EPA Accuses VW of Emissions Cheating
September 18, 2015 11:13 AM   Subscribe

 
Wow. We have an '09 Jetta Sportwagen TDI. I realize only lawyers get rich on class action lawsuits, but sign me up for it.
posted by straw at 11:19 AM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Vorsprung durch Cheat.
posted by delegeferenda at 11:19 AM on September 18, 2015 [6 favorites]




The brazenness of this caused some jaw-dropping when the press release made it to my office this morning (since this is the kind of thing we're paid to think is interesting). And bear in mind they're not just accused -- EPA says VW execs admitted it when confronted.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:20 AM on September 18, 2015 [9 favorites]


Under federal law, the EPA can levy a maximum possible fine of $37,500 per vehicle, EPA officials said on a conference call with reporters today, meaning VW and Audi face potential fines of up to $18 billion for the alleged violations.

Fucking do it. This wasn't mere apathy or idiocy -- this was intentionally saying "Fuck you" to the very idea of environmental protection. This was an assault on civilization and the rules we have set up as a society.

Hammer them. Hammer them fucking hard, and if it kills the companies, good. Salt the fucking ground so everyone knows that when you work against the rules -- not around, against -- you fucking pay.
posted by Etrigan at 11:22 AM on September 18, 2015 [148 favorites]


I have a '12 tdi. Sign me up for massive disappointment. I love(d) that it gets 40 mph and runs clean.
posted by Dashy at 11:22 AM on September 18, 2015 [10 favorites]


It bums me out that it's the TDI engine tech that's being affected here. I had a TDI Beetle for 12 years and I loved it.
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:23 AM on September 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I sort of admire their brazenness. Hopefully, my admiration will help cushion the blow when all their TDI cars are decertified for use in the US and VW is driven out of business.
posted by The Tensor at 11:24 AM on September 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Meanwhile, in Europe...
posted by pipeski at 11:29 AM on September 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


Dammit. My wife and I just started a lease on a 2015 Jetta TDI in May. Love the car so far, but I'm really disappointed to hear this. The "clean" was a key selling point on the diesel.
posted by adamp88 at 11:30 AM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


That is really, really amazing.
posted by odinsdream at 11:32 AM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


List of cars to buy:
VW
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:33 AM on September 18, 2015


*whew* mine's a 2008 and not a diesel.

This is a real shame, in so many ways. I thought VW and Audi had been making some really good cars lately. Maybe they still are, but after hearing this I may never own another VW (and I've owned 2 air-cooled and a water-cooled over the years).
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:33 AM on September 18, 2015


Fortunately, my next car will probably be electric (thank you, Tesla).
posted by smidgen at 11:34 AM on September 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


Fahrfromlëgal: It's what makes a car a Volkswagen.
posted by xedrik at 11:35 AM on September 18, 2015 [34 favorites]


There is no such thing as "clean" diesel, slightly cleaner, though, yeah. The current solution is "let's recirculate the exhaust and inject fuel at 32 thousand PSI" which creates 1) complicated EGR systems that turn the soot into muck in your exhaust manifold and 2) a fuel pump that costs 3 thousand dollars to replace when it goes out.

I kinda think it's time we start thinking beyond "clean" combustion of any sort and figure out how to move our butts down the road without blowing up fossil fuels.
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:35 AM on September 18, 2015 [13 favorites]


This is basically an automated version of what my dad and I did to my 1968 Chevy to get it to pass emissions in California back around 1990. We had to hook up the retrofitted air injection pump and mess with the ignition timing so it would pass, but in this configuration it was would barely make it to the inspection station. We'd disconnect the pump and redo the timing soon as the inspection was over. It would have been nice to have been able to afford a better car.
posted by exogenous at 11:37 AM on September 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


I initially misinterpreted the title as West Virginia and found it to make just as much sense.
posted by C'est la D.C. at 11:37 AM on September 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


Wow, that's just plain brazen. Really incredible. Mostly-unrelated, I drove a VW GTI for about three years. Great car, when it ran. Biggest mechanical nightmare ever. Almost every part of the engine had been replaced, one by one, before I hit 36,000 miles. I spent a week driving a rented Toyota Yaris with manual locks the last time it was in the shop. Dumped it before the warranty ran out. Wouldn't have bought another VW anyway, but this really puts the nail in the coffin.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:37 AM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


It bums me out that it's the TDI engine tech that's being affected here. I had a TDI Beetle for 12 years and I loved it.

I still have a TDI Beetle, and I've been pleased up until now that, if I must drive, it's at least a little less harmful to the environment than a regular car.

Hammer them. Hammer them fucking hard, and if it kills the companies, good. Salt the fucking ground so everyone knows that when you work against the rules -- not around, against -- you fucking pay.

The executives who signed off on this fraud should need to see the inside of a prison cell, and have the millions they made from it confiscated.
posted by Gelatin at 11:38 AM on September 18, 2015 [35 favorites]


+1 to Annika Cicade above me. I think people often forget that a big chunk of the environmental problems caused by both gas/petrol and diesel engines stems from the process of removing and transporting the crude oil.

A "clean" diesel doesn't even address half the problems of using dinosaur goop as fuel.
posted by Blue_Villain at 11:38 AM on September 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ford did a similar thing in 1998, got fined only $7.8 million: Ford Motor Company Clean Air Act Settlement
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:39 AM on September 18, 2015 [9 favorites]


What emissions control features, exactly, were being enabled especially for EPA testing? I'm guessing that they had some tradeoff of performance for cleanliness, or else customers wouldn't benefit from lacking those features. (In the short term. In the long term everyone would benefit from the cumulative effects of cleaner transportation, but "in the long run we're all dead," and who cares about grandchildren anyway? /s)
posted by Rangi at 11:40 AM on September 18, 2015


I bet the Germans have a really good word for "slap on the wrist."
posted by tonycpsu at 11:42 AM on September 18, 2015 [10 favorites]


Hammer them. Hammer them fucking hard, and if it kills the companies, good. Salt the fucking ground so everyone knows that when you work against the rules -- not around, against -- you fucking pay.

The executives who signed off on this fraud should need to see the inside of a prison cell, and have the millions they made from it confiscated.


You're right, and I was too blind from rage to say that the first time. I want to see a fucking perp walk. I want to see these assholes taken to jail -- taken, in the back of a police car, not given a time to appear -- and then told "Sure, I'll set bail. It'll be $1,000 for the first vehicle you did this to. We'll have another bail hearing tomorrow for the second vehicle you did this to. Hope you brought a lot of fucking checks."
posted by Etrigan at 11:42 AM on September 18, 2015 [34 favorites]


Rangi: read the link I posted in-comment. It details the run modes that the ECM booted into on start-up, depending on if the car detected an emissions sensor or not.
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:42 AM on September 18, 2015


A "clean" diesel doesn't even address half the problems of using dinosaur goop as fuel.

I admit I never tried it, but the salesman told me when buying the car -- yeah, I know -- that it'd run on biodiesel or even vegetable oil.
posted by Gelatin at 11:44 AM on September 18, 2015


It'll be $1,000 for the first vehicle you did this to. We'll have another bail hearing tomorrow for the second vehicle you did this to.

And the bail for each car is double the previous one.
posted by Gelatin at 11:45 AM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile, in Europe...

One the quotes made me think:

“Every new diesel car should now be clean but just one in 10 actually is,” said Greg Archer, T&E’s clean vehicles manager. “This is the main cause of the air pollution crisis affecting cities. Carmakers sell clean diesels in the US, and testing should require manufacturers to sell them in Europe too.”

Were (are) VW execs cheating European emission regulations in a similar way?

From my cultural experience of how scientists and engineers are revered in Germany, I'm really surprised that their engineers conspired to do this. Seems out of character. Is VW in such financial straits that they would go ahead with a plan like this, figuring that lazy Americans wouldn't catch them or enforce laws?
posted by a lungful of dragon at 11:46 AM on September 18, 2015


The executives who signed off on this fraud should need to see the inside of a prison cell, and have the millions they made from it confiscated.

I'll be checking back in on this story after they push out the low-level technical programmer scapegoat.
posted by odinsdream at 11:48 AM on September 18, 2015 [17 favorites]


It'll be $1,000 for the first vehicle you did this to. We'll have another bail hearing tomorrow for the second vehicle you did this to.

And the bail for each car is double the previous one.


They did it to 482,000 cars. Even if you don't take weekends off, one day in jail per means they'll make bail in May of 3335.
posted by Etrigan at 11:48 AM on September 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


Dammit. My wife and I just started a lease on a 2015 Jetta TDI in May. Love the car so far, but I'm really disappointed to hear this. The "clean" was a key selling point on the diesel.

I would look into breaking your lease without penalty. Just print out this article and tell them you won't be needing the car anymore, and it'd be best for them if you didn't join in/start the class action suit.
posted by el io at 11:49 AM on September 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


Shout out to all the wwii vets that refuse to ever ride in a German car. This new update may make your lives just bit easier in a few years.

Also, what the fuck, VW.

Also, what the fuck, emissions? How come it took you so many years to figure this shit out?
posted by hal_c_on at 11:49 AM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


And man, the class-action suit: I own a VW diesel myself. Now, my state didn't happen to require an emissions test for diesel vehicles, but it did for gas ones, and I'd bet there were consequences for individuals rigging their cars to pass.

Now that it's public knowledge that a huge number of cars were doing this without their owner's knowledge, who's on the hook for the fines needed for the consumer level of this fiasco? That's millions of hours of driving out of spec vehicles.
posted by odinsdream at 11:51 AM on September 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Myth busted.
posted by supercres at 11:53 AM on September 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


Other car companies are currently researching how to deactivate the defeat when an EPA official is nearby.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:55 AM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Just read the ARB letter: holy shit these affected cars simply may not be legal to drive under federal law.
posted by odinsdream at 11:55 AM on September 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


I own an '11 Golf - this is the last VW product I'll be buying.
posted by ryanshepard at 11:56 AM on September 18, 2015


So, this nefarious plot from VW and Audi dodged the regulations of nitrogen oxide emissions. Those are the emissions that cause smog. The scientific term for smog is "particulate matter" - it's actually little bits of stuff suspended in the air.

It gets particularly troublesome when it's small. PM2.5 - smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter - is a major, major, major health threat. High levels of it directly cause and exacerbate things like: asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, heart diseases, heart attacks, autism, birth defects and other health-concerning reproductive/birth outcomes.

Poor people are more likely to experience adverse effects from bad air quality.

This scheme is super fucked up.
posted by entropone at 11:56 AM on September 18, 2015 [21 favorites]


Kudos to the faculty, engineers, technicians and students at WVU's Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines & Emissions for their work on the original study that led to the first raised eyebrows.

How incredibly brazen of VW.
posted by lock sock and barrel at 11:58 AM on September 18, 2015 [27 favorites]


Wow. I really enjoy my '15 GTI (it isn't diesel) and kinda hate that VW would do this, but here's an interesting thing. It's well known among GTI enthusiasts that VW understates the horsepower of the GTI by anywhere from 25-40 HP -- VW claims 210, most stock dyno tests put it at 235 to 250 (tuners will test before and after they tinker with the ECU or add performance parts).

God only knows why VW would understate HP in that market segment (hot hatches), although it seems to be company practice to just say or do whatever they think works for them without regard for actual facts (or laws!).
posted by notyou at 11:59 AM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


A friend of mine just dropped me a note - his roommate works with particle measurement, and for two years at the major emissions conference in the USA, half of the talks are about testing trucks and seeing a gross excess of NOx, but seeing them pass when they go to vehicle test facilities. It's been seen for a while!
posted by entropone at 12:00 PM on September 18, 2015 [30 favorites]


Honestly if VW is doing this, all of the manufacturers of diesel vehicles need to be carefully looked at under similar conditions.
posted by odinsdream at 12:02 PM on September 18, 2015 [39 favorites]


hal_c_on: "Shout out to all the wwii vets that refuse to ever ride in a German car."

I saw this a lot more with Japanese cars.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:09 PM on September 18, 2015


I would be not at all surprised if other companies have tried this. I wouldn't even be surprised if the EPA has had other companies clean up their act before laying out fines, but VW was too brazen to even negotiate with. Capital just doesn't care about the environment unless you're in the business of selling reusable car batteries.
posted by lownote at 12:12 PM on September 18, 2015


This is the kind of scandal that brings companies down—companies that aren’t too big to fail.
posted by Fongotskilernie at 12:14 PM on September 18, 2015


God only knows why VW would understate HP in that market segment (hot hatches)

The traditional explanation is insurance rates, I think. The two turbocharged cars I've owned were both probably underrated by about 10%.
posted by uncleozzy at 12:15 PM on September 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I like the fantasy of corporate execs in prison, but I don't think people go to jail for little things like this. It needs to be a more important crime, like stealing a Twinkie bar, or just being black.
posted by splitpeasoup at 12:16 PM on September 18, 2015 [20 favorites]


God only knows why VW would understate HP in that market segment (hot hatches), although it seems to be company practice to just say or do whatever they think works for them without regard for actual facts (or laws!).

It's not illegal to understate horsepower, but it's a lawsuit waiting to happen if you overstate it. Much like computer processors, some engines come out of manufacturing better than others, so they just pick a number that they can guarantee no engine will be under.

German manufacturers are also incredibly conservative on claimed acceleration and top-speeds, as well.

Ford under-rated Mustangs after they were busted for overstating horsepower, and Mazda bought back a lot of RX-8s for it, too.
posted by hwyengr at 12:16 PM on September 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


Were (are) VW execs cheating European emission regulations in a similar way?

The main reason there are more diesels in Europe than in the US is that the restrictions on particulate emissions are much less stringent there.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 12:17 PM on September 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


P.S. This seems like a huge fucking deal.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 12:18 PM on September 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


Holy shit.
We have a 2011 TDI Golf Wagon that we really like. We don't drive a lot but felt better about the low emissions when we did. I'm searching and can't find what the implications for Canadians will be yet. Damn.
posted by chococat at 12:19 PM on September 18, 2015


I wonder what the laws of data retention are for car manufacturers. I am looking forward to the e-discovery process for this one. I mean, how do you even set up the request to develop something like this and compartmentalize it in such a way that your engineering group doesn't grok onto the intent and quit in disgust?
posted by Annika Cicada at 12:20 PM on September 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


I mean, how do you even set up the request to develop something like this and compartmentalize it in such a way that your engineering group doesn't grok onto the intent and quit in disgust?

I think it's fairly unheard of for groups of people to quit in disgust because of the unethical practices of their employers. I'd love to see a few examples of this sort of activity.
posted by el io at 12:26 PM on September 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


Hmmph. Anyone who's ever driven behind a VW TDI knows that they pollute and smell worse than a gas engine.
posted by Hatashran at 12:28 PM on September 18, 2015


I mean, how do you even set up the request to develop something like this and compartmentalize it in such a way that your engineering group doesn't grok onto the intent and quit in disgust?

Do I Godwin the thread if I answer this question?
posted by entropone at 12:39 PM on September 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


I mean, how do you even set up the request to develop something like this and compartmentalize it in such a way that your engineering group doesn't grok onto the intent and quit in disgust?

Well, a couple things jump to mind, but the easiest would be just outsourcing that particular firmware job to a subcontractor under some strict (and completely normal) provisions like NDAs, etc., but honestly I don't think this would be a hard thing to say "match this emissions curve under these load conditions or you're fired" either. Cases of whisleblowers having a good personal outcome are far and few between, and you're gonna have to do something pretty serious to get someone to be willing to risk that for themselves.
posted by odinsdream at 12:44 PM on September 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


God only knows why VW would understate HP in that market segment...

Understating HP is a time-honored tradition, at least in the US. All the Detroit automakers did it like crazy back in the era of musclecars. It was done largely for insurance purposes. Lower stated HP means the consumer would probably pay lower insurance rates.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:49 PM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've long held the thought that people should be allowed to forgo emissions requirements provided the exhaust is routed through the passenger compartment. We'll see how popular it is to roll coal with that....

I actually suggested that to a someone on a forum asking how much of a performance increase he would see from removing his catalytic converters, and his reply was "why would I want to breathe pollution?".

Indeed, son. Indeed.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:50 PM on September 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm sure there are no count down self destruct timers buried in today's electronic devices.
My TV failed catastrophically 2 mos after the warranty ended.
That's just a coincidence.
That's just a coincidence.
That's just a coincidence.
posted by Fupped Duck at 12:55 PM on September 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Just read the ARB letter: holy shit these affected cars simply may not be legal to drive under federal law.

One of the best enforcement tactics might be for the EPA to strictly enforce that for car owners and let the civil lawsuits bury VW.
posted by straight at 12:58 PM on September 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


so how does one know when the VW is being tested ? Are the load conditions that static and well known ? (that's what's got me wondering -- how complex is the code to determine if the car is being tested ? Or is it not very complex, which means it's turning all the emissions controls on/off regularly ? And under what conditions would you want the emissions controls off in the first place - why is that ability even there ? )
posted by k5.user at 1:00 PM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Send the VW fuckers to prison and fine the company enough to buy land on which to start a large new forest reserve somewhere. Call it the Volkswagen Forest of Eternal Shame. No cars allowed.
posted by pracowity at 1:01 PM on September 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


so how does one know when the VW is being tested ? Are the load conditions that static and well known ? (that's what's got me wondering -- how complex is the code to determine if the car is being tested ? Or is it not very complex, which means it's turning all the emissions controls on/off regularly ? And under what conditions would you want the emissions controls off in the first place - why is that ability even there ? )

From just observing smog testing back when I lived in CA, I believe they actually have a device to plug into the car's computer, as well as a sampling rig they put in the tailpipe. Plugging that in would be a trivial trigger to initiate the program, I would guess.
posted by Existential Dread at 1:05 PM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Are the load conditions that static and well known ?

They may just adjust it if an ODB connector is detected (though I'm unsure if there's a signal for this... probably). But the load curve during an emissions test would be pretty trivial to fingerprint, and it's pretty unlike regular driving. Even if you "tripped" this code during regular driving, there'd be no noticeable impact.
posted by odinsdream at 1:08 PM on September 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


so how does one know when the VW is being tested ? Are the load conditions that static and well known ?

Pretty much yeah :
According to the EPA's letter, the software on Volkswagens and Audis was installed on the cars' electronic control module and determined whether the car was driving normally or undergoing testing “based on various inputs including the position of the steering wheel, vehicle speed, the duration of the engine's operation, and barometric pressure.” If the car was driving under normal conditions, the car's nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions were increased by 10 to 40 times above the level of NOx emissions permitted by the EPA.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:08 PM on September 18, 2015 [12 favorites]


Annika Cicada, thank you for the link. The EPA report says that during testing, VW's algorithm enabled the "selective catalytic reduction or lean NOx trap," but when customers used the vehicle under normal conditions without the SCR, "emissions of NOx increased by a factor of 10 to 40 times above the EPA compliant levels."

This article about SCR and EGR for reducing NOx emissions discusses the trade-offs. Some SCR systems do require the user to keep a tank of urea stocked in their car (along with the usual fuel, oil, wiper fluid, and other maintenance tasks), but "lean NOx traps" like the ones VW used do not even need this:
So-called "NOx Absorbers" (or "Lean NOx Traps" or "Hydrocarbon-SCR Systems") use hydrocarbons rather than ammonia to reduce NOx. They are already being used in some light-duty engines and have the advantage of not requiring an additional reductant like urea.
So I'm still at a loss as to what VW or its customers gained from disabling the NOx trap. Wikipedia says that they are "extremely expensive," but if they have to be installed anyway that's a sunk cost and they might as well be used.
posted by Rangi at 1:11 PM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


"During a meeting on September 3, 2015, VW admitted to CARB and EPA staff that these vehicles were designed and manufactured with a defeat device to bypass, defeat, or render inoperative elements of the vehicles' emission control system."

Hoo boy, I would not want to be the dude that spilled those particular beans.
posted by Existential Dread at 1:11 PM on September 18, 2015


Can someone explain this to me like I'm 5? I don't think I'm following at all.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:15 PM on September 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


As a Golf TDI owner who also has a career in environmentally related pursuits and selected this car in part for what I had been led to believe the technology was doing ... I'm feeling litigious for the first time in my life.

But, I really would appreciate someone with a good understanding of these systems to chime in about the impact of this disabling on the engine. Does it change efficiency in terms of miles per gallon? Does it change the responsiveness of the engine? Does it increase torque? Does it reduce wear and extend the life of the exhaust system?
posted by meinvt at 1:16 PM on September 18, 2015 [10 favorites]



Because fick dich, das ist why!
posted by lalochezia at 1:18 PM on September 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


stoneweaver: Car engines emit nitrogen oxides (NOx), which pollute the atmosphere. The Environmental Protection Agency requires car makers to include a device that traps the NOx, or to use engine designs that don't create NOx in the first place. VW chose to include a NOx trap in some of their diesel cars, but they also included software that detects when the EPA is testing their car and only enables the trap in those cases. So when regular users drive those VW cars, they're polluting the air. Oh yes, and nobody has been fined or arrested, but VW has been "put on notice" by the EPA.

I have the same questions as meinvt about what VW or its users gain from disabling the NOx trap.
posted by Rangi at 1:20 PM on September 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


this was done with software.
i can imagine someone on top making this feature request - but - and this is a serious question from a naive person - how could it go down so many levels, all the way down to architects and programmers and there be no whistleblowing or questions asked?

i mean, how do the product managers rationalize this feature to their colleagues?
what to they write in the spec that isn't all-out incriminating?

Requirement 4902: If software detects that it is undergoing EPA testing, then turn on all emissions controls
Requirement 4903: If software detects that no EPA testing is present, then turn off all emissions controls
posted by bitteroldman at 1:20 PM on September 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


As ever, I'm not entirely hopeful that the process of law will mete out an appropriate punishment to VW, or its executives.

But I am looking forward to a lot of lawsuits from people unhappy they were not sold what was claimed. 482,000 cars? There's a lot of scope for some serious cash.
posted by solarion at 1:22 PM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


So I'm still at a loss as to what VW or its customers gained from disabling the NOx trap. Wikipedia says that they are "extremely expensive," but if they have to be installed anyway that's a sunk cost and they might as well be used.

Yeah, the details are a bit scarce. Best I can figure, given what I've read so far, is that they wanted to prolong the life of the NOx trap. They work a bit like a sponge, and when full need to have the trapped NOx scrubbed somehow. I'm unclear on whether VW's implementation required replacement of the trap, or if it used some sort of chemical scrubber (similar in fashion to a hard water treatment system).
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:28 PM on September 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


We own a 2010 Sportwagen TDI and love it. What makes me angry about this news is that we specifically bought the car because it get's awesome gas mileage and we felt like even though diesel costs a little more we were at least getting more miles out of every tank. This news makes me want to trade the thing in on a Prius but we are one month away from no car payments so that's not going to happen. I can tell you one thing that isn't going to happen: my family buying another VW if this news is true.
posted by photoslob at 1:28 PM on September 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


... so everyone knows that when you work against the rules -- not around, against -- you fucking pay.

The government will never do this, because they don't give enough of a shit about it.

When the government gives a shit about something, companies are told they'll accumulate sextillions of dollars in penalties. (Cf. Threats against Yahoo for holding out on the NSA.)

They'll get hit for tens of millions, maybe. Not the tens of billions they deserve.
posted by chimaera at 1:29 PM on September 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


i mean, how do the product managers rationalize this feature to their colleagues?
what to they write in the spec that isn't all-out incriminating?


Modularity
Department 1:
Req 1: Software should enable emissions controls upon receipt of control signal A.
Req 2: Software should disable emissions controls upon receipt of control signal B.

Department 2:
Req 1: if epa testing device is detected send signal A.
Req 2: if epa testing device is not detected send signal B
posted by Television Name at 1:37 PM on September 18, 2015 [24 favorites]


Volkswagen not only profited from the sales of these cars--they also had federal support from federal tax credits and discounts toward buying diesels because of their "cleaner" burning fuel. I have a '10 jetta TDI and received a $1300 tax credit for purchasing it new due to its reduced emissions. I hope that VW has to pay all the tax credit money back, too.
posted by shortyJBot at 1:39 PM on September 18, 2015 [29 favorites]


The main reason there are more diesels in Europe than in the US is that the restrictions on particulate emissions are much less stringent there.

My question always was, although I realize it's not as relevant since all these cars are likely dumping our way too much out in general(and "any at all" probably counts as too much when electric is a viable option):

Are the regulations in the US, especially California, overzealous compared to the European ones? Or are there's just overly lax because of lobbying or something.

I always a thought it was extremely strange that cars could be emissions legal there and not here, and assumed they probably had superior standard there. Is that totally fictitious?
posted by emptythought at 1:45 PM on September 18, 2015


Volkswagen not only profited from the sales of these cars--they also had federal support from federal tax credits and discounts toward buying diesels because of their "cleaner" burning fuel.

That's a really excellent point.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 1:57 PM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


So I'm still at a loss as to what VW or its customers gained from disabling the NOx trap. Wikipedia says that they are "extremely expensive," but if they have to be installed anyway that's a sunk cost and they might as well be used.

My uneducated guess is that they were having issues getting them to last long enough that they wouldn't have tons of warranty claims or other issues that would cost them money or piss off customers. And that this, and anything that might come from it, was cheaper than paying to engineer a more expensive longer lasting one.

Once again, just a total guess, but I've seen dumb shit like this before from companies where once called out, they end up replacing them all anyways.
posted by emptythought at 1:57 PM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Be interesting to look at how VW execs managed their stock portfolios after they must have known the Feds were onto them.

Even if you thought you couldn't get high-level convictions because of the ease with which blame could be shifted to subordinates, that shouldn't be an impediment to nailing them for some form of insider trading.
posted by jamjam at 2:00 PM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Are the regulations in the US, especially California, overzealous compared to the European ones? Or are there's just overly lax because of lobbying or something.

From what I understand: California is predisposed to be more smoggy than many places because the geography (especially around LA) creates inversions that can keep pollutants closer to the ground. Combine that with a whole lot of cars, and you get really bad, crisis levels of smog.

So, CA lawmakers are more strongly incentivized to push through strong emissions regulations to help fix their local problem, despite objections from car manufacturers. However, since California is such a major market in the US, the CA regulations tend to spread to other states in a somewhat easier fashion (companies have less of an incentive to fight them, since they are already supposed to be making a whole lot of American cars to meet the CA standard).

Since the EU doesn't have such serious smog problems, the regulatory incentive isn't as strong, and since EU cars tend to be different than American cars for other reasons, the car companies have strong incentives to fight EU regulation catching up to US regulation in this particular regard.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:03 PM on September 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


It is incumbent upon Volkswagen to initiate the process that will fix the cars’ emissions systems. Car owners should know that although these vehicles have emissions exceeding standards, these violations do not present a safety hazard and the cars remain legal to drive and resell.

I'm confused about this. So VW will have to recall the cars and fix them, right? But presumably until/if you get your VW fixed, you know it wouldn't pass a smog test without the defeat device. How do state DMVs handle that? Doesn't this leave your car in legal limbo after a vehicle inspection or smog test, or by the next time you have to renew registration?
posted by yasaman at 2:08 PM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


The "California adopts a super strict environmental rule and then exports it to other states" model is actually enshrined in the Clean Air Act; other states are forbidden from setting vehicle standards stricter than EPA's, unless California did it first. Then they can copy what California did (but it has to be an exact match).
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:11 PM on September 18, 2015 [11 favorites]


My uneducated guess is that they were having issues getting them to last long enough that they wouldn't have tons of warranty claims or other issues that would cost them money or piss off customers.

I think that's probably it. There is a federal emissions control system warranty requirement of 8 years or 80,000 miles.
posted by stopgap at 2:12 PM on September 18, 2015 [11 favorites]


This method can't be used to prettify the emissions from, like, their plants or assembly lines in a similar fashion, I hope?
posted by Ashenmote at 2:25 PM on September 18, 2015


No, those are large, fixed installations, they're monitored continuously.
posted by Small Dollar at 2:38 PM on September 18, 2015


Maschinen dieser Welt
bekämpft den falschen Held
Ob Europa oder Weißes Haus
setzen Sie den Smog aus
posted by smidgen at 2:46 PM on September 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


If I'm reading the story right, it sounds like VW could simply reflash the ECU software so that the NOx trap is always enabled, not only when the car detects it is being tested.

As far as I know, VWs don't currently have the kind of connectivity that allows them to be, say, crashed by remote control, but it's not hard to imagine that in a few years they will, and at that point, they could update the cars without telling anyone. Shoot, a carmaker could build in whatever emission-evading tricks they wanted, and remotely update them as soon as they think the jig might be up. It'll be that much harder to prove wrongdoing. That by itself might encourage use of those connected systems.

OK, I'll take off my tinfoil hat now.
posted by adamrice at 2:54 PM on September 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


2009 diesel Jetta here, a new-to-me car last February that replaced my 1999 Corolla after one too many Cleveland winters. I'd be heartbroken to give it up, I can get 600 miles out of one damn tank under the right conditions. I love Hans! (Yes, my car's name is Hans. I'd tell you his full name but you'd just laugh).
posted by bitter-girl.com at 2:58 PM on September 18, 2015


So the only info for Canada that I can find so far is:
"VW Canada became aware of the EPA’s actions this morning. We have and will continue to cooperate fully with Environment Canada to understand the implications for the Canadian market and what actions, if any, may be required in Canada. We are unable to provide any further comment at this time."

I'm so pissed off about this. Like others have said, we bought the car specifically because of the "Clean" aspect, or cleaner. I mostly bike and my kids take transit to school and my wife actually works for the transit commission, so we don't drive a lot, but we need a vehicle for occasional trips to parents' places, excursions where transit with family-of-5-plus-big-dog isn't feasible on transit, etc. We spent more than we could afford on this car, but we felt good about the decision after researching every option. So basically we were sold a lie and our car is actually more harmful than other cars?
We can't afford to buy another car and the resale is obviously going to suck now on this one. I hate the idea of driving around and polluting more than I need to be. Are we totally fucked?
And what do they even do when it's recalled? Obviously if they choke off the emissions it has other repercussions, like shit mileage, right? Ahhh. So mad.
Ironically I have an appointment at the dealership on Monday, because our "Premium 8" radio (that we were totally up-sold on) died in June, a few months after our warranty expired. I've since learned from various forums that hundreds of people have had that same problem and it's a radio model that's notorious for failing. Sigh.
posted by chococat at 3:06 PM on September 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


I can get 600 miles out of one damn tank under the right conditions.

I hear you, bitter-girl.com. Last week we dropped off my daughter at University: Toronto to Montreal AND BACK on one tank.
posted by chococat at 3:08 PM on September 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


When I bought my Prius back in 2009 I got into a bit of an online argument with a TDI diesel owner over the supposed superiority of clean diesel over hybrid engines, at least for gas mileage and (he claimed) price vs. environmental impact.

I'd love to see his face now.
posted by lhauser at 4:04 PM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


2010 TDI Jetta sportwagon and I'm pissed about the lying and if it fucks me on a trade in for a 4x4 small pickup if these New England winters stay nutty. I love Cape Cod to NYC on a tank of diesel if I really work 5th and 6th gear on the highway. Stupid VW.

(Personally I'd feel a little sweaty in the conscience dept. doing too much calling out of modern German or Japanese folks for the sins of their ancestors, not a lot of square footage to stand on to really put a bunch of pepper on that first stone for most of humanity)
posted by Divine_Wino at 4:14 PM on September 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


Don't get too crazy - he's been there since 2012, and this goes back to the 08-09 model years.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 4:31 PM on September 18, 2015


[A reminder, folks - even if it's public, do not post people's personal contact info. Thanks.]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:35 PM on September 18, 2015


This video mentions the difference (check out around 3:00 in particular) between measuring thresholds under driving vs testing conditions for the TDI engine.
posted by MrFTBN at 4:58 PM on September 18, 2015


I always knew the clean diesel thing was BS. But now? FU VW. I live in LA and this matters.
posted by persona au gratin at 5:16 PM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


emptythought: "I always a thought it was extremely strange that cars could be emissions legal there and not here, and assumed they probably had superior standard there. Is that totally fictitious?"

Not across the board better; just incompatible upper limits. Europe allows more particulate and the US allows more of something else.

Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish: "The "California adopts a super strict environmental rule and then exports it to other states" model is actually enshrined in the Clean Air Act; other states are forbidden from setting vehicle standards stricter than EPA's, unless California did it first. Then they can copy what California did (but it has to be an exact match)."

This is to prevent automobile emission certification being a shit show of incompatibilities (imagine not being able to register a car sold in one state anywhere else). Historically California was both more restrictive than the EPA requirements and disproportionately a leader in number of cars sold so it made sense to allow them to be the test bed and driver of requirements.

chococat: "We can't afford to buy another car and the resale is obviously going to suck now on this one. I hate the idea of driving around and polluting more than I need to be. Are we totally fucked?"

Don't panic. VW will have a patch out for this in no time and flashing the update will only take a couple minutes. Then your car will be exactly what you originally purchased.
posted by Mitheral at 6:04 PM on September 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


As one of those "sensitive population" people who suffers all summer through "Code Orange" days of smog in Atlanta, fuck VW for your contribution to my asthma. As someone whose day job is educating people about climate change and trying to make the world better before (even though) it's too late, fuck VW for your contribution to climate change. And as a Honda hybrid driver, fuck VW for the false smug superiority that your cars were better than my car.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:07 PM on September 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


Don't panic. VW will have a patch out for this in no time and flashing the update will only take a couple minutes. Then your car will be exactly what you originally purchased.

Or not. Mileage, nitrogen, carbon, pressure, particulates are all related, and I sincerely doubt that a 40x reduction in one parameter won't affect the others. This car is not what I purchased; it's an emporer in new clothes.

And in 10 years, a tdi will be an albatross on the used market. That's not what I set out to purchase.
posted by Dashy at 6:20 PM on September 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


The TDI is still a great power plant. I'm not going to fall out of love with it because of this. It and the 1.8 turbo (now modeled after the TDI and called TSI) have been around for a long time and are awesome, fuel efficient and low emissions machines...when run properly.

I can only deduce that there may be a design flaw in the NOx scrubber which happens to be very expensive to replace. They were probably trying to avoid early failure and replacement by bypassing it during normal operation.

So don't freak out and sell your TDI. Get your software updated and see how long your NOx scrubber lasts. Don't worry about when it fails, because after this debacle, you'll likely be getting them free for life. (Which is how long those bitchen little diesels should last.)
posted by snsranch at 6:42 PM on September 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm curious what the impact of the fix will be, whether it will shorten the life of the particulate filter system, or if the mileage will take a big hit.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:58 PM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


You're right, and I was too blind from rage to say that the first time. I want to see a fucking perp walk.

Yeah, it's probably got a clock in it somewhere!
posted by sneebler at 7:20 PM on September 18, 2015


Das uh oh.
posted by dirigibleman at 7:57 PM on September 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


Department 2:
Req 1: if epa testing device is detected send signal A.
Req 2: if epa testing device is not detected send signal B


That would be an exceptionally lame excuse. What legitimate reason could there even be to have the car recognize it's being tested? The whole point is to test it under real conditions. Changing anything based on that defeats the purpose. So why even detect it if you can't change anything based on the answer?
posted by ctmf at 8:12 PM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


TDIs have always had shit resale value in the US. It comes with the territory, along with the excellent fuel economy. (Although the gas-powered Passat I'm driving this week isn't bad, it gets over 500 miles out of a 17 gallon tank..it's nice to only fill up twice a week)

Pretty basic for a Passat, though. They used to be much more upmarket. And the one I have is the "Wolfsburg" trim. Which apparently is Tennesseean for "with pleather".
posted by wierdo at 8:30 PM on September 18, 2015


The lean SCR reduces mileage, so it depends on which you are most worried about: in SoCal it's NOx, but in the country you might want better mileage and therefore less particulates and less CO2 (assuming you believe in global warming - I think everyone believes in smog). Maybe cars should have the emissions settings depend on where they are at anyone time - easy to do with gps. And as someone who does research on SCR catalysts, I say get over it and get used to filling up on Diesel exhaust fluid.
posted by 445supermag at 8:55 PM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


There are a variety of different undesirable emissions that are produced by internal-combustion engines. One category of these, NOx (nitrous oxides), contribute to the formation of smog and acid rain. NOx gases are formed in much greater quantities when the combustion temperature is high - like when the engine is running lean (the ratio of air to fuel has more air) ([1], [2]).

A lean air-to-fuel ratio (AFR) uses less fuel, and will tend to ensure that the fuel is burned more completely (since there are no "pockets" of unburned fuel that get spit out), so it improves fuel economy. But it also tends to increase NOx emissions. Some larger diesel vehicles use diesel aftertreatment systems to inject urea (aka diesel exhaust fluid, aka "diesel juice" if you're around me) into the exhaust as part of a selective catalytic reduction process. The urea reacts with the NOx gases to convert them into significantly less harmful compounds (nitrogen and water).

Diesel engines also produce soot, but soot isn't NOx. Soot is large-ish carbon particles produced when fuel isn't completely combusted in the cylinder. Diesel engines tend to produce soot when they are running rich (more fuel than there is air to burn it with), because there are left-over hydrocarbons in the cylinder that get spit out with the exhaust. Soot emissions are also regulated, so some manufacturers will include particulate filters, uncreatively called diesel particulate filters, in the exhaust after the engine. These are like specialized furnace filters, in that they mechanically remove the soot from the exhaust -- they don't operate on a chemical principle like diesel aftertreatment systems.

Obviously there's a huge draw to improve fuel economy in any road-targeted internal combustion engine. Adjusting the engine management strategy to burn leaner is a viable way to improve fuel economy, not just the cheater's way out: research now is focusing on improving technologies for stripping NOx emissions out of the exhaust more effectively ([3]). But VW seems to have decided that they wanted to push fuel economy past where their exhaust aftertreatment technology could handle: hence, the "defeat device".

As far as the benefit to owners: gas mileage! Many more people measure their fuel economy than measure their tailpipe NOx emissions. I guess VW thought they could have their cake and eat it too. (I think the Jetta, at least, comes equipped with a diesel particulate filter -- but since the "defeat device" causes the engine to run lean, not rich, I wonder if it might actually increase the life of the DPF.)

Honestly, I don't think it would be too terribly difficult to detect EPA testing and alter the engine management strategy accordingly. Emissions tests are conducted by driving the vehicle through drive schedules, which simulate operating the vehicle in various environments (stop-and-go city traffic, highway operation, ...). To ensure that test results are repeatable and consistent, the drive schedules are precisely defined: it wouldn't be hard at all to identify the speed pattern of a drive cycle and switch over to the "cleaner" emissions strategy. And it doesn't hurt to switch aggressively: it's not like the car stops running if it detects a drive cycle erroneously, it just gets slightly poorer fuel economy for a little while until it switches back to "dirty mode".

I can't see any possible way that you could implement a feature like that in an ECU without your intentions being obvious, though. I don't know of any legitimate reason for detecting regulatory testing (which is supposed to test the car as it is sold to consumers!) and altering vehicle behavior accordingly.
posted by aaronbeekay at 9:01 PM on September 18, 2015 [14 favorites]


Under federal law, the EPA can levy a maximum possible fine of $37,500 per vehicle, EPA officials said on a conference call with reporters today, meaning VW and Audi face potential fines of up to $18 billion for the alleged violations.

Fucking do it. This wasn't mere apathy or idiocy -- this was intentionally saying "Fuck you" to the very idea of environmental protection. This was an assault on civilization and the rules we have set up as a society.

I always knew the clean diesel thing was BS. But now? FU VW. I live in LA and this matters.


Yeah, sign me on to the petition asking for maximum fines. I have to breathe this air. This isn't theoretical.
posted by salvia at 11:40 PM on September 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


What's the difference between what VW's doing here and Subaru's trick in the 90's on their four wheel drive, turbo boosted gasoline powered cars? The emissions test was not so advanced back then. The mechanic put the car into neutral and revved it to a certain point. Since that's not really something that happens during normal driving, the ECU/computer was programmed to lower the turbocharger boost if that situation was detected, which lowered emissions.
posted by fragmede at 12:24 AM on September 19, 2015


I'm curious what the impact of the fix will be, whether it will shorten the life of the particulate filter system, or if the mileage will take a big hit.

I would slide my entire stack of chips towards "both".

But also, a whole other stack for what was said above about these scrubbers now being free forever.

Aren't there already models of cars where the cats are a known failure point and essentially every car gets a couple free replacements up to some large number of miles?

That said, I really want to see some mechanic or experienced tuner with an old school analog testing rig do a full performance test, and full emissions test(possibly several of both over a couple weeks and average it... Then take it in for the inevitable firmware flash and redo it all.
posted by emptythought at 1:47 AM on September 19, 2015


Villainous is the word I was looking for. This is villainous.
posted by newdaddy at 2:06 AM on September 19, 2015


That VW extended the behavior for nefarious ends is horrible and unexcusable, but as a whole, the car does actually need to recognize that the regulatory device has been plugged in so it can respond to any queries it may make. Eg the regulatory device asks for the vehicle's VIN, mileage, etc.
posted by fragmede at 2:45 AM on September 19, 2015


So VWs are overpriced, barely recovering from a thirty year descent into morbid unreliability, trading on fifty year-old nostalgia for cars that were only really good by comparison to wallowing American whalemobiles, and…not the green merit badge people thought they were?

And people mock me for loving my French cars.
posted by sonascope at 3:11 AM on September 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


That said, I really want to see [...] a full emissions test

Wish granted.
posted by ambrosen at 3:12 AM on September 19, 2015


Sonascope, the only reason this isn't a Citroën or Renault issue is because they don't sell cars in North America any more, though. And I say this as someone who's only ever owned two cars, both of them green blooded diesel fuelled Citroëns.
posted by ambrosen at 3:16 AM on September 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm more making a grouchy jab at the interminable "German engineering" mythos you find in the US, which has amazingly little basis in actual reality, reliability, durability, or non-jerkiness of the manufacturer. I've had tons of my roll their eyes at supposedly unreliable Citroën hydraulics, but my DS21 never left me on the side of the road once in almost 100K miles, while my beautiful and fabulous-driving Scirocco was a neverending source of roadside excursions. I feel like VW is a weirdly beloved company considering their long recent history of not being very good at anything except feeling really elegant and put-together on a showroom floor.

To each their own, I suppose.
posted by sonascope at 3:28 AM on September 19, 2015


As far as the benefit to owners: gas mileage!

If this is the case, I would expect that in places with no emissions testing, a lot of people will deliberately not get the software fix in order to keep their mileage up, and more than a few people might choose to buy a TDI now, before the cars are fixed, just for that advantage.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:10 AM on September 19, 2015


As much as I'd like to see VW take it in the shorts for this, I'm not sure it will happen. My guess is this had already been gamed out nine ways to Sunday, and like so many other cases of corporate malfeasance, the calculated cost of being found out is significantly less than the profit to be made from doing it.

Your lungs are entries on a corporate spreadsheet, friends and neighbors, and their net value is fairly low.
posted by Mooski at 6:18 AM on September 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


God only knows why VW would understate HP in that market segment (hot hatches), although it seems to be company practice to just say or do whatever they think works for them without regard for actual facts (or laws!).

Perhaps on the dyno when the "compliance" emissions program is running, that's what they get. When it's not running, they get more.

However, almost all cars will get 10-15 more bhp than listed. The number is downgraded some to make sure *every single car* will get at least that, to avoid the "Hey, you said I'd get 135 and I'm only get 130!"

TDIs have always had shit resale value in the US. It comes with the territory, along with the excellent fuel economy.

Until we had ULSD in the US, nobody but VW was willing to bring diesels over because our diesel fuel was sulfur ridden crap. So, diesels got the rep of being stinky things you put in trucks.

Now that our diesel is (currently, though changing standards may have fixed this) cleaner than european diesel fuels, more and more good auto diesels are coming over. Diesel has been a popular fuel there forever.

Diesel has two advantages in terms of mileage. First, diesel engines run at much higher compression, because they don't have to worry about predetonation like gas does. Indeed, they count on detonation on compression to work, there's no spark plug to fire the charge. Secondly diesel fuel simply has more energy per volume than gasoline, so with engines of identical efficiency and power output, the diesel is going 10-15% farther.

Because of the much higher compression -- both in naturally aspirated and turbo diesels, diesel engines have to be built very robust. This is why they tend to last forever. But this also makes them heavy, and the heavier pistons limits how fast they can rev, which is what keeps gasoline engines around -- they're much better at power to weight. If you want to burn diesel fuel in an airplane, you burn it in a turboprop or jet, not a reciprocating engine. (Jet-A fuel, however, is closer to kerosene than diesel for other reasons.)
posted by eriko at 7:11 AM on September 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


There are some massively knee-jerky over-reactions in this thread and the vitriol is a little disturbing. I expect it from a less ... measured group of people, but am a little disappointed to see it here. Most of it seems to be through some rose tinted vision of the auto industry as being universally about your health and wellbeing. It is not.

Consider this - every single truck sold in the US is also doing the same thing as VW is spotlighted as doing here (using a loophole to completely avoid industry standard requirements to the perceived detriment of the general public) but on a safety level rather than pollutants and has been for decades. There are different crash regulations for 'commercial' vehicles, but manufacturers market and sell trucks as every day cars and go to extreme lengths to hide this fact. Yet there is no fuss that a massive proportion of the population are driving in vehicles that are not only dangerous to themselves (and wouldn't pass the passenger regs from even 10-15 years ago let alone current ones) but also to the complying passenger cars they hit. The truck will win over your car, but likely kill the truck occupants just as much. Never mind your lungs, there are millions of vehicles on US roads that will kill you way faster than that and in ways they should not be allowed to. The regulations should apply to vehicles for how they are USED, not how they are classified by the manufacturers.

Consider that for a minute. THAT should make you more angry than this emissions thing does, because it is decades old and many more vehicles than VW have sold in the US TOTAL, not just diesel.

if VW is doing this, all of the manufacturers of diesel vehicles need to be carefully looked at under similar conditions.

Absolutely. It is utterly naive to think that VW is the only company doing this. All this FUCK VW PUT THEM IN JAIL people need to wind their necks in and just pause. Is it likely that VW are so incapable of matching the competitions performance claims and mileage rates by such a margin that they had to cheat to keep up? Of course not. They are a phenomenally capable company with a great engineering structure. EVERYONE is doing this to a different degree, I'd wager. Having a different ECU map for different parameters is facile in modern cars. Adding in the EPA test parameters is just one method to overcome it.

This is not news, this is not just VW. Aston Martin back 10 or more years ago for instance, used to have an air pump that activated at idle in the US market and blew fresh air down the exhaust. This was in the days of tailpipe emissions per volume of exhaust gas. EASY to circumvent. Too much pollution per volume of air? Add clean air, problem solved. I know of many other methods manufacturers use to comply with regulations and sometimes even with the best of intentions:

I looked at turning a road diesel into a race car in 2000. We tinkered around with the road car for a bit first. When we went through the fuel map, it was leaned off (more air, less fuel) considerably at 2000 and 4000 rpm, and overfuelled either side of that to hide the drop in power for driveability (you could tell, but it was subtle). We found that just smoothing that fuel ratio through the entire rev range to a more sensible balance produced an increase in power (15hp - considerable on a 150hp car) AND also gave us better mpg! We found out that the reason for the weird mapping was that emissions testing for particulates was done at ... you guessed it, 2000 and 4000 rpm. The stupid thing is that the particulate measurements don't take into account overall fuel consumption. They are just 'per volume'. So through the entire rev range of the car (and so in normal driving) the car produced less articulates overall with the higher power map, but just slightly more at 2000 and 4000 rpm. But the better fuel mileage (about 5-7mpg on average) negated that if you considered particulates 'per mile travelled'. So the manufacturer in this case had to produce a car that passed 'stringent' regulations, but would have actually produced less particulates over the life of the vehicle than if it had ignored the test.

The regulations are not very smart, and the car industry wants to produce power and fuel economy because that is what the paying public want. They ARE making more efficient engines and also reducing emissions, but the way some of the emission-compliance regulations are written make them do odd things.

Repeated for emphasis - the regulations actually produced a car that gave out more particulates per mile of travel than the car was capable of. Because the limits were arbitrary and not well designed. If the regulations were better written and better thought out, the very same car with a 2 minute fix to the fuel mapping would have been cleaner overall. The so called 'cleaner regulations' actually forced it to be more dirty than it could have been just because it was measured in a dumb way.

There could quite easily have been a massive furore if that car had been tested at 3,750 rpm and 4250 rpm because it would have produce FAR in excess of the required particulate level, yet the car was compliant. The smoothing off of the power delivery for driveability meant the car was much dirtier either side of the measured spots. Taken out of context, that could have produced similar figures to the fuss we're seeing over this VW deal.

Are the regulations in the US, especially California, overzealous compared to the European ones?

Yes. They always have been. Unrealistically so. Californian regulations have historically tried to force development towards a cleaner burning option, but usually a step or two past the current technology and development limits (which is ok given enough notice) but sometimes MORE than that rate can be sustained. So they're forcing regs that are impossible to keep up with. All car manufacturers (and in this case VW are in the spotlight, but don't believe for a second that it is not widespread) have been forced into this position by the overly strict Cali regulations and by pressure from the other manufacturers they are competing with (who are likely also cheating). Just like in my industry, when someone cheats and gets away with it, you either 'lose' or you try and get them caught or you join in. Those are you ONLY options.

European regulations have taken a more realistic view of the likely development of the internal combustion engine and worked with manufacturers in a realistic (but still strict) way - "Can you do this in 10 years? Yes? Ok, then we'll make it a requirement in 7. Or 5" kind of thing. California has always been MORE about lobby pressure from the non-car side and been more "Can you do this in ten years? No? What about 15? No? Are you sure? Well do it in 5 anyway". Lots and lots of car models and engine specs are not even sold in the US because it is just not possible to hit the Cali regs. These cars are often very good and often have very good fuel economy, but that isn't always considered. The regulations are usually per exhaust volume and not factored with actual economy - a car that produces 10% more particulates but does 25% better fuel mileage is actually cleaner per mile. But that is not taken into account.

re: California itself:

The single biggest cure for California's smog issue is raising the average age of the car owned. But there are no steps to do that. No improvements in public transport, no attempts to make a non-car driving lifestyle possible for the people that can't afford to stop using their 15-20 year old polluting pick up truck or car. California is putting all the need to get rid of the smog on the relatively small number of new cars, based on how the problem is now (when most of the cars are very old by comparison). It's stupid. They enforce regulations, then in 5 years up the strictness because the smog isn't better. Well. No shit. The cars that were built to comply with the better regulations are maybe 5-20% of the vehicle mass. How on earth would that sort of proportion of 'slightly cleaner cars' make any significant impact?

It's just... stupid. The pressure should be on vehicle volume - target the older cars and trucks (plus commercial vehicles) and find a way to get them cleaner. Or find a way to make the people that are forced to drive those cars to not need them (public transport). Consider some kind of trade in regulations (tax breaks to the dealers to allow better trade in on old cars) or some other method to allow people to move the average age of car in Cali to more a more recent vintage. If you moved the cheaper 50% of cars to be 3-5 years newer, you'd have a far, far more effective smog solution than squeezing manufacturers to produce a cleaner car in 5 years.
posted by Brockles at 7:24 AM on September 19, 2015 [26 favorites]


. Consider some kind of trade in regulations (tax breaks to the dealers to allow better trade in on old cars) or some other method to allow people to move the average age of car in Cali to more a more recent vintage. If you moved the cheaper 50% of cars to be 3-5 years newer, you'd have a far, far more effective smog solution than squeezing manufacturers to produce a cleaner car in 5 years.

Isn't California doing exactly that with their low-income subsidies for buying hybrids? I don't know how extensive the program is, but my understanding is that it is focused on precisely this problem.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:30 AM on September 19, 2015


Diesel has two advantages in terms of mileage.

One thing worth noting, however, is that Diesel can make you go further, but it will never be cleaner per mile. My friends in the industry (major motor manufacturers and consultancy firms in UK and Europe) have rued the push towards Diesel over the last 20 years purely based on mpg numbers because development was pushed in that direction at the expense of petrol/gas engines. Given clean emissions as a base starting point, there is considered to be significantly more development potential in spark and petrol based engines than in diesels. They predict that we're into the realms of diminishing returns with diesel engines and petrol still has significantly more to give.

Of course, some kind of method of mandating a maximum vehicle weight per occupant/seating position/power output would be a great way to fix all this shit. The fact that the public demands a 4000lb car to drive them and two kids around (and hence needs a 300hp engine to shove it along) is just utter nonsense and it will never be driven away by marketing so perhaps the regulation-makers can consider forcing people to get their heads out of their arses because they'll never do it on their own.
posted by Brockles at 7:33 AM on September 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


Simplify, then add lightness.

—Colin Chapman
posted by sonascope at 7:34 AM on September 19, 2015


Isn't California doing exactly that with their low-income subsidies for buying hybrids?

But that's typical token bullshit stuff - the kind of people that need to get out of their 20 year old pickups can't afford a new hybrid anyway in a million years. It's getting people out of 20 year old trucks into 10 year old cars that I am talking about. The vast majority of the population that just CAN NOT afford a new car.
posted by Brockles at 7:35 AM on September 19, 2015 [7 favorites]


Brockles, I see a massive difference between exploiting loopholes (even ones that the companies essentially wrote into law themselves) and actively working against the law like this. It isn't the same as calling a truck a car at all.
posted by Etrigan at 7:45 AM on September 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


I see a massive difference between exploiting loopholes

Not really. It's a loophole - the EPA doesn't state that they have to run the same ECU map at all times, so having different maps for different use cases is not THAT far a stretch. It is a FAR worse stretch to actively endanger millions of people's lives by marketing inherently unsafe pick up trucks as daily transport that don't even get close to hitting primary (handling) and secondary (crash) safety regulations by a massive margin.

The EPA regulations themselves need to be looked at by an independent enquiry. Cali regs have historically been draconian and often stupid in their application as they have ebbed and flowed and sometimes not even achieved that which they are intended for - see my example above of regulations like that. The diesel car produced more emissions in order to comply with the regulations as written than if it ignored them. Likewise, producing 40 times the EPA limits at the EPA measure points at the EPA test doesn't necessarily (or by any means guarantee) that the car is producing more pollutants per mile than any other complying car.

Safety regs are black and white - survivability is a requirement of passenger vehicles, it is not of trucks to the same degree. Passing off a truck as a passenger vehicle is wildly irresponsible. We need to see if the VW Diesels produce better or worse pollutants compared to their competitors outside of the EPA parameters before we can nail them to the wall as an example. There is absolutely the possibility that the spirit of less pollutants is being followed rather than the letter of the law.
posted by Brockles at 8:22 AM on September 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Regulations are always going to be imperfect. Yes there are lobbying pressures (and anti-car folks can't really hold a candle to pro-car lobbying so LOL) and yes technology changes at different speeds and in different directions than the law can predict.

But I don't think we should say that just because there are imperfections in the existing regulations, and because there are other areas where more or different regs could do more, that we shouldn't be fucking LIVID about such a blatant example of environmental and consumer fraud. We can do both. We can be mad about the VW thing, while also working towards re-writing emissions regs to be more effective, and advocating for programs that help folks get out of 20 year old cars and into better ones, and I sure as hell am all the time fighting for more and better public transit and pedestrian and cycling infrastructure. If you could talk to your pro-car lobby about not fighting those efforts that'd be great, thanks.
posted by misskaz at 8:59 AM on September 19, 2015 [7 favorites]


It's stupid. They enforce regulations, then in 5 years up the strictness because the smog isn't better.

Maybe in the short term, but the huge reductions in smog that LA has seen are one of the big success stories of the environmental movement broadly construed. It's up there with rivers that don't burn.

The fact that the public demands a 4000lb car to drive them and two kids around (and hence needs a 300hp engine to shove it along) is just utter nonsense and it will never be driven away by marketing so perhaps the regulation-makers can consider forcing people to get their heads out of their arses because they'll never do it on their own.

State-mandated and subsidized Elises!
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:14 AM on September 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


the EPA doesn't state that they have to run the same ECU map at all times

You sure about that? You've read all of the relevant statutes and regulations, and are certain there's no ass-covering clause about circumventing the tests?

We can do both.

Right. I've been enraged by the truck loophole since forever, but it's not going anywhere because yuppies love their Canyoneros. Conversely, nobody driving an Audi or a VW wants a vehicle that emits more. They may want more power than the regulations will allow for with current technology, and in that case, the proper response for the manufacturer is to make vehicles that comply with the law and lack the power their customers want, telling their customers to go take it up with the EPA if they don't like it. Instead, they've made a (probably correct) cost/benefit calculation that paying the fines associated with non-compliance will be a fraction of the cost of losing business.

I don't expect any company to do any different, but that doesn't mean I'm going to be "well, whaddya gonna do" when the companies are caught. Stricter fines and, yes, the possibility of jail time would make the companies think harder about ways to comply, and if they absolutely can't, then consumers can complain about their cars being underpowered and put pressure on the EPA to relax the regulations.

Also, the funny thing about customer demand (which you say is just forcing the companies to cheat) is that it's never 100% endogenous. Customers respond to how the companies market their vehicles, what their neighbors are driving, etc. I know several people who've bought SUVs simply because they're tired of not being able to see around other SUVs on the road, or don't want to be the one in the tiny car when a massive truck T-bones them. Acting as if this demand for larger vehicles came directly from what customers want is silly, and it's also silly to assume that everyone who wants more power would complain about it or even notice it if it weren't available.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:23 AM on September 19, 2015 [5 favorites]


which you say is just forcing the companies to cheat

No, I'm saying that because other companies have cheated to comply with them, it forces the other companies to also cheat to keep up.

Acting as if this demand for larger vehicles came directly from what customers want is silly

No it isn't. It is a fact of life in the US - car companies have regularly offered the smaller cars that are commonplace in Europe but they get dropped because nobody buys them. Because nobody wants them. That is customer demand right there. If these cars aren't being offered, then you may be able to argue that, but the only sales of genuinely small cars of any significance in the US is to rental companies. Customers do not want small cars - they don't sell and so they get withdrawn again.

it's also silly to assume that everyone who wants more power would complain about it or even notice it if it weren't available.
So.... almost all adverts mention the power the car has .... just for fun? The public wouldn't even care? THAT is silly. Power output is a huge selling point in the US, despite how little most people actually need or want it - they demand it because it is perceived as better by their neighbours and peers. Not purely because the car manufacturers say it is. Spend some time listening to people in a car sales environment and hear what people say. Even the ones that don't care about going fast.

I can see there not being a big fuss if the levels of power weren't universally unavailable, but in order for that to happen this would have to be done through legislation because car makers are not going to forgo a very powerful selling tool any other way. Personal transport shouldn't need more than 50hp + maybe 20hp per additional passenger. Crash safety regs and reasonable comfort could be achieved with a car of around 2000lbs or so. But getting the general public to buy into that step back in power and comfort (sound deadening and all the electronic bells and whistles really adds up in weight) will take more than fancy marketing. It will need to be forced on people through forcing it on the manufacturers.
posted by Brockles at 9:35 AM on September 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


be fucking LIVID about such a blatant example of environmental and consumer fraud.

I agree to some extent, but as a thought experiment, consider the fuel usage of commercial aviation during the time period involved. Consider also the pollution inherent in even getting that small number of cars here from their point of origin (container vessel fuel, etc). Start adding that up and the amount of TOTAL pollutants from these cars doesn't even register. Just transporting the components for the number of cars involved in this produced more pollution than any of them could hope to put out in their life time. Stopping one or two commercial flights into LAX a month would have a far greater effect on overall pollution levels than anything those VW's could hope to produce.

Perspective. Automotive manufacturers are always the scapegoats because people see cars all the time and so assume they are the bigger problem. This is such a tiny, tiny (almost insignificant) impact environmentally compared to so many other issues - commercial boat traffic usage, Semi-trailer fuel economy (why are there no aerodynamic aids like in Europe to reduce drag?), aviation fuel economy, coal fired power station emissions etc that the furore over this is utterly disproportionate.
posted by Brockles at 9:41 AM on September 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


Or consider car racing. What kind of emissions tests do those cars have to meet? How much pollution is put into the air by people driving cars in circles for fun and marketing?
posted by misskaz at 10:01 AM on September 19, 2015


No, I'm saying that because other companies have cheated to comply with them, it forces the other companies to also cheat to keep up.

What forced the first company to cheat? And since when do companies have a right to do whatever it takes to "keep up" with the other cheaters?

car companies have regularly offered the smaller cars that are commonplace in Europe but they get dropped because nobody buys them. Because nobody wants them. That is customer demand right there. [...] they demand it because it is perceived as better by their neighbours and peers. Not purely because the car manufacturers say it is.

I said that how manufacturers market their vehicles influences demand, not that it constitutes the entirety of demand. I acknowledge that some demand comes from customers, while you refuse to acknowledge the companies' own roles in shaping customer demand with their product offerings and marketing. It's a mixture of both, and because we know the car companies wanted to skirt emissions and safety regulations with the truck loophole, it's quite easy to connect the dots between when the SUV craze started and when people started wanting SUVs. Some of the demand surely comes from "hey, I'd like a giant truck-like car so I can put kids and cargo in it", some surely comes from "I'd like to be the one who survives the car wreck", but some also comes from "boy, these SUVs are everywhere, and the manufacturers are marketing the shit out of them and lowering prices on them because they want to make more of them to avoid regulations." It's a mixture, and your insistence on putting a vast majority of the blame on consumers is bordering on bad faith.

But getting the general public to buy into that step back in power and comfort (sound deadening and all the electronic bells and whistles really adds up in weight) will take more than fancy marketing. It will need to be forced on people through forcing it on the manufacturers.

Yes, that's exactly what some of us want to do -- force the car makers to comply with the law.

BTW, could you please respond to my question about whether you've actually read the statutes and EPA regulations that would back up your statement that the EPA doesn't have any regulatory language banning circumvention of the tests?
posted by tonycpsu at 10:15 AM on September 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


car companies have regularly offered the smaller cars that are commonplace in Europe but they get dropped because nobody buys them. Because nobody wants them.

Yeah, because they're undrivable pieces of shit. Before I got my diesel Jetta, I used to rent a LOT of cars for work travel. Enterprise once tried to give me a Fiat. I don't think of myself as particularly long-legged, but even with the seat 100% back my knees were shoved up to my chin. Sometimes it's a question of driveability and not just what the Joneses think.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 10:24 AM on September 19, 2015


Perspective. Automotive manufacturers are always the scapegoats because people see cars all the time and so assume they are the bigger problem. This is such a tiny, tiny (almost insignificant) impact environmentally compared to so many other issues - commercial boat traffic usage, Semi-trailer fuel economy (why are there no aerodynamic aids like in Europe to reduce drag?), aviation fuel economy, coal fired power station emissions etc that the furore over this is utterly disproportionate.

Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Transportation Sector:
The Transportation sector includes the movement of people and goods by cars, trucks, trains, ships, airplanes, and other vehicles. The majority of greenhouse gas emissions from transportation are CO2 emissions resulting from the combustion of petroleum-based products, like gasoline, in internal combustion engines. The largest sources of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions include passenger cars and light-duty trucks, including sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks, and minivans. These sources account for over half of the emissions from the sector. The remainder of greenhouse gas emissions comes from other modes of transportation, including freight trucks, commercial aircraft, ships, boats, and trains as well as pipelines and lubricants.
[emphasis mine]

The EPA says the "transportation" sector is 27% of overall greenhouse gas emissions, and that passenger vehicles is over half that, so it's somewhere north of 13.5% of emissions.

So yeah, I get what you're saying, it's only a piece of the puzzle and it's not like if we all stopped driving tomorrow our emissions problems would be solved, but I wouldn't call it "tiny" or "almost insignificant", especially when some of the other examples you give, such as aviation and freight, are explicitly identified by the EPA as having less of an impact.
posted by jcreigh at 10:38 AM on September 19, 2015 [8 favorites]


Or consider car racing. What kind of emissions tests do those cars have to meet? How much pollution is put into the air by people driving cars in circles for fun and marketing?

Zero emissions regulations or checking for full race cars. There are relatively stringent (in racing terms) with fuel economy in the top classes, but pretty lax further down. Then again, race cars don't actually do that many miles in a year (much less than you imagine) so while they use a lot of fuel when they run, they spend most of their time in the workshop.

Also, an awful lot of fuel economy and efficiency development is done in racing so it's not at all just 'fun and marketing'.

I wouldn't call it "tiny" or "almost insignificant",

Yeah, I wasn't clear. I meant these VW diesels. They are a vanishingly small proportion of that 13.5% of total number of passenger vehicles (VW sales are dwarfed even by F150 sales alone in the US never mind anything else). There just aren't that many of them in the US total so they're a blip within 13.5%. It can see how it could read like I was saying 'the 13.5% is tiny', so just clarifying.
posted by Brockles at 10:53 AM on September 19, 2015


Yeah, I wasn't clear. I meant these VW diesels.

Ah, that makes much more sense! Sorry, I honestly read your comment the other way, I genuinely wasn't trying to be uncharitable in my interpretation.
posted by jcreigh at 11:18 AM on September 19, 2015


since when do companies have a right to do whatever it takes to "keep up" with the other cheaters?

I didn't suggest anything of the sort. I used it to strongly suggest that this is very much likely to be NOT just VW.

your insistence on putting a vast majority of the blame on consumers is bordering on bad faith.

Not at all. It's baffling to me that you don't think that demand is the greater driver than (ability to) supply. People buy the more powerful and bigger versions of cars because that's what they want. So the manufacturers have shifted their ranges to suit the median demand and so size and power or vehicles has risen constantly over time. As a result of reacting to demand.
posted by Brockles at 11:51 AM on September 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Brockles makes some good points. Still, I don't like liars and cheats. Regardless of whether there are other liars and cheats around. Hats off to the good folks at EPA and their friends who caught this issue. I hope the net effect is to make the auto industry a little more honest.

We just purchased a new (non-diesel) VW a few days ago. Going over the differences between the various models, diesel included, the salesman went out of his way to emphasize that we shouldn't pay too much attention to the listed MPG -- on the road, some cars get 10 MPG more, some get 10 MPG less. Eyebrows raised. Now I know a bit more about why that is.
posted by brambleboy at 12:17 PM on September 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


I didn't suggest anything of the sort. I used it to strongly suggest that this is very much likely to be NOT just VW.

Your own words were: "Just like in my industry, when someone cheats and gets away with it, you either 'lose' or you try and get them caught or you join in. Those are you ONLY options. "

Of course, there is another option -- you take the less profitable path that complies with the regulations. This can be done in conjunction with your "try to and get them caught" -- i.e. notifying regulators that you think your competition is cheating. I don't expect any for-profit company to take the less profitable path, but it's false to say it's not an option.

It's baffling to me that you don't think that demand is the greater driver than (ability to) supply. People buy the more powerful and bigger versions of cars because that's what they want.

And the fact that the big-ass SUVs let them get around emissions and safety regs, loopholes that we know they've lobbied to protect, is just a happy accident that just happened to align with an uptick in customer demand? Please.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:19 PM on September 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


Do I Godwin the thread if I answer this question?
What, nobody's done this already?
Ahem...
You know who else designed Volkswagens?
posted by Trinity-Gehenna at 12:32 PM on September 19, 2015


When I bought my Prius back in 2009 I got into a bit of an online argument with a TDI diesel owner over the supposed superiority of clean diesel over hybrid engines, at least for gas mileage and (he claimed) price vs. environmental impact.

I'd love to see his face now.
posted by lhauser



Revelling in someone's misfortune 6 years later is what makes the world go round.
posted by futz at 12:34 PM on September 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


Your own words were: "Just like in my industry, when someone cheats and gets away with it, you either 'lose' or you try and get them caught or you join in. Those are you ONLY options. "

Exactly. Consistent with my point as it has been all along that unless VW are head and shoulders above the competition (which they are not) then someone else is doing it too. Nobody is demonstrably losing, nobody from another automotive manufacturer blew the whistle (according to the information here) so option c is the other guys are cheating too.

So, to reiterate that which you seem to be not understanding - this is not just about VW. This will be industry consistent if not standard.

I don't expect any for-profit company to take the less profitable path, but it's false to say it's not an option.

This would be the 'losing' path. Making less money and less sales by having a perceived inferior product. The three options are the only options. You're just not recognising them. To stay competitive you are forced to cheat to join your competition or you lose and take the high road or you lose and you blow the whistle.

the fact that the big-ass SUVs let them get around emissions and safety regs, loopholes that we know they've lobbied to protect, is just a happy accident that just happened to align with an uptick in customer demand?

*sigh*.

The money they saved making these things and not needing to spend the money on development and safety/emissions stuff means they were able to drop prices and increase sales. Then once demand built (which it has) the prices have gone back up again. With the resulting uptick in profits. Which is why they protect the loopholes. ALL driven by demand, but that demand helped or shaped (not created) by marketing. Predominately customer demand. It doesn't matter how cheap you make something if nobody wants it.
posted by Brockles at 12:43 PM on September 19, 2015 [6 favorites]


You know who else designed Volkswagens?

Hans Ledwinka?
posted by sonascope at 1:44 PM on September 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


Clean diesel = oxymoron

Otto
Otto
Otto
Otto
posted by caddis at 2:12 PM on September 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


You know who else designed Volkswagens?

Hans Ledwinka?


(Does some googling...) So the whole AH designed the VW thing's been debunked, I'll be durned!
Way to go ruining my shitty joke, Sonascope! ;)
posted by Trinity-Gehenna at 3:48 PM on September 19, 2015


Or consider car racing. What kind of emissions tests do those cars have to meet? How much pollution is put into the air by people driving cars in circles for fun and marketing?

Less pollution than the semi-trucks that are idling in a single day in those cities where the races are ran?*

*Pet peeve of mine: 95% of all commercial vehicles ignoring the municipal ban on idling for more than 5 minutes.
posted by el io at 5:17 PM on September 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty curious to see what the lawsuit remedies are going to be for consumers. Lots of people are saying that the "clean" claim was why they bought the car in the first place. I wonder if someone who bought a car new would have a claim for the full purchase price of the vehicle plus taxes and interest paid. What about people who bought one of these cars used, and what about the original purchasers of these cars? This is going to be an interesting case to watch unfold.
posted by azpenguin at 6:21 PM on September 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wonder if someone who bought a car new would have a claim for the full purchase price of the vehicle plus taxes and interest paid.

I very much doubt it, but... I don't know. Unless we know what precisely the performance hit is on the car to run compliant full time it will be hard to judge. The car will not be useless, just not quite as fast (or perhaps as fuel efficient even) as it was sold to be, so I'd have thought it wouldn't be full value. but a representative percentage value?

But since when did logic enter settlements, I guess. If VW are forced to do a recall to maintain EPA compliance and they go through with it, that undermines the personal cases, I suspect, because they have a perfectly usable and compliant car. I feel like the cars can't be THAT different when compliant or the tester would (or at least should) have noticed a step difference in performance between driving the car to the test and performing the test. If the difference is minor in performance or the settle with the EPA (meeting halfway on compliance maybe?) then it knocks the bottom out of the personal cases I'd have thought.
posted by Brockles at 6:47 PM on September 19, 2015


It's not just direct cash back that a suit might pursue. But, even a 5% change in fuel economy, which is hard to perceive but significant, is worth about $1,000 over a 200,000 mile life of a TDI engine. Plus, free lifetime replacement of exhaust system components. Plus free lifetime diagnostics for check engine light and other exhaust system potentially related errors.

That's what I think is fair financial compensation for actual direct damages. I'd expect a civil class action suit to also pursue damages around performance, consequential claims, etc.

I hope this prompts a systematic discovery effort to see if other manufacturers are doing this as well. But, it doesn't change the direct impact that I described above. And frankly, if the outcome is similar to the aviation industry in the seventies to early eighties we just find that all the lawsuits increase the costs of cars from established companies enough that we move to our self-driving Uber Tesla future that much more quickly.
posted by meinvt at 5:36 AM on September 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


That's what I think is fair financial compensation for actual direct damages.

But there are no direct damages to the customer at this stage (I *think* that's what you're saying too). Because the car is already working in the optimum efficiency range for fuel economy, but not in particulate emissions. So the only damages a personal case could argue would be the loss of efficiency going forward from the time the car is made compliant by VW. And how do you value 'ongoing increase in fuel consumption' or more likely 'ongoing slight loss of power'. Free replacement of emissions related equipment? Sure. But compensating for loss of power? Difficult.

It will be a very tricky case - the people in the process of buying one could walk away (possibly also those within warranty period) on the basis they were sold a non-compliant car, but it will be hard to argue without some good reading of the brochures that the customer was promised a car with EPA compliance, or promised one with xmpg and xbhp.
posted by Brockles at 9:06 AM on September 20, 2015


I'm thinking you'd get in an increase in MPG, a decrease in the power-band somewhere and your turbo would work harder to overcome that, maybe reducing the life of the turbo if you do something stupid like chip your car to increase HP. And maybe some more gunk build-up in your exhaust manifold over time?
posted by Annika Cicada at 12:54 PM on September 20, 2015


At the end of the day I think this was motivated by wanting to market to the American desire for horsepower and a whitewashed desire to have that power come "clean" being held above the demand of the EPA to reduce NoX emissions.
posted by Annika Cicada at 12:58 PM on September 20, 2015


"The regulations actually produced a car that gave out more particulates per mile of travel than the car was capable of."

As usual, as a car industry apologist, brockles is only presenting half the picture. There is typically a trade off in diesel tuning between particulate pollution and nitrogen oxide pollution. If you improve one you tend to make the other worse. Particulates are bad but they may kill you in 20 or 30 years if you get lung cancer. Nitrogen oxides will kill you today -- and primarily kills children. So the entire discussion about particulates is an irrelevant distraction from the fact that VW was violating the more deadly nitrogen oxide limits. In the VW case they were exceeding nitrogen oxide limits by 40 times. This is the stuff that kills kids. VW chose to kill kids to make money.

Cali regs have historically been draconian and often stupid in their application.

Yet more auto industry whining. California has been at the forefront of pushing industry innovation even though the auto industry had to be dragged kicking and screaming. It has been nearly impossible to pass federal auto air pollution standards because of Republicans in Congress. However California was able to push their own standards independently, and because they are the country's largest auto market, they pulled the rest of the country with them and auto makers were forced to comply. Without California regulations, we wouldn't have the cleaner cars we have today.

The single biggest cure for California's smog issue is raising the average age of the car owned.

I'm assuming he meant lowering the average age. But you know the best way of getting 20-year-old polluting cars off the road -- its regulating auto pollution 20 years ago. And that is what California has been doing for decades. Despite the tripling of automobiles in California since the 1960s, air pollution is less in Los Angeles than back then because automobiles are 100 times cleaner. And auto makers have bitterly fought California every inch of the way.

Automotive manufacturers are always the scapegoats because people see cars all the time and so assume they are the bigger problem. This is such a tiny, tiny (almost insignificant) impact environmentally compared to so many other issues ... Semi-trailer fuel economy (why are there no aerodynamic aids like in Europe to reduce drag?)

Ignoring the ridiculous tiny, tiny BS, you know who has passed new regulations already taking effect restricting heavy duty truck pollutants and mandated aerodynamic improvements -- yep, California, "draconian and stupid" according to you.

To stay competitive you are forced to cheat to join your competition or you lose and take the high road or you lose and you blow the whistle.

Gee, three choices yet VW chose only the first and decided children's lives were unimportant. May the VW execs burn in hell.
posted by JackFlash at 2:08 PM on September 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


As usual, as a car industry apologist, brockles is only presenting half the picture.

As an unnecessarily unpleasant attack, that misses the point somewhat. The example I was referring to was one where the projected regulation result (reducing diesel particulates) was written in such a way that actually increased the overall particulates the vehicle produced compared to what it was capable of. Nox emissions were not part of that equation at the time (this was from a vehicle developed over 15 years ago).

It was an example of the regulations not being written in a manner that best allowed the result they were hoping to achieve. I have no issue with regulations for cleanliness of automotive engines (I don't work in mainstream automotive, so it won't affect me in the slightest either way) but I do find it stupid that badly written regulations have caused dumb solutions.

But you know the best way of getting 20-year-old polluting cars off the road -- its regulating auto pollution 20 years ago.

Not right now it isn't. Without a time machine. In hindsight, and given the advances in auto production capability, it would make more sense to move the lower 10-20% of cars (oldest ones) into slightly newer cars. Then we'd only be dealing with vehicles that are within the more strict last 15 years of regulations.

Not sure how that is apologising for the automotive industry. Bizarre accusation, frankly.

Ignoring the ridiculous tiny, tiny BS

As clarified above, the VW cars in question are a tiny, tiny proportion of the passenger vehicles producing emissions in the US. This is not BS, this is fact.

you know who has passed new regulations already taking effect restricting heavy duty truck pollutants and mandated aerodynamic improvements -- yep, California

Yet they've been screwing passenger cars into the ground for years, yet aren't even close to the emissions regulations for commercial that Europe has had for more than 20 years. Commercial traffic has been a blindspot for emissions regs for decades in the US. FINALLY getting their head out of their arse about it doesn't make it less dumb they've largely fallen behind for a couple of decades.
posted by Brockles at 2:49 PM on September 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


To stay competitive you are forced to cheat to join your competition or you lose and take the high road or you lose and you blow the whistle.

Actually, no. VW chose to avoid competing to build cleaner gasoline engines. Their entire shtick was we're different. We can go 45 miles a gallon and get 600 miles to a tank. We have clean diesels. But that was a lie. They were spewing toxic nitrogen oxides at 40 times the regulated limit.

The way you get high fuel mileage with a diesel is you lean out the mixture. And when you lean out the mixture, you drastically increase nitrogen oxides. So VW's entire marketing pitch was based on secretly increasing emissions.

So VW wasn't forced to cheat due to competition. It was explicitly trying to avoid competition with cleaner gasoline cars by lying. How many Jettas would VW have sold if they didn't intentionally put in a dirty diesel?
posted by JackFlash at 4:04 PM on September 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


VW already have some very good petrol engines to put against their competitors. They didn't avoid building them at all - they are there in the range. Diesels are an addition to that range, not some replacement because they didn't want to build petrol engines.

It's competing with other diesel manufacturers, and the efficiencies of that engine, that is the issue. My personal suspicion is that VW spent a LOT of money developing that engine in Europe and were hoping to pitch it against hybrid cars over here in the large US market as a way of amortising development costs per volume. But they were not pitched directly against petrol engines.
posted by Brockles at 4:47 PM on September 20, 2015


The ways the cars ought to be pitched is they have good city driving "off the light" boost with a quick topping out of power about 35-40 mph and a long range cruise distance of 600-900 miles per tank depending on the driving conditions.

That's what my 2003 beetle did (at albeit 2003 standards, but it was also a 90hp ALH engine, a hamster compared to the latest generation TDI's) There's no reason to cheat the U.S. standards. A 150 hp TDI is a hell of a lot of engine...
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:10 PM on September 20, 2015


I initially misinterpreted the title as West Virginia and found it to make just as much sense.

Turns out there is a West Virginia connection. Researchers at West Virginia University were the first to uncover the defeat software.
posted by JackFlash at 7:30 PM on September 20, 2015 [2 favorites]




It's a big premature to be saying things like "XYZ is the only thing owners would be affected by" when the news is this fresh.

There are tons of ways this would affect current owners, and many of those may be something a class-action suit could handle. It's not really even clear which cars are affected, VW has released some information, but there doesn't appear to be independent verification. So, good luck to owners with a model year just next to the affected range trying to sell your car used under this shit news. (HI ME!)
posted by odinsdream at 6:26 AM on September 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


What is real.

1) These cars are in fact illegal to drive on public roads! The regulations do not specify that they have to run a certain level of emissions during a test, they state that they have to run a certain level of emissions, period.

This talk of loopholes and "well, they didn't say which ECU map..." is nonsense.* These cars were sold with an ECU that would detect being tested on a dyno and change the ECU map to make sure that the EPA, when testing them on a dyno, would see legal emissions and certify the car for sale. They were caught because CARB, wanting to make sure that the dyno tests they were doing reflected real world conditions, also started testing actual emissions in the real world, and the VW TDIs were a massive outlier in the difference between dyno and real world emissions.

So, they told the EPA. The EPA asked VW. VM hemmed and hawed. The EPA said "We're not going to issue 2016 compliance certificates until we understand this" -- read "You cannot sell your 2016 TDI until we understand this. Then VW confessed.

You cannot sell a car in the US without that certification. That certification for these cars was obtained by fraud. That means that certificate is invalid, thus, those cars were never legal to be sold.

2) They defrauded the government by making an ECU that would detecting testing, then remap to comply with the standards, then turn off when the car was on the road. So, not only are they non compliant, we have both prima facia evidence and VWs admission that they deliberately wrote the ECU software to deceive the government. Being noncompliant is not a big deal, as long you don't sell the cars. Being noncompliant and selling the cars is a big deal. Deliberately lying to the government gets you thrown in jail. People in prison is very much a possible end state of this.

3) They also deliberately defrauded customers who were led to believe they could get that level of performance, milage and emissions. Many people buying VW's TDIs buy them because they are significantly "cleaner" than other cars, all told. Except of course, they aren't, they are in fact much worse than any other turbodiesel out there. And, of course, they sold them a car that's not legal to own or drive in the US while assuring them it was.

4) Talking about the stupidity of "Light Duty Truck" laws in the US is a derail. Yes, they are stupid and need to change. However, VW didn't sell these as light duty trucks, they sold them as passenger cars, and they are required to follow the rules for that class of vehicle.

5) This is much different than the GM ignition safety issue. There, we are dealing with an engineering defect. There was no intent, the ignition was not designed to do that. It was just poorly designed and failed badly. While GM dragged their feet for quite a while -- which is why they were fined $900M, they did acknowledge the defect and are recalling the cars, and it has been very clear that this is a failed part.

VW has explicitly built a system to fraudulently obtain EPA certification for cars that would not come close to meeting the required emission standards. GM tried, and failed, to build a safe ignition. VW intentionally did this. VW is not going to walk away with a $900M fine for this.

6) The number that's been kicked about -- $37,500 per car, $18.5B total, is not the maximum! That's the maximum EPA fine. We haven't even touched "defrauding the government."

What is going to happen.

1) VW is going to be forced to repurchase every single one of these cars and destroy them. They can't fix the ECU maps without hurting performance, milage, and probably reliability. People aren't going to want TDIs that are significantly down on power and mileage. Since the cars were illegal to sell in the US (because they never in fact complied with emission regulations, that certification being obtained by fraud.)

Basically every dollar that every person has paid to VW, and the interest on that, is going to be paid back to them. This will be enforced very simply -- those cars are going to get the "do not register" flag in everybody's database, and when you go to renew the registration, you will not be able to. Then, you have only a few choices -- let VW buy it back at full price, eat the loss, or race the thing.

2) TDI racing might become a thing if enough people say "fuck that" and decide to race them. Race cars don't need any of this -- you can't drive them on the road anyway. Rip out the interior, put in a cage, put race tires on and you've got a race car. Modify from there -- this could finally make diesel a real thing in racing.

3) If VW doesn't play ball, their cars will all be barred from sale. That means no VWs, no Audis, no Porsches, and a bunch of playtoy cars like Bentley, Lambos, Rolls-Royce and the like. We'd also lose SEAT and Škoda, but little loss in this market. So, they will play ball -- they have to, or the US market disappears. That will get the board fired.

4) The real question will be "How long has this been going on." Right now, this is only effecting 2015 and 2016 TDIs, but that particular line of engines have been in models since, IIRC, 2008.

5) Emissions testing is going to get a lot more annoying for everybody, because nobody with a clue is going to trust the ECU to tell you that the emissions controls are working correctly after this. Those VW TDIs passed every one of those tests. There are going to be tailpipe tests, and a number of them are going to involve road tests. And you are going to pay for it in higher testing fees, and you can thank VW for this.

6) If you have a 2008-2014 VW TDI, you have no resale or trade in value right now. If it's found the same ECU fraud occurred there, then your resale value will jump to 100% of purchase price with VW, and 0 almost everybody else. If racing VW TDIs becomes a thing, then there would be some value in your car, but there are fair number of them, only so many racers, and thus the market would probably be saturated pretty quickly. But hey, $500 beats $0.

7) This will probably hurt diesel passenger car sales in the US, period. Not many other people did them, and I think we can see why. They couldn't match VW's numbers. Well, they couldn't match VW's *claimed* numbers, because VW couldn't match VW's numbers either. Now every TDI will be stared at really hard, and those numbers will be real, and part of the TDI advantage over gasoline will disappear. If enough of that does, then TDIs die.

8) Yes, we still need to fix the Light Duty Truck nonsense, but again, that is a derail.

9) There may be a class action suit as well, but when VW is forced to repurchase these cars, much of the harm would evaporate. Effectively, people who bought these would have been given free car usage for X years. However, I'm sure some lawyers somewhere will come up with something, and so, don't rule that out.

10) EVERY SINGLE CAR by VW Group is about to get the inspection of its life. Audi owners? Pray they didn't do similar stupid things with your cars -- because if they did, your car will be in the exact same boat as the TDI VWs, unsellable and quite possibly illegal to drive or public roads.



* And yes, if you remap your ECU and it increases emissions over the limit, your car is also that way. However, if detected, it would be clear that this is not the factory's fault, because the ECU map was different than the at-sold map.
posted by eriko at 7:59 AM on September 21, 2015 [21 favorites]


Yet they've been screwing passenger cars into the ground for years, yet aren't even close to the emissions regulations for commercial that Europe has had for more than 20 years.

Oh, hush.

Passenger cars today are vastly better than they have ever been. The engines are better, cleaner and more reliable. The cars handle better and stop better. They are vastly safer.

If that's being "screwed into the ground", then MORE MORE MORE!

Your big defense is "Those guys are allowed to be messy why can't we?" I would have thought you better than to bust out an argument that a four year old finds compelling. Yes, trucks need to be cleaned up but that has nothing to do with this situation. I also think we need to fix banking regulations, but you don't see me defending VW because Bank of America.
posted by eriko at 8:07 AM on September 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


A correction to the above 1). The issue apparently was first really detailed by the International Council on Clean Transportation, a NGO in Europe, trying to figure out why CARB saw such a difference between the dyno/road tests. They used equipment from the University of West Virginia to conduct the road tests and various dynos for dyno tests, and apparently found a way to shift the thing out of dyno mode while on a dyno.

The NGO was actually trying to prove that the TDI clean diesel was clean, but when they got the opposite result, they sent a note to CARB saying "Hey, we saw this, and check this out."

The rest was as detailed -- CARB went to the EPA, they opened a formal investigation, VW offered a lame excuse, the EPA said "No 2016 TDI for you until we know what this is all about" and the truth was out.

Also, I was wrong about the years -- it's 2009-current. 2008 VW diesel owners can sort of relax. You're still stuck with a VW diesel, which will be a hard sell, but you're not looking at not being able to register the car and drive it.
posted by eriko at 8:20 AM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Fascinating. Turns out that VW's new CEO, Martin Winterkorn, used to be the head of VW R&D. This makes for the classic "What did he know, and when did he know it."

So far, VW's stock is not dealing with this very well, now at €130.20, a three year low.
posted by eriko at 8:31 AM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Until we had ULSD in the US, nobody but VW was willing to bring diesels over

Point of order: My sister once owned a 1960 M-B 190D.

1. [E]very dollar that every person has paid to VW, and the interest on that, is going to be paid back to them.

2. [T]hose cars are going to get the "do not register" flag in everybody's database, and when you go to renew the registration, you will not be able to.

Eriko, I will bet you $50 each to your favourite charity that neither of these two things, as stated, will happen.
 
posted by Herodios at 8:40 AM on September 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yes, we still need to fix the Light Duty Truck nonsense, but again, that is a derail.

Yes, it's a stupid derail because its very old news. SUVs, mini-vans and pickup trucks have had the same emission standards as light passenger vehicles starting in 2004.
posted by JackFlash at 8:43 AM on September 21, 2015


We are about to find out if Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates memo last week is for real or just words:

"The rules have just changed. Effective today, if a company wants any consideration for its cooperation, it must give up the individuals, no matter where they sit within the company. And we’re not going to let corporations plead ignorance. If they don’t know who is responsible, they will need to find out. If they want any cooperation credit, they will need to investigate and identify the responsible parties, then provide all non-privileged evidence implicating those individuals."
posted by JackFlash at 8:53 AM on September 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


eriko: " If it's found the same ECU fraud occurred there, then your resale value will jump to 100% of purchase price with VW, and 0 almost everybody else."

Has this ever been the case for a buy back? The only other one I'm familiar with (the Dakota R/T Towing capacity buyback) owners were offered purchase price - a per mile discount.
posted by Mitheral at 1:05 PM on September 21, 2015




The cheating is fascinating; reminds me of anecdotes/urban legends of compilers emitting specially-optimized code when they recognize Dhrystone, and of video card drivers cheating on 3DMark benchmarks.

Customers do not want small cars - they don't sell and so they get withdrawn again.

I see a lot of Fiat 500s on the roads around here; but yeah, a whole lot more Ford F-150s.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 2:43 PM on September 21, 2015


Passenger cars today are vastly better than they have ever been. The engines are better, cleaner and more reliable. The cars handle better and stop better. They are vastly safer.

Right. My point was ... commercial vehicles are shockingly bad by comparison. Yet nothing has been done about them until comparatively recently. US commercial emissions regulations is behind Europe, which is saying something.

Yes, it's a stupid derail because its very old news. SUVs, mini-vans and pickup trucks have had the same emission standards as light passenger vehicles starting in 2004.

Commercial vehicles. COMMERCIAL vehicles. That get 5mpg.

Yegads, people. It doesn't need to be one or the other that gets controlled. But it DOES smack of victimisation if one industry gets hammered for something when another uses maybe 100 times the fuel and doesn't even have half as strict emissions regulations. COMMERCIAL vehicles - ie semi trucks and the like.
posted by Brockles at 7:16 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Victimisation.

Regulations are based on laws, which are voted on by legislators, who are elected by people. Corporations, entities that exist only in law, allow groups of people to act as a single entity, in this case, the for-profit company known as Volkswagen of America. This entity broke laws, and they did so knowingly. But somehow in your mind, because the rules they broke don't make logical sense to you, they're the... victims? Seriously?
posted by tonycpsu at 7:29 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Your big defense is "Those guys are allowed to be messy why can't we?" I

You appear to be too worked up to read. That was not at all what I was saying. It was nothing related to 'we should be as dirty as the lowest common denominator' it was 'why does nobody care as much *about* that lowest denominator? Why is SOME of this massive ire and venom not being directed to the huge number of vehicles on the road that don't even have comparable controls to passenger vehicles from even a decade ago? If everyone cares so much about pollution, where is the ire at the true polluters on the road? Why is suddenly everyone up in arms over an emissions issue that is easily an order of magnitude smaller (in fact many times more) than that thrown onto the roads by semi trucks every day. Because people don't know any better. Ignorance is not an excuse. If you want to get upset about emissions then fucking educate yourselves as to what is being pumped into the air and by what. It sure as shit isn't VW diesels causing the issue.

None of which, of course, makes what VW did any more legal. I haven't said it was acceptable, nor right, nor apologised for it - just tried to explain some other points of view on it. But perspective is called for. No matter what bad VW has done, it's still - in all reality - almost nothing in terms of actual units of pollution compared to that which semi trucks and commercial trucks/trains and the like push out every single day.

Lobby for better commercial vehicle regulations. Lobby for better maritime regulations. THEN it's easier to take all this OUTRAGE over a very small number of cars: 480,000 or so over 7 years- compare to 2 million active tractor trailer units using 8 times or more fuel, travelling 10-20 times further and burning fuel at a more polluting level. There are vehicles that are permitted to produce orders of magnitude more pollution than even the faulty VW's produce when not compliant.

In short, if you care about this, then start looking at the REAL culprits. Drag VW over the coals for cheating sure, but don't pat yourselves on the back when you've finished howling for execs to be sent to jail, because this issue of these cars truly is the tiniest tip of the iceberg for vehicle pollution in the US.
posted by Brockles at 7:32 PM on September 21, 2015


This entity broke laws, and they did so knowingly. But somehow in your mind, because the rules they broke don't make logical sense to you, they're the... victims?

There seem to be people in this thread that can't read.
posted by Brockles at 7:33 PM on September 21, 2015


You used the word. Own it. It doesn't matter if tractor trailers or container ships pollute more, the regulations are what they are, and this company violated them. Calling them victims is asinine, no matter how much sense you think the regs make.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:37 PM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well sure, but what is the point of the regulation if people can disregard them with out meaningful consequences? That's why this VW thing pisses me off so much. It's flaunting the law. If standards were tightened on commercial transport what is going to encourage the operators to not pull a VW if there isn't actual noticeable fines and/or jail time? See for example those jerk offs "rolling coal". Any light truck caught doing that should be impounded and held till significant fines are paid. Like BC street racing penalties:
In addition to penalties and fines from associated charges, the vehicle used in a street race will be immediately impounded for 7 days at the owner’s expense (or up to 60 days – see more) and the driver will be prohibited from driving for a minimum of 15 days. Depending on the severity of the street racing incident and the driver’s record, their licence could be suspended for up to 24 additional months. The vehicle used in the race may also be seized for forfeiture under the Civil Forfeiture Act.
And I can be pissed about more than one thing at a time but this thread is about VW's malfeasance not abuses of lobbying by big transport.
posted by Mitheral at 7:44 PM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Calling them victims is asinine, no matter how much sense you think the regs make.

Yeah, you're really not capable of reading. Not once have I called VW victims. I have said the passenger car sector is unfairly targeted, but only unfairly because the commercial sector (in the US) hasn't even had the same ramping of emissions regulations and efficiency requirements that even Europe demands. The US is far in advance of Euro regs for passenger vehicles, but far behind in commercial vehicles.

People in this thread are up in arms because VW has POLLUTED OUR COUNTRY with the kind of increase in pollutants that your average semi truck throws out every time it starts and drives out the truckstop. My issue - right from the very start - is that this ire and venom is misguided because in context with the rest of the transportation industry these few VW cars are a drop in the bucket.

So why is there not threads on here calling for the heads of the legislators for the shitty and awful truck and trailer regulations in the US? Because people don't know any better. It's easier for them to get all upset at VW because maybe they have one or may have bought one. But look at the damn numbers. Be mad all you want but ALSO be mad at the real pollutants in your country.

So mainly it pisses me off that people are so blithely ignorant of what is being thrown into their atmospheres every single day that just because a violation is presented to them with a bow on makes it a BIG DEAL, when in the bigger picture it really isn't IN THE CONTEXT OF THE POLLUTION LEVELS.

VW should be dragged over the coals for breaking the regulations, or there's no point having regulations. But lets use this ire and anger and do something actually effective with it. Point the spotlight onto the real issue, which is (for instance) clouds of black crap belching out the back of 4-5mpg semi trucks 24/7 on your roads. If you don't care about that MORE than this, you're not understanding the situation. At all.
posted by Brockles at 7:48 PM on September 21, 2015


US commercial emissions regulations is behind Europe, which is saying something.

What are you going on about? U.S. emissions standards for heavy duty trucks have been equal or stronger than the EU since at least the early 1990s. Blithely ignorant, you say?

But it DOES smack of victimisation if one industry gets hammered for something when another uses maybe 100 times the fuel and doesn't even have half as strict emissions regulations.

Trucks don't use 100 times the fuel. In aggregate, which is all that matters, trucks use less than 30% of the fuel that passenger cars use. So it makes sense to put emphasis on the largest fuel users first. You do not understand the math. At all.
posted by JackFlash at 7:54 PM on September 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


[I get that you guys have been deep into this conversation for days now, but it looks to be trending unnecessarily personal -- maybe just dial it back a notch, take a break if you need to cool off a bit?]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:56 PM on September 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


I can be pissed about more than one thing at a time but this thread is about VW's malfeasance not abuses of lobbying by big transport.

I can respect that point of view, because you're completely right. Companies that try and circumvent regulations SHOULD be punished and nailed to the floor. But all this 'Won't you think of the CHILDREN' hand-wavey pollution shit is just mindless. It shows no real understanding of where actual pollution levels come from, but just anger over easily accessible facts and no knowledge of the actual numbers. A non-compliant VW is about 1 in 529 cars on the road. Each of those VW's use in their lifetime maybe (MAYBE) as much fuel as any of the 2 million active semi trucks uses in 6 months. Maybe even less. In terms of diesel used it's a drop in the bucket.

This is not about pollution, this is about law-breaking.
posted by Brockles at 7:57 PM on September 21, 2015


This is not about pollution, this is about law-breaking.

It's about law-breaking, with the relevant laws being those that regulate pollution by passenger vehicles.

Look, let's try this another way. I donate to environmental groups and support pro-environmental-regulation politicians because I want clean air and water. I don't personally lobby Congress or hold a sign outside the EPA's offices, but my hope is that the Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, etc. will do the right things on my behalf with the money I've given them.

Of course environment regulations in the U.S. aren't ideal, but in the absence of the regulatory regime I would prefer, I want the regulations that are on the books enforced to a T. That's what this is about to me. I do care about the bigger picture, and am very well aware that pollution comes from other sources, but here we have a clear example of blatant disregard for regulations that keep emissions down, so you're goddamn right I want blood from these people, and while I'm not making any "think of the children" arguments here, I don't see a problem with pointing out that VW's crimes have done real harm to us all, even if there are other kinds of vehicles out there doing more harm.

This does not mean that I care less about supporting environmental groups or voting for pro-regulation politicians, or the regulations for other types of vehicles. These things matter! However, there is no zero-sum dynamic with these things as you seem to believe, and your participation in the thread has resembled that of someone looking to make excuses for VW's behavior. With some of your later clarifications, it appears that you're making a different and more nuanced point, but if enough people are misunderstanding your argument, you might want to consider if you could have made your points more clearly. Or you can keep blaming it on others' reading comprehension if you like. Your call.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:27 PM on September 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


Lobby for better maritime regulations.

OK, great. But that doesn't help the fact that I had to spend Saturday morning in bed because I haven't needed my asthma inhaler in so long that I don't know where it is. The reason for this: I, like hundreds of thousands of other people, spent a couple of hours on Oxford Street on Thursday afternoon. Which is the busiest shopping street in Europe and has the world's highest measured concentration of NO₂. All from passenger carrying diesel vehicles.

The WHO hasn't published standards for estimating mortality from NOₓ emissions, just particulates. But in the UK, particulates are estimated as contributors to 30,000 deaths a year, and including NOₓ would likely double that, even allowing for the fact that the two pollutants occur together.

So yes, NOₓ regulation is very important regardless of its role in global atmospheric pollution.
posted by ambrosen at 3:50 AM on September 22, 2015


I'm kinda sensing a chewbacca defense being employed in thread here. This is about VW breaking the rules. If you wanna rage on semi's make an FPP about it. I'm sure metafilter will respond in kind to it.
posted by Annika Cicada at 4:44 AM on September 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


Now VW is saying that 11 million cars worldwide are involved. Financially this is going to be a big deal for the company -- they are talking about $7 billion for the fix, but that doesn't come close to the loss in customer trust and sales. I had been considering buying a TDI next year, but if their fix lowers the mileage or takes away the aspects that make those cars so pleasant to drive I obviously won't be buying, so I'm watching this with some interest.

According to the article in the US they have a year to figure out a repair strategy and start issuing recalls. There has been no announcement of when they might start selling diesels again.

I do hope that someone goes ahead and tests the diesel 3/4 and one ton pickups -- competition for power in that category is intense, and I can't help but suspect that the truck companies have used similar strategies.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:18 AM on September 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


And seeing as VW's admitting it's a worldwide issue, I just took a look at the road outside my window. Looks like over 10% of the cars going by are VW group diesels.
posted by ambrosen at 5:21 AM on September 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


People in this thread are up in arms because VW has POLLUTED OUR COUNTRY with the kind of increase in pollutants that your average semi truck throws out every time it starts and drives out the truckstop.

There is certainly that aspect, and I can only speak for myself here, but let me be clear about what I'm "up in arms" about: A few days ago I did not have to worry that the car I was driving was literally illegal to operate. Now I do. The car I use to make a living, take my kids to school, go get food, live my life. The piece of equipment I spent a significant chunk of my income on, and actually paid off. The equipment that I was hoping to resell for a good portion of what I paid for it, since I have carefully maintained it and it's a good machine. So I could buy another machine to get shit done in my life.

VW has now royally fucked that up. Which is absolutely not the same as lax regulations existing for commercial vehicles. It is absolutely not all about the pollution. Second only to houses, cars are the biggest purchase people usually make in their lives. The barest minimum they are relying on is that proper due diligence has occurred whereby they know they're purchasing a car that is legal to operate.
posted by odinsdream at 6:09 AM on September 22, 2015 [12 favorites]


TDI technology was just killed by VW because greed. This really really pisses me off.

The issue here is that there are trade offs and we HAVE TO BE CLEAR on that. There is no magic technology that can make all the particulates and NOx emissions just disappear, while you still get 50 mpg and torque for days. That pollution has to goe somewhere by some means, it's either chemically converted (urea solution) or is recirculated and re-blown up and becomes gunk in your exhaust manifold. Meeting standards means you get less power or less MPG. VW tried to lie, and got caught. We all need to look at ourselves now and ask ourselves the tough questions why we believed in magic.

VW sold a lie. People bought it.

TDI is most likely dead on the road due to this. And that's a shame because it's a bad-ass technology and far superior to gasoline engines IMO in terms of durability, quality and capability.

That's what I'm pissed off about.
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:29 AM on September 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


I did not have to worry that the car I was driving was literally illegal to operate. Now I do.

Totally agree. That is a much bigger impact and concern than how much extra pollution they put out. THAT is worthy of people's anger. It's going to royally screw a ton of people unless VW get legally screwed instead, which may take a very long time. What on earth people are going to do in the meantime, I have no idea. I can't imagine the EPA will not give private individuals dispensation to drive their cars and register them (after all, it's hardly the customers fault) but what about resale? What about ongoing ownership if you can't resell it for any decent amount? It is a can of (expensive) worms for VW and also a minefield for the EPA. Because if the punishment is not draconian then other firms could consider this part of their budget - produce non-compliant car, get expensive slap on wrist but take it out of the profit from non-compliant car sales.

far superior to gasoline engines IMO in terms of durability, quality and capability.

That's drinking the kool-aid, unfortunately. In terms of capability for passenger cars petrol is still the better option. This issue should be making that clear. Diesel is not the magic technology you talk about in the very same post. It can't compete with petrol when it comes to pollutants.
posted by Brockles at 6:38 AM on September 22, 2015


VW sold a lie. People bought it.

Yeah, but it isn't like the worldwide population of folks who bought this were a bunch of rubes who deserved it. This was deception, plain and simple. Pointing out that car culture is problematic and we'd all share a better future with far less fossil fuel consumption isn't helpful. I personally spent weeks doing research, test drove over a dozen cars and played out long term cost/benefit analyses on everything from getting a cheap econo-box, to an electric, to a plug-in hybrid, to a regular gas to the diesel. Given the real facts I would have taken the gas engine, with the snake-oil they were selling I chose the diesel. I'm strongly aware that I'm still on the cost side of that decision curve and now they've knocked out the benefit side.

Is there something you are suggesting folks like me should have done differently? Bought an apparently lesser car because this was clearly too good to be true? It's a nice car, but not so nice as to seem magic.
posted by meinvt at 6:44 AM on September 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I owned a TDI for twelve years and wrenched on that thing like a baby, I know what you mean about research. What I'm saying is that VW could kept the HP at 110 and used all kinds of various methods to clean the exhaust. Instead they went for MAX POWER bullcrap and everyone was sold on a balance of clean and powerful that's just made up. If it sounds to good to be true then it probably is.

If you do the research (really) then you know that there are trade offs that can't be avoided.

And Diesel engines are better engineered than petrol engines. The tolerances alone to get combustion without spark requires it brockles. It's more efficient, period. I don't know what the hell you are doing trying to tell me gas aspired engines are better than diesel. The only thing better is the catalytic converter that reduces the exhaust. Admittedly diesel will never achieve that, but I believe at lower HP and MPG a much much cleaner exhaust can be achieved.

Basically with diesel you can optimize to 2 sides of the triangle of MPG, HP and emissions, but not all three. Anyone saying they can is selling bullshit.
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:04 AM on September 22, 2015


Engineering a diesel engine that can provide decent power for everyday use, low emissions, and high mileage is not an unattainable goal. Adding in the environmental savings from using a less-refined fuel is an additional consideration. This is terrible PR for the TDI and diesel passenger cars in general precisely because it plays to the instinct, as seen in this thread, of going "neener neener" to your neighbors who went with a diesel over a gas car.

It's still a good choice, and this deceptive act doesn't change that, it simply means the engineering that could have been done was avoided for VW's own selfish reasons.
posted by odinsdream at 7:49 AM on September 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Exactly, odinsdream. I provided specifics as to what I think could have been attainable to meet EPA standards. a 150 hp clean diesel at the levels VW promised sounded amazing to me, and I wondered exactly how they were doing what seemed unattainable. As it were, it was unattainable. As a result, diesels have been dealt a bad name by shady business practices when with a little less greed and a little more honesty and a touch fewer sales, a really great product could have existed.

Instead we have 11 million boat anchors worldwide.

Such a waste of precious resources.
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:05 AM on September 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's entirely possible that the only impact of a recall reflash of the emission controls is a higher failure rate of the emission control system (which will undoubtedly have an extended warranty applied to if that is the case). Let's not start building reefs out of all these cars quite yet.
posted by Mitheral at 9:37 AM on September 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Brockles is right about the disadvantages of diesels. "Clean diesel" makes about as much sense as "clean coal." There's only so much even the best technology can do to clean up diesel.

The pollution profiles of gasoline cars and diesels are different, even with the best emission efforts. Gasoline cars produce about 10% more CO2 because diesels fuel has somewhat more energy per gallon. But in exchange, diesels produce more particulates and more NO2. Gasoline engines produce nearly zero particulates and the smaller amount of NO2 is easily removed by catalytic converters.

CO2 is a longer term issue and can be mitigated by combining gasoline engines with electric hybrid technology. But particulates and NO2 emitted by diesels are immediate health hazards. They kill tens of thousands of people in the U.S every year.

The health differences can be seen in the comparison between the U.S. and Europe. Europe has twice the pollution levels seen in the U.S., even when you consider cities like Los Angeles. This is because in the U.S., only 2% of passenger vehicles are diesel while 50% are diesels in Europe. And most of that extra pollution in Europe is the deadly particulates and NO2 from diesels that especially affects children.

Europe had any unfortunate side effect of high fuel taxes in that it led to a preference for diesel cars. But if those higher taxes were accompanied with emission requirements that did not allow diesels to emit more particulates and NO2 than gasoline cars, diesels would all but disappear.

Diesels make sense for certain uses such as commercial vehicles and heavy duty trucks, but for passengers vehicles, gasoline will always be cleaner, no matter how you tweak the diesel.
posted by JackFlash at 9:41 AM on September 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


This opens up another good opportunity to make a regulated industry easier to audit. The usual counterpoint is that access to this kind of code will make it easier for people to circumvent pollution controls, which ignores the fact that it will also make it easier for people to expose more common events like this one where the "professionals" are either incompetent or corrupt.
posted by Poldo at 9:45 AM on September 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


This opens up another good opportunity to make a regulated industry easier to audit.

Better regulations can also help. In 2017, Europe is changing to a testing system in which emissions testing will be done simultaneously with on track fuel mileage testing.

What allowed VW to game the system is that fuel mileage testing and emissions testing are separate procedures. Fuel mileage testing is done on a track that simulates highway and city driving. Emissions testing is done in a garage on a dynamometer, just like your annual state emissions tests.

This allowed VW to turn off the emissions controls when doing the fuel mileage test to get a high rating and then turn on the emissions controls when doing the emissions test, so they could claim high fuel mileage and low emissions. Testing both simultaneously, as planned in Europe, would prevent this trick.

Manufacturers may always come up with ways to game the system, but this particular method, defeating emissions testing, was explicitly forbidden by federal law.
posted by JackFlash at 9:57 AM on September 22, 2015


So anyone know what the resale value of a TDI 2011 Golf Wagon (Jetta Sportwagen in US) was a week ago?
Trying to calculate the loss we have to eat here.
We decided to buy ours instead of leasing because it was going to work out cheaper with the rate we got from the bank hahaha ha ha *cries*.
I'm really so bummed out about this; I alternate from being so angry to being actually sad, like the-world-is-a-shitty-place-full-of-shitty-liars sad.
posted by chococat at 10:22 AM on September 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Chococat, I'm so with you.

For posterity, I did a little digging on cars.com, assuming that people have just left their ads up and prices aren't very different ... yet.

For my car (a3), within 100 mi. of my zip code, and +/- 1 model year, I get:
5 TDIs + 1 TDI Premium Plus. Prices are, and all of these are 2012s:
$25k (20k miles)
$25k (47k miles) (this is the 'plus')
$23k (43k miles)
$22.9k (45k miles)
$20k (45k miles)
$19k (68 k miles)

I will try to remember to check this periodically. I also am having this search result sent to my spam email account. Will be interesting to follow.
posted by Dashy at 10:37 AM on September 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I checked my car on the Kelley Blue Book site the day this was breaking. I just checked again and the value it is reporting is pretty much identical. So, I think you are safe to use that as a relative baseline for whatever trend research you want to do.
posted by meinvt at 10:50 AM on September 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


> Better regulations can also help.

Oh I agree, it should be in addition to that. IMHO independent access to the software (or perhaps even just the interfaces) should be a standard facet of regulation for every product that can impact health or safety.
posted by Poldo at 11:24 AM on September 22, 2015


I have an A3 effected by this, purchased specifically because it was clean and efficient, and I only hope I can keep driving it legally until the Tesla model 3 comes out and then I'm just done with infernal combustion.
posted by bizwank at 11:35 AM on September 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


And Diesel engines are better engineered than petrol engines. The tolerances alone to get combustion without spark requires it brockles. It's more efficient, period.

If you think that diesels are manufactured to better tolerances than diesel engines, then you clearly don't know anything at all about engine manufacturing and design. Diesel engines are not 'engineered to a better standard' than modern petrol engines at all - that's just fantasy. I've worked with both extensively. There is really nothing within a diesel engine that needs better tolerancing then in petrol engines. In fact, for standard (indirect injection) diesel engines the tolerances are not at all more critical than petrol engines, possibly even less. It's just not that hard to compress the cylinder charge to combustion levels. The direct injection diesel stuff was tricky to get right initially, but the level of tolerance to achieve that is no more complex than a similarly high-output petrol engine.

You're wrong on this.

And in terms of emissions, diesel is absolutely not more efficient than petrol. In specific energy of the fuel? Diesel is more efficient, yes. But it is just not possible to make a diesel engine cleaner than a comparable petrol engine.
posted by Brockles at 11:46 AM on September 22, 2015


I don't disagree with you on the cleanliness. I just don't understand why trucks use diesel if there's not an advantage.
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:59 AM on September 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


And I'm not really sold on diesel over gas or vice versa. I think there are problems with both and over the long term the TDI engine will fade to history but what in the short term? It always seemed like the TDI engine could only make sense in a narrow range of power, cost and emissions and that there was a limited window of time that TDI's would be manufactured. I wonder now if that window has closed...
posted by Annika Cicada at 12:13 PM on September 22, 2015


Annika Cicada: " I just don't understand why trucks use diesel if there's not an advantage."

There are advantages though not many that would impact someone buying a new small car. Just off the top of my head and keeping in mind some of these are more historical and inertial as new gas engines are pretty amazing.
  • higher torque ratings for the same package size which is important when hauling heavy loads.
  • greater fuel density means you can go farther on less fuel meaning smaller tanks meaning less weight for the same range.
  • diesel fuel is safer to have around in large quantities and it stores better and longer without going bad. This quality is important for intermittent usage like backup generators or where fuel transport is not available year round (camps serviced by a winter road for example).
  • cheaper. Both because higher fuel densities and because the fuel itself used to be cheaper both from the refinery on a per unit basis and because of lower taxes on what was considered a commercial fuel source.
  • If your big heavy equipment is running diesel it is logistically less complex to have all your equipment right down to pickups running the same fuel.
  • diesel engines were perceived at least to be more durable though that is mostly an engineering decision.
  • a diesel engine compression brakes (that hammering noise you hear heavy tractors making when descending steep grades) than a gas engine.
  • Once you've settled on diesel in the 50s you keep buying that because that is what you are set up for.
  • Early diesels were quite a bit simpler because they lacked finicky carbs.
  • because diesels were injected and therefor didn't have float bowls they were preferred in situations where the operating envelope wasn't mostly level (IE: off road). An advantage that has gone away now that all gas engines are injected.
  • This next one I'm not sure on but I've been told that there is less risk of killing someone when a diesel engine is ran in enclosed spaces. Diesel and to a lesser extent propane are more popular in underground equipment and things like scissor lifts and aerial work platforms for that reason.
  • tradition. Lots of equipment operators and owners are pretty conservative when it comes to buying equipment. A gas engine in a highway tractor is a hard sell. We might see a switch over to Natural Gas rather than gasoline.
  • And finally diesel is pretty easy to make from vegetable based oils and biodiesel is pretty much 100% compatible with dino juice. We have some outdoor areas locally where 100% bio fuels are required to help mitigate the effects of fuel spills on the environment.
    posted by Mitheral at 12:49 PM on September 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


    Oh, and heavy commercial diesel engines aren't anywhere near as clean burning as light duty vehicles are required to be though that is changing.
    posted by Mitheral at 12:51 PM on September 22, 2015


    I just don't understand why trucks use diesel if there's not an advantage

    Diesel engines produce more torque, at lower RPMs than gas engines do. They are also more efficient at idle - which commercial trucks spend a lot of time doing. They also do engine braking better - a consequence of much higher compression ratios than gas engines.
    posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:51 PM on September 22, 2015


    VW hosts world's most awkward release party for new Passat line, including now-illegal diesel model. One good point: Why didn’t one of your competitors, who buy up your cars to endlessly study them, X-ray them, take them apart and test them six ways to Sunday, blow the whistle in the supposedly “ruthless” automotive business?
    posted by dirigibleman at 11:08 PM on September 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


    You wonder if VW will end up quitting the US market after this? They only have a little over 2% marketshare as it is and this scandal will make that worse.
    posted by octothorpe at 5:10 AM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


    Why didn’t one of your competitors, who buy up your cars to endlessly study them, X-ray them, take them apart and test them six ways to Sunday, blow the whistle in the supposedly “ruthless” automotive business?

    Because they either didn't investigate the ECU deeply enough (unlikely) or they went "Huh, so they're doing it *that* way. Interesting."

    If they didn't blow the whistle, it's because they don't want the spotlight on evading EPA regs...
    posted by Brockles at 6:45 AM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


    WV CEO resigns.
    posted by octothorpe at 8:22 AM on September 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


    In a statement issued by the company Winterkorn said he was "shocked by the events of the past few days."

    Shocked, shocked, to find that cheating is going on in here.

    (I notice also the weasel word in the statement: "irregularities".)
    posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 8:42 AM on September 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


    This is just such an astonishing failure of engineering ethics, and such an enormous moral failure - words fail me.
    posted by newdaddy at 9:14 AM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


    you mean he's shocked how the EPA actually enforced the rules? Thanks, Obama!
    posted by Annika Cicada at 9:22 AM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


    "I am doing this in the interests of the company even though I am not aware of any wrongdoing on my part"

    SMH with such violent disbelief that my airbag went off.
    posted by Annika Cicada at 10:27 AM on September 23, 2015


    Anything less than prison for the highest-level people who knew about this or should have known about it but looked the other way is a miscarriage of justice.
    posted by tonycpsu at 11:15 AM on September 23, 2015


    Wow, that press event was shameful, on both the part of VW and the attending "journalists".
    posted by odinsdream at 12:19 PM on September 23, 2015


    The New York Times article did not mention if he gets a parachute or how many millions it would be. Anybody want to guess? 10 million euros? 20?
    posted by bukvich at 3:48 PM on September 23, 2015


    dude's like 68 years old. is that a resignation or a retirement?

    In a statement issued by the company Winterkorn said he was "shocked by the events of the past few days."

    yeah, and i'm sure reagan had noooooo idea that his underlings were selling weapons to Iran, either.
    posted by indubitable at 4:06 PM on September 23, 2015


    WV CEO resigns.

    That's odd. I thought WVU was one of the good guys in this story.
     
    posted by Herodios at 7:22 PM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


    Trying to calculate the loss we have to eat here.

    My guess is that the value will not drop much, because the supply has been turned off and people really like the cars. I would buy one instantly if the price did plummet, but I figure that I have no chance of getting that kind of deal.
    posted by Dip Flash at 7:29 PM on September 23, 2015


    i can imagine someone on top making this feature request - but - and this is a serious question from a naive person - how could it go down so many levels, all the way down to architects and programmers and there be no whistleblowing or questions asked?

    So, I tried looking for a code of ethics for automotive engineers. I found a code of ethics for pretty much every Engineering Society except SAE. Maybe I'm looking in the wrong place; the best I can find is a document regarding standards for accident reconstruction. I recognize that the industrial exemption means most practitioners don't need certification or register themselves as members of their respective societies, but it seems all the more imperative that societies put one in to distance themselves from rogue industrial elements.
    posted by pwnguin at 9:43 PM on September 23, 2015


    Grauniad: BWM shares slide amid claims X3 exceeds EU emissions limits.
    posted by notyou at 6:53 AM on September 24, 2015


    Politico: doing the math based on figures reported by the Guardian, despite their relatively small sales VW's cheating diesel engines emitted as much NO2 as one-fifth of all cars on the road in the U.S (scroll to the bottom).
    posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:41 AM on September 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


    Kevin Drum does the math.
    posted by newdaddy at 1:33 PM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


    Color me utterly unsurprised at this scandal, but enraged anyway. I posted this thread in 2012, when I was trying to decide what car to buy. The thread details that I owned a 2001 VR6 Jetta that was an utter lemon and probably should have been rebought by the dealer, but the dealer was refusing to give adequet compensation. Instead of fighting them for fair compensation or going elsewhere, I caved in and took their rather stingy offer of a 8,000USD credit towards getting a new 2012 VW Golf TDI.

    It’s very funny to reread that thread and see my handwringing over whether or not I was going to get another lemon. I wish I could go back in time, shake myself, and then lead me patiently by the hand away from VW and to some other car manufacturer (my first choice would have been a Toyota Prius, but actually now that I look into it, it turns out that they also had a major recall earlier in the summer http://www.geek.com/apps/toyota-recalls-625000-hybrid-vehicles-that-may-shut-down-while-being-driven-1628051/ (albeit not one driven by an intentional, methodically planned and executed criminal conspiracy)). But, yeah, VW are pretty much villainous liars at every single level, in my experience. If you read through the other comments on that thread, several other posters had similar issues with VWs from that era, I knew several people in my own life who also had problems and back then there were plenty of others complaining in other forums about those issues as well. I’m sure there was knowledge of those common manufacturing faults in the company and the game was to dodge accountability as much as possible, as in my case and I am sure that of many more owners we never saw any compensation at all.

    The two sets of problems are different, of course, but both lead to basically paying a premium for something that was sold as a quality product but ended up being utter, unusable trash with no trade in value within a few years of purchase. The emissions scandal has been exposed as being intentionally cynically manipulative, deceptive and, frankly, downright evil. I seriously doubt if it just sprang out of nowhere internally and is without precedent, though…

    Anyway, some people here seem to think that the environmental aspect isn’t worth complaining about. I disagree entirely. I had shifted a lot in mentality from 2001 to 2012 and at that point I -really- wanted a ‘green’ car-- at several times during the buying process I seriously considered walking away from VW for a Prius, even though I would have had to pay full price. Had I not had that 8K incentive from VW, I would absolutely have bought a Prius both to due to VW’s shit quality record -and- my research indicating that the hybrid model was perhaps the more environmentally sound. You can argue all you want about what percentage of the overall problem this type of vehicle represents, but the truth is that every small bit does matter and for me and I’m sure a great many others who opted for the scam of “clean diesel” this was a key consideration in the buying process. Here’s one op ed about this aspect, and it's safe to assume that many others are coming.

    Of course, what Volkswagen SHOULD do (if there was any semblance of justice in the world and if they wanted to rebuild the trust of their customer base) is offer full buybacks to all of the customers they intentionally defrauded. But when you multiply out the number of affected vehicles (11 million as of now and possibly increasing) by the average cost (23,000USD per Golf TDI anyway, at least for the newer models), it’s immediately apparent that that will never happen as the cost would be incredibly high (253,000,000,000 USD). They’ve set aside a paltry 7 billion to ‘win back customer trust’, which is 36 times less than what a full buyback would cost and ~20 times their total 2014 profit (12.2billion USD).

    However, knowing VW and how unethical, uncaring, slimy and awful they are, it seems like a safe bet that what they’ll do is simply the least required of them, which means that they’ll probably just update the software and let the defrauded customers deal with the results, which will almost certainly mean less power and descreased gas mileage ( liked these articles that speculate on probable outcomes:
    http://www.cartalk.com/blogs/staff-blog/vw-betrayal-car-talk-interviews-dan-neil

    http://bestride.com/blog/vw-dirty-diesel-owners-should-expect-lower-highway-mpg-once-fix-is-made/24818/

    www.wired.com/2015/09/vw-owners-arent-going-like-fixes-diesels/ ) That is not what I or other customers signed up for. That is fraud.

    When I first heard this news, I was kicking myself for taking the paltry 8k bribe from a company I knew to be unethical and unreliable instead of buying a Prius. But, of course, as mentioned above-- that model year of Prius was defective in a manner that influenced safety and, really, at the end of the day who knows how well known to the company that defect was. Toyota’s record has been shit lately, too. So it was kinda damned if you do, damned if you don’t in terms of the two most major “green” cars on the market.

    In fact, is there any car manufacturer that hasn’t had a terrible record lately? I’ve been searching on terms like ‘Ford recall’, ‘Mercedes recall’, ‘Honda recall’, etc. and pretty much every major automotive company I searched for had at least one recall in 2015, if not more. Most impacted safety-- such as Mercedes engine fires. I guess it’s been like this in the car industry for a long time, tracing way back to the founding era when Henry Ford was sued by the Dodge brothers (at the time shareholders who owned 10% of Ford Motors) because he wanted to divert funds into paying workers better, selling cars for a smaller profit margin AND building better facilities that would make higher quality, longer lasting cars. The Dodge brothers won that case, because profits are more important that quality, safety and people of course and his 'charitable' scheme would have denied them potential profits.

    So basically I think the modern era of shit cars isn’t really anything new per se, whether it’s a callous, grotesque intentional conspiracy like this one or due to cost cutting as many of the other recalls could be. It seems, rather to be the natural and unavoidable result of the pressures created by the structure of current capitalistic system. In order to produce maximum profits, companies will lie, cheat, defraud and if caught dodge accountability as much as they can. It seems like in this new gilded age where governments worldwide have been weakened by increasing corporate influence, the corporate crooks seem to be becoming more and more emboldened. VW pretty much knows that although they’ll take a hit since they’ve been caught, they’re “too big to fail”. Also, what IS the alternative to them, currently? No other major car manufacturer seems to have a much better quality record-- well, except that VW admitted to intentional fraud, that’s novel (but who knows if what’s novel is the intentional fraud or the admission of it). The world is feeling more and more like that of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian _Oryx and Crake_ trilogy (wherein the world is overtaken and ruined by sociopathic corporations who care nothing about the wellbeing of people or the planet or anything aside from their own profits) by the day. :/
    posted by telomere at 12:38 PM on September 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


    Given the estimated difference between stated emissions and measured emissions, I wonder how much it would cost VW to procure NOx emissions credits under a cap and trade program somewhere. It seems like a reasonably adequate method of pricing the damage they've caused, and gauging the relative size of their emissions.
    posted by pwnguin at 2:53 PM on September 25, 2015




    In fact, is there any car manufacturer that hasn’t had a terrible record lately? I’ve been searching on terms like ‘Ford recall’, ‘Mercedes recall’, ‘Honda recall’, etc. and pretty much every major automotive company I searched for had at least one recall in 2015, if not more.

    For the Japanese brands especially, it might be worth distinguishing between which recalls are/were because of their manufacturing issues and which were because the airbag-cartridge manufacturer Takata fucked up with what looks like VW-level venality. Of course, it's entirely possible that Honda/Subaru/Toyota etc knew at the time how badly Takata was fucking up and just didn't care themselves until they were forced to.
    posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:56 PM on September 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


    Dip Flash wrote: "... people really like the cars. I would buy one instantly if the price did plummet ..."

    We who bought these cars liked the idea of the cars. We like the idea of our 42MPG comfortably seats 5 with a large cargo area diesel being moderately environmentally sensitive (modulo the whole "have a (relatively large) car" thing, and the fact that CO2 per gallon of diesel burned is not CO2 per gallon of gasoline burned and all of that).

    But if it's just an underperforming version of the gasoline powered car with unimpressive mileage that you can buy for $8k less? Not so much. At that point it may as well be one of those old Mercedes spewing out black french fry smell.
    posted by straw at 4:39 PM on September 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


    I wonder how much it would cost VW to procure NOₓ emissions credits under a cap and trade program somewhere.

    There's nowhere to trade them against. NOₓ's biggest effects are local and on human health, and the vast majority of NOₓ that people in urban environments are exposed to comes from motor vehicles. And the death rates are big. Like 5% of deaths in the UK big. It's crime on the scale only a tobacco manufacturer is familiar with, and it makes a little more sense to offset urban NOₓ emissions than it would to offset cigarette tar by reducing the amount of tar used to seal flat roofs, but it's not like CO₂, where the only scale it matters on is the global one.
    posted by ambrosen at 5:21 PM on September 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


    They can give me an "offset credit" of a few hundred thousand dollars to move further away from these freeways.
    posted by salvia at 7:39 PM on September 25, 2015




    VW Canada has a site up today to answer questions. It doesn't answer any questions.
    posted by chococat at 9:12 AM on September 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


    That non-answer site is a masterpiece. Sir Humphrey would be proud! Kind of like newboy Müller promising "maximum transparency" then not saying who's been suspended...
    posted by runincircles at 11:44 AM on September 26, 2015


    But security researchers have run into a surprising roadblock:
    The DMCA blocking researchers isn't surprising; it is RAI.
    posted by Mitheral at 12:20 PM on September 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


    I wonder if Winterkorn takes any solace from the fact that no matter how badly he fucked up this whole thing, he will only ever be at worst VW's second-worst executive.
    posted by Itaxpica at 9:57 AM on September 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


    "Well-Known Regulatory Trade-Off"
    posted by tonycpsu at 1:41 PM on September 27, 2015


    Geez, can you imagine what the air, uh, quality would be like in Southern California if the Clean Air Act wasn't in place. No need to imagine. It's like the antivaxxers. They don't remember what things were like before controls so the regulations must be a government conspiracy getting in the way of More Power!!!
    posted by Mitheral at 5:26 PM on September 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


    There's nowhere to trade them against.

    At the very least, there's the LA Air Quality Management District, which established a cap and trade program for fixed plants. Going by their published prices, you're looking at about $1,300* a ton. Easily more, because as VW/Porche executives in particular should be acutely aware of, when you need to buy more of something than exists things go asymptotic. I've found at least one instance of huge variation in prices; according to a Letter to the Editor from the Executive Officer of the LA AQMD, there have been circumstances in which the price jumped 10,000 percent in a year.

    Unfortunately, we don't regulate large vehicle fleet operators or anything for cars, which makes comparison even more apples-vs-oranges when comparing plant emissions vs vehicle emissions. So the number I'm seeking will simply have to be a floor. Using the low end of Guardian's estimate we have 237,161 tons of NOx emissions. So $308 million, but if the price per ton jumped 100 fold, you're in bankrupt the company territory. Every year.

    As others mentioned, none of this factors in the proximity to urban life, or the fact that they don't come equipped with multi-story smoke stacks, so emissions are more concentrated where people are vs slightly higher atmospheric conditions.

    *Or 3300, I can't quite figure out what table I vs II is about.
    posted by pwnguin at 9:35 PM on September 27, 2015


    The Internet Of Criminal Things
    As many others have pointed out, VW was certainly helped by the ease with which antifeatures can be hidden in software shipped to others. When we get into a car, we trust our lives and health to a large body of proprietary control software; the source is unavailable, so we cannot inspect it for bugs, vulnerabilities, or explicit evil. Legal regimes in much of the world make a crime out of reverse-engineering this software, so we cannot try to figure out how it operates even without the source. Digital rights management (DRM) mechanisms built into the hardware make that reverse engineering even harder; this DRM may even be mandated by government agencies fearful of individuals modifying their own engine-control software.
    Software secrecy, regulation, and the potential for harm previously on metafilter.
    posted by Poldo at 10:42 AM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]






    VW Canada has a site up today to answer questions. It doesn't answer any questions.

    My local dealership is linking to the equivalent US non-anwer site.
    posted by Evilspork at 3:02 PM on September 29, 2015


    As an affected owner, I'd like to know what the impact of driving in 'compliant mode' is on power, mileage and wear.

    It seems like the WVU researchers should be able to address the first two, at least. Those data exist. I wonder why they aren't public.
    posted by Dashy at 3:13 PM on September 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


    Phase Two of the Volkswagen Scandal: Lawsuits

    Are any of you TDI owners pursuing this? I'm really curious as to how that's going to work out. I mean, they only have so much money. 11 million cars is a lot to buy back. There's a few class-action suits brewing here in Canada but I guess I'm waiting to see what the "fix" is before I consider exploring that option.

    As an affected owner, I'd like to know what the impact of driving in 'compliant mode' is on power, mileage and wear

    Well, that's the 7.3 billion-dollar question, isn't it? I don't have a hell of a lot of confidence in whatever shitty hack they've managed to cobble together in, what, 10 days?
    posted by chococat at 3:38 PM on September 29, 2015


    I don't have a hell of a lot of confidence in whatever shitty hack they've managed to cobble together in, what, 10 days?

    I'm not sure you're understanding how this bodge has worked - it created a defeat of a series of equipment and mapping that has been engineered at great length to pass an emissions standard. The 'fix' will have to be 'stopping the bypass'. All the work has already been done, they just need to take the bypass out. The car will run fine and very well.

    Just with loss of performance. I suspect not much loss (if any) of fuel consumption for the same steady state speed, but only through having to work the car harder to get the same acceleration performance. It will have a noticeable affect on the car's performance, but it won't be a 'quick fix' as you seem to be implying. It will just have less power.
    posted by Brockles at 4:55 PM on September 29, 2015


    Like I said, it's not a question, those data exist. They're just not public yet. But since the research was (presumably) publicly funded .... it's just a matter of whether TDI owners find out after we've complied with a recall, or before.
    posted by Dashy at 4:57 PM on September 29, 2015


    This fix might be trickier that VW is letting on. The problem is that VW gets its high diesel mileage by burning very lean. This means that there is an excess of oxygen in the exhaust that reacts with nitrogen and that is what causes the NOx emissions to be so high. One way to fix this is with a separate urea injection system into the exhaust called selective catalyst reduction, SCR. The liquid urea reacts with the NOx and reduces it to harmless N2 and water. But urea injection would add several hundred dollars to the cost of the car and also require periodically refilling the urea tank. VW chose to avoid this very effective emissions method because of the cost and also the inconvenience to the operator filling the urea tank. But is it quite common on recent heavy duty trucks.

    The second way of dealing with NOx is to use a "lean NOx trap" or LNT. The LNT is similar to a catalytic converter except it doesn't directly convert NOx. It just absorbs NOx like a sponge. Periodically the sponge has to be wrung out. The trap is purged by dumping a lot of fuel into the converter so that hydrocarbons react with the adsorbed NOx and remove it as N2. Typically, they have to dump a lot of fuel into the system for a few seconds every minute or two. But this rich purge cycle increases the particulate emissions which may exceed limits and also reduces fuel mileage. VW chose the LNT method, but they probably installed too small of a trap to run all of the time. So one expensive fix would be to install a larger LNT at a cost of hundreds of dollars.

    Another way to prevent the generation of excess NOx emissions is to run the engine with a richer mixture all the time so that there is less excess oxygen to form NOx. But then that reduces the fuel mileage economy, perhaps by 10%. This is probably what VW did during the fake emissions tests. It richened the mixture to pass the test. But this has the side effect of causing the LNT to run much hotter. Above about 500 degrees, the LNT ceases to be effective. And it also reduces the life of the LNT. This is probably okay for the duration of a short test, but wouldn't be effective for routine operation.

    So I disagree with the opinion that all they have to do is switch the software to run the clean tables all the time. The result will be an immediate reduction in fuel mileage, perhaps several miles per gallon. But it could also cause a reduction in effectiveness and a shortened lifetime for the LNT, necessitating an expensive repair in a couple of years. Just because they can tune the car to meet emissions requirements for the short duration of a test, it does not mean they can easily meet the same requirements while on the road because the LNT is too small for full time operation. Meanwhile the richer mixture is probably increasing particulate emissions, which could be another point of failure.

    What we are learning is that there is no such thing as "clean diesel". It will always have worse emissions than gasoline engines. I'm guessing that this will be the beginning of the end for diesels in passenger cars in the U.S. The only reason diesels are popular for heavy duty trucks is that diesels get better fuel mileage. Since truckers pay for fuel but don't pay for pollution, then they will choose the better mileage engine even if it is dirtier.
    posted by JackFlash at 6:35 PM on September 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


    Well, there are *some* other reasons for heavy trucks using diesel that were mentioned upthread.
    posted by Chrysostom at 6:39 PM on September 29, 2015


    So I disagree with the opinion that all they have to do is switch the software to run the clean tables all the time.

    Yeah, I was possibly a bit flip. But it's not like they have to re-engineer the system - the ground work has been done as the VW system works (when enabled) and has been engineered to work at that reduced rate (even for a reduced time) so the underlying development has been done. Also, I'd wager they developed a full time compliant solution on several prototypes before they decided to short cut the extra cost and difficulty. Before they decided it wasn't production viable, basically. The size of whatever system they have on the car hasn't been guessed at, but engineered for it's expected cycle of being used under EPA testing so the sums have been done for what would be needed for a full time system. It won't be a half arsed solution, but most likely (as you say) not a 10 minute fix. But - from the owners point of view, VW just put the clean map in and (as you pointed out) perhaps increase the capacity of the system that reduces the Nox. Expensive? Almost certainly, but not to the consumer at this stage as it would be EXTREMELY hard for VW to pass that cost onto the customer after all this fuss. But it will maybe mean some expensive (to VW) upgrades to the car and drops in performance.

    The biggest issue for the customer is that it is likely the full time system either needs more servicing (again, can't see them having to bear the cost, but certainly the inconvenience) and I think it will pretty much cripple the car compared to the buyer's expectation from it. Even a 5mpg hit and a 20hp difference would be major, and who is going to tolerate that kind of hit on the performance of their car? So once they do spend the money to make the cars compliant, I'm seeing VW having to buy cars back or offer attractive trade ins at a loss and/or compensate owners for the loss of performance.
    posted by Brockles at 7:14 PM on September 29, 2015


    To clarify, while the engineering work (which is the longest lead time) has likely (largely) been done, this will not be a fast or easy fix if additional parts need to be fitted because.... VW haven't made them yet. And while I'm fairly sure they can spec a size and shape and installation for the required additional stuff it is NOT an easy task at all to tool up, produce and supply 11 million vehicle sets of the stuff....

    Which raises the question as to what these cars are going to do in the meantime. Even if they could get a spec for the kit together within a month or two, surely you'd be looking at a 4-6 month lead time to produce all the parts even with the best of progress. Production parts take some making and moving around the world.

    So what about people emissions tests in the meantime? What if their cars get grounded (or the vehicular equivalent)?

    I do wonder if they already have done a 'what if the shit hits the fan' engineering exercise when they chose to go this path and have the stuff drawn up or at the very least spec'd out. Or, at the very least, started this process when the first warnings came up a few years ago (from the stories I read). Volkswagen (for all their poor decisions) have been extremely thorough in all the engineering projects I have seen and have a formidable R&D capability. I'll bet they have a solution relatively quickly. Just how they get that solution to the cars is the hard bit.
    posted by Brockles at 7:24 PM on September 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


    But urea injection would add several hundred dollars to the cost of the car and also require periodically refilling the urea tank. VW chose to avoid this very effective emissions method because of the cost and also the inconvenience to the operator filling the urea tank. But is it quite common on recent heavy duty trucks.

    The diesel pickup I drive for work has a DEF (diesel exhaust fluid) tank. Every few thousand miles you dump in a 2.5 gallon container of DEF; the truck notifies you about 800 miles before it is empty and gives periodically more urgent warnings as it gets closer. The DEF is cheap and is available everywhere, including from dispensers at most commercial fueling places and at truckstops. Maybe this technology was considered a barrier for owners five or ten years ago, but these days needing to add DEF is about as unexceptional as checking your oil.

    I do hope that the EPA takes a look at the 3/4 and one ton pickups, though. Ram/Dodge in particular seems to have managed to hit spectacular performance numbers while also passing emissions tests (lenient as they are for the big trucks), while the other two companies have struggled much more noticeably with meeting the emissions criteria without performance or reliability hits. I'd be willing to bet that at least one, and most likely two or three, companies have cheated in similar ways.

    Lastly, I wish there was a better public discussion of the tradeoffs between fuel economy and the emissions criteria for diesels. We run a bunch of diesel trucks, and the older vehicles that lack the current emissions equipment get much better mileage, by about 20 percent and better in some cases. The cleaner air is great, but it is coming at a cost to the ecosystem, and I'm not sure where the right balance point is exactly.
    posted by Dip Flash at 8:24 PM on September 29, 2015


    I wish there was a better public discussion of the tradeoffs between fuel economy and the emissions criteria for diesels.

    What you are trading off is CO2 emissions compared to NOx and other particulate emissions. The higher fuel mileage of diesels means they emit less CO2 emissions. But diesels emit much more NOx and other particulates.

    CO2 from cars isn't immediately toxic. It has long term climate effects. On the other hand, the NOx and particulates from diesels and power plants kill hundreds of thousands in the U.S. each year. Asthma attacks, respiratory illness, reduced lung capacity in children, and hospitalizations due to pollution are from NOx and particulates, not CO2.
    posted by JackFlash at 9:13 PM on September 29, 2015


    I think what Dip Flash was trying to say (correct me if I'm wrong) is how two diesels compare: Option A: Older diesel with higher mileage but worse emissions, and Option B: Newer diesel with lower mileage and better emissions, when you take into account the excess fuel that would be required to cover the same total miles with each of these options, does the lower emissions still actually come out better for Option B.
    posted by odinsdream at 6:22 AM on September 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


    Emissions are defined and tested as grams per mile, not grams per gallon. So by that definition, if a vehicle is dirtier, it has more emissions for every mile driven. Fuel economy automatically is included in that measurement.

    As a first approximation, the higher the fuel mileage, the less CO2 per mile. But for the other pollutants, if it has higher emissions as measured by the EPA, then it is putting out more NOx and particulates per mile.

    So for the case of the VW diesel, by burning richer, they use more fuel (more CO2) but decrease their dangerous emissions at the same time. This might seem counter-intuitive. Less fuel does not necessarily equate to lower emissions for a diesel. However for gasoline engines, better fuel mileage and lower emissions generally go together.
    posted by JackFlash at 6:51 AM on September 30, 2015


    And this is what goes to the big lie from VW. They were selling everyone on the eco-friendliness of their cars because they got such great fuel mileage. But what wasn't said is that by increasing fuel mileage, they were also actually increasing emissions of dangerous pollutants by as much as 40 times. The increased pollution was a side effect of increased fuel efficiency. It was an easy lie to sell because the truth is counter-intuitive.
    posted by JackFlash at 7:37 AM on September 30, 2015


    That's a great piece of info that I was unaware of, thanks!
    posted by odinsdream at 7:55 AM on September 30, 2015


    This is kinda curious. In Europe, VW says it's recalling cars with the older diesel engines that are not equipped with the urea NOx catalyst emissions system (that engine is known as the EA189) for the fix (which is presumably simply an ECU upgrade), but hasn't said anything about the newer, urea catalyst equipped engines (the EA288). However, as explained in the CARB notification letter, VW admitted that cars fitted with the newer EA288 (and its urea NOx scrubbing system), which the letter refers to as "Gen 3," also employed the "defeat device" and also were therefore non-complaint with the emissions regs. ("Gen 1" is the EA 189 w/out urea; "Gen 2" is the EA189 with urea (some Passats were fitted with those).) (CARB's testing also showed that the EA288 failed real world tests, too.)

    I guess I'm wondering if the newer EA288 equipped models will be recalled, too, but separately? Or were "defeat device" equipped EA288s not sold in Europe?

    Some technical background on the engines involved from Green Car Congress which looks authoritative, but I'm just some guy on the Internet, so who knows.
    posted by notyou at 10:40 AM on September 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


    And Portland lowers the bar on passive-aggressiveness over Dieselgate.
    posted by NoxAeternum at 3:19 PM on September 30, 2015


    What Would a Utilitarian do with Volkswagen?
    Cars are put on a dynamometer as a favor to car makers. They are tested at standard, pre-specified temperatures and conditions specifically as a favor to car makers. If we wanted to, we could do real-world pollution tests and just see how the car performs for whichever driver happens to get in. We don’t do that because that would in some sense be unfair to the manufacturers who wouldn’t have a clear understanding of what standard they were being held to. Instead, we lay out the testing protocols in detail, and the manufacturers only have to engineer the vehicles to meet standards per that protocol.

    Volkswagen took advantage of this graciousness reportedly 11 million times. Our options are to introduce an impossible level of monitoring to prevent future transgressions or issue them a “game over” by attempting to prosecute them.
    posted by Rangi at 4:21 PM on October 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


    With this scandal striking at the heart of those diesels the dealers must be feeling an incredible amount of frustration,” says Karl Brauer, an automotive analyst with Kelley Blue Book. Analysis from the firm shows the auction price of affected 2009-2015 diesel models have dropped 13 percent since the emissions issue became public.

    The foreseeable future is grim. Today, VW said it has withdrawn its application to the EPA to certify its 2016 lineup of diesel-powered vehicles. It plans to keep working with regulators, but it’s possible those cars will never be sold in the US.

    Meanwhile, dealers have been told not to sell new or used TDI models. Those cars are sitting on lots, tying up millions in capital. And dealers have already paid for them, either in cash or through financing. Volkswagen has offered zero percent interest financing on unsold cars, but the gesture doesn’t come close to solving the problem.

    VW screwed its dealers too
    posted by Dashy at 5:55 PM on October 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


    With the usual caveats for the source, there are now independent reports that not only were VW not the only ones, but they also weren't even the worst offenders.

    The idea that it was 'just VW' doing this was always ridiculous. This will kill diesel worldwide at this rate.
    posted by Brockles at 7:17 PM on October 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


    The idea that it was 'just VW' doing this was always ridiculous.

    Yet another application of Gresham's law: bad engineers will drive out good ones.
    posted by pwnguin at 9:31 PM on October 7, 2015


    I'll wait for confirmation from a more reputable source, like The Onion.
    posted by tonycpsu at 9:40 PM on October 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


    A car that has higher levels "IRL" than in the testing regime doesn't automatically mean the company was cheating the way VW was or at all for that matter. Maybe they are but proper testing would need to be done. The article even says
    Rather than laboratory tests that don’t test cars on gradients or on corners, Dr Tate says testing cars in ‘real-world’ conditions gives a more accurate picture.
    so we know they purposefully were using a test that would be expected to give poorer results. I don't doubt the result are more accurate but that is not what the standard is calibrated to.

    And I sure would like to see some numbers on the claim:
    ‘We found small city diesel cars are emitting more than double-decker buses or fully laden 40-ton articulated lorries.
    considering the numbers are /km and not /l. If that is true than it will be a simple matter going forward to do whatever is being done with heavy diesel engines though that may mean a reduction in power/economy.
    posted by Mitheral at 11:54 PM on October 7, 2015




    Yet another application of Gresham's law: bad engineers will drive out good ones.

    Even though it is far more likely that the accountants set budgets that meant hitting the EPA targets was impossible so they had to develop an alternative method of 'compliance'? The idea that this is an 'evil engineers' plan is ... odd. It's extremely unlikely this wasn't a conscious decision taken at a much higher level than engineering or at the very least with discussion with the legal department.

    Bad engineers produce poor solutions to a set brief. Good engineers came up with a clever way to circumvent the regulations. Not because they were lazy, but because management gave them a brief that involved evading the tests rather than complying with them.
    posted by Brockles at 8:18 PM on October 8, 2015


    From VW screwed its dealers too:

    ...VW said it was planning to add an additional 100 dealerships to the 650 currently in the US to support a hoped-for increase in sales.

    Like, really, serious question, how long did they think they would get away with this? Did they even consider that they would get caught at some point? Did they think it would be a slap on the wrist and no PR effect at all?
    posted by Evilspork at 4:38 PM on October 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


    They thought, one assumes, that once they shifted the fleet over to the engines outfitted with the SCR (Urea) NOx scrubber, they'd go on their merry way. The older cars would age out of service, and nobody'd be the wiser.

    It's as if they really would have gotten away with it if not for those meddling kids.
    posted by notyou at 5:04 PM on October 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


    It's very rare for publicly-traded companies to think past the next quarterly earnings report, so, no, I doubt they did consider the possibility of getting caught.
    posted by tonycpsu at 5:12 PM on October 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


    So of course I just got this spam from my local dealer:

    "Volkswagen is offering you our loyal customer $2000 in Owner Loyalty Cash [worded as a discount] towards the purchase of a brand new Volkswagen, and you don't have to trade your current VW in! This amazing incentive paired with 0% Financing For Up To 72 Months And 3 YEARS FREE MAINTENANCE"

    All inventory must go, clearly. Hahaha, I just noticed it says GAS models only in the fine print, of course.
    posted by Evilspork at 8:32 AM on October 10, 2015


    Looks like Germany will be the test run for the effects of software removal (and the 1.8L diesels need a physical alteration ...)

    http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/10/15/germany-orders-vw-to-fix-cars-with-deceptive-software.html
    posted by Dashy at 9:49 AM on October 15, 2015 [2 favorites]




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