Volkswagen to Refit Diesel-Powered Cars with NOx Emissions “Defeat” Device
In the next weeks and months, Volkswagen Group plans to contact customers with VW and Audi models from 2009 to 2015 equipped with 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged diesel engines about having their cars refitted with new software and possibly even a new SCR (urea injection) system* to comply with current emissions standards, according to the automaker and news reports.
The fix will get rid of illegal “defeat” device software that turns on emissions controls only during mandated smog tests and not during regular driving. Reportedly, the “defeat” device software, which is activated on some cars, VW says, might have helped improve performance and fuel efficiency in the smaller turbocharged diesels. A typical diesel car can travel as much as 30% further on a gallon of diesel than gasoline.
After a meeting on Monday at VW’s headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany, the automaker’s new CEO Matthias Mueller announced that the company has put together a plan to refit up to 11 million customers’ diesel cars with the “defeat” emissions testing software so they meet current emissions standards. Mueller plans to submit a plan to regulators, Reuters reports. German authorities have given VW until October 7 to produce a plan. VW, which sold 10.1 million vehicles worldwide in 2014, sells 40% of its vehicles in Europe.
In the United States, the company sold some 482,000 VW and Audi cars that are powered by the EA 189 4-cylinder TDI diesel engines. Affected cars powered by the 2.0-liter turbodiesel (TDI) engines include:
- VW Jetta (MY 2009-2015) and Sportwagen (MY 2009-2014)
- VW Beetle (MY 2012-2015) and Convertible (MY 2012-2015)
- VW Golf (MY 2010-2015) and Sportwagen (MY 2015)
- VW Passat (MY 2012-2015)
- Audi A3 (MY 2010-2015)
Recently, the German automaker set up a website in the U.S., www.vwdieselinfo.com, with a video statement from former Volkswagen Group of America President and CEO Michael Horn in addition to updates and answers to frequently asked questions. Owners also can call Volkswagen Customer Care (1-800-822-8987) with their concerns.
VW and government regulators, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), acknowledge that it is safe for owners to continue driving their diesel-powered vehicles until the fix is approved. However, last weekend, Volkswagen issued a "stop-sale order" on all unsold new 2014 and 2015 TDI models with 2.0-liter diesels on dealer lots and also told dealers not to sell any of the affected vehicles as used cars.
Supplier Warned Automaker of Illegal Defeat Device in 2007
Meanwhile, Automotive News, NPR, and Reuters report that major German-based supplier Robert Bosch, which provides engine management software to VW, warned VW in 2007 that it would be illegal to sell cars with emissions control software that turned on only during emissions tests.
In 2014, Volkswagen received a warning about irregular emissions test results on diesel-powered cars from the EPA stating that the diesel cars’ test performance didn’t match up with real-world driving. The EPA said it might not certify VW’s next-year model cars with diesel engines for the U.S. market. Then, just this month, the EPA issued a recall of 482,000 VW and Audi vehicles with the 4-cylinder TDI engines and served the German automaker with a notice of violation (NOV) of the Clean Air Act, after which officials from Volkswagen admitted to using the “defeat” software.
When the emissions cheating debacle turned into an international recall last week, Volkswagen said it was setting aside $7 billion to deal with the issue. The company faces the possibility of more than $17 billion in potential civil and even criminal fines, in the U.S. alone.
Diesel Hiccup May Positively Effect Hybrid and EV Sales
As news of VW’s diesel emissions cheating challenge continues to make headlines, some business leaders have said that this mistake could be positive in that it will help revive interest in hybrids and battery-powered EVs. “It shows they [Volkswagen] should have actually invested their money in battery-driven cars, which is the future, rather than diesel-driven cars and cheating," Virgin Group founder Richard Branson told CNBC in a recent interview.
In a statement on its website, the EPA said it will require VW to issue a recall to reduce the emissions impact of these vehicles. Owners of these diesel cars will be notified of the recall once Volkswagen Group has developed a remedial plan that the EPA approves. However, the EPA indicates, “it could take up to one year to identify corrective actions, develop a recall plan, and issue recall notices.” In the meantime, the EPA also is under pressure to add more road tests to its emissions screening for all automakers, according to Automotive News.
*SCR (Selective Catalytic Reduction) is an advanced emissions control technology system in diesel engines that reduces nitrogen oxides (NOx) by injecting diesel emission fluid (a mist of urea plus water) through a catalyst into the engine’s exhaust stream to turn NOx into nitrogen and water vapor.