can be for car manufacturers to rig the pollution controls on vehicles to cheat the system.

German automaker Volkswagen (VW) steered clear of a fresh blow in its emissions-rigging scandal, saying that another type of diesel engine which had raised concerns was not fitted with software designed to dupe testers. “It is now confirmed” that the questionable software fitted on 11 million vehicles “is not installed” in the type of diesel engines that had replaced the EA189 engines, which are at the heart of the massive scandal.BERLIN—Germany’s transport minister heads to Washington, D.C., on Monday to discuss the Volkswagen AG VLKAY -1.56 % emissions scandal with top U.S. officials amid mounting pressures by regulators to more accurately and realistically test automotive pollution.

A company spokesman had earlier said that the carmaker was checking whether another engine type, the EA288, was also equipped with the cheating device. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and officials from the Environmental Protection Agency for the first time since Volkswagen admitted last month to cheating on emissions tests of its “clean diesel” engines.

The board members’ statements shed new light on flaws in the management structure and lines of communication at Volkswagen, the world’s largest automaker. What’s really needed is a truly independent emissions-testing system that measures pollution where it occurs, on the open road, and not just in a laboratory or emissions testing station. In addition to the costs of repairing so many vehicles, the once-respected automaker faces billions of euros in potential fines and legal costs, aside from the incalculable fallout from lost sales and diminished customer trust.

Remote sensing devices on the roadside can measure emissions as a vehicle passes by, without impeding traffic flow, often without the driver or vehicle knowing they have been tested, and without the vehicle owner having to wait in line at an inspection station. The software turns on pollution controls when the vehicle is undergoing official emissions tests and switches them off when the car is back on the road, allowing it to spew out harmful levels of dangerous gases. Volkswagen has admitted that some cars were programmed to disable their pollution controls unless the software detected that emission tests were being conducted. Dobrindt’s trip is a sign that Berlin is increasingly concerned about fallout from the Volkswagen affair for an industry that is vital to Germany’s economy.

Volkswagen is preparing for a massive recall of affected vehicles, which it has to repair so they can meet environmental standards in the countries concerned. “I can’t think of any other recall that would be as comprehensive,” Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing at Consumer Reports magazine, told Bloomberg News. “It’s really an expensive rework.” Volkswagen has so far set aside 6.5 billion euros (R97bn) to do the repairs, but Bloomberg cited analysts who put the figure at 15-20 billion euros (R223-298bn). With the controls off, the vehicles had better acceleration and fuel economy, but emitted far higher levels of nitrogen oxide, a pollutant linked to lung ailments. Volkswagen is Germany’s largest employer and economists have warned that the country could suffer potential job losses if the car maker faces serious financial damage. If he was aware, he withheld significant information from members of his 20-member supervisory board. “That they were not informed about a problem of this dimension, that points to a huge communications problem,” said Markus Kienle, a Frankfurt lawyer who is on the board of a shareholder-advocacy group known by its German initials SdK. About a half-dozen states now use it routinely to supplement their inspection programmes, and at least 10 others perform periodic surveys and studies, mostly in urban areas with air-quality problems, to monitor overall compliance to clean air rules.

Stephan Weil, a board member who is also prime minister of the German state Lower Saxony, where Volkswagen is based, said he learned of the cheating while watching television news. German environmental group Deutsche Umwelthilfe said emissions from an Opel Zafira diesel-powered vehicle were tested by a Swiss lab for nitrogen-oxide emissions. The lab found the emissions varied widely between the standard emissions-testing mode and one it said was modified to resemble more closely road-driving conditions. The Zafira’s emissions were 17 times higher when tested using all four wheels as opposed to two wheels, which is the official testing condition under EU rules. I was part of a team of scientists in Colorado that used this technology to identify emissions problems with Volkswagens and Audis that have two-litre diesel engines months before the recent scandal broke.

The first hint came from a colleague in Europe who, looking at remote sensing data collected in Switzerland, had noticed high diesel nitrogen oxide emissions coming from passenger cars. European environmental groups have seized on the diesel-test scandal to amplify long-standing criticisms of diesel, which can produce less carbon dioxide than gasoline but more soot particles and nitrogen-oxides. Cops walking their beats notice things and, in this sense, remote sensing is the “cop on the beat” of emissions control, spotting abnormalities, defective emissions devices, deteriorating emissions control systems or unexpected emissions in unusual conditions, such as high elevation and high temperature. European authorities also are investigating allegations of fraud after Volkswagen admitted to having installed software, known as a defeat device, capable of detecting if a car was in testing mode and producing cleaner emissions. He noted that American regulators had raised red flags about Volkswagen emissions in 2014. “Talks took place for a full year before Volkswagen admitted the deception,” Mr.

When measuring millions of vehicles, remote sensing technology is far less expensive to implement than laboratory testing or other on-road emissions testing methods. Weil said. “This confession should clearly have occurred much earlier.” Critics of the company previously have said that top managers in Wolfsburg, Germany, where the company is based, hoarded power while discouraging open discussion of problems.

Matthias Müller, Volkswagen’s new chief executive, has acknowledged the flaws and promised a more open style of management, although changing a company with 600,000 employees could take years. The programme helps the state meet federal air pollution standards by also identifying vehicles emitting high levels of pollution so repairs can be made before the next inspection is due.

Industry officials have long known that lab tests yield fewer emissions than road driving but have defended the existing test procedures as offering objective standards across car models and driving conditions. About 11 million cars have the illegal software, mostly in Europe and the United States, and recalling or repairing them is likely to cost billions of dollars. The EPA, which in September disclosed the auto maker’s cheating, could hit Volkswagen with more than $18 billion in fines though it isn’t clear whether the agency will pursue such a large penalty.

In the worst cases, the data could provide the probable cause for focused investigations of particular models that are failing to meet emissions requirements. If necessary, any inquiry could be supplemented by the use of so-called portable emissions measurement systems (the vehicle-mounted “lab in a box” used by the investigators from West Virginia University who exposed the Volkswagen cheating).

McClintock is an air quality and vehicle emissions consultant for Opus Inspection, an international vehicle inspection company, and a contractor for the Colorado and Virginia emissions inspection programmes. Winterkorn said in a statement accompanying his resignation. “I am not aware of any wrongdoing on my part.” Some outsiders expressed surprise that Mr. Then, on Aug. 21, 2015, at a conference in Pacific Grove, Calif., organized by the University of California, Davis, a Volkswagen official informally mentioned to a senior E.P.A. official that the company had been deceiving regulators. Standing next to him at the time was a regulator with the California Air Resources Board, according to an E.P.A. official who confirmed the events, earlier reported by Reuters. Hocker said shareholders are angry and want changes. “The whole company was run from Wolfsburg,” he said. “They have to get away from this centralized management.”

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