Everything You Need to Know About VW’s Diesel Scandal

Everything You Need to Know About VW’s Diesel Scandal

Volkswagen is in hot water around the world after admitting to cheating emissions tests with its diesel-powered cars.

Allegations of cheating were recently leveled at Volkswagen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), after which VW admitted to using defeat devices in certain diesel-equipped cars.

SEE ALSO: Have Your Say on Volkswagen’s ‘DieselGate’ Disaster

Here’s what you need to know about this scandal:

1. What is a defeat device?

The defeat device used is a specific code embedded in the vehicle’s onboard computers that can detect when emissions tests are taking place. During testing, the code automatically makes the engine emit far less pollution than normal. When running during normal driving conditions, these engines can emit 10 to 40 times more harmful NOx into the air.

SEE ALSO: Here’s How VW Tricked the EPA’s Emissions Test

It is being said that Volkswagen may have done this while marketing its “Clean Diesels” to Americans. Most other diesel cars require some sort of additive to make then run cleaner, which weren’t needed with many of Volkswagen’s “Clean Diesels.”

2. Which cars are affected?

The vehicles affected by the problem so far are the 2009 to 2015 TDI Volkswagen Golf, Jetta, Passat and Beetle sold in the United Stares. Also affected is the 2009-2015 Audi A3 equipped with the diesel engine. The specific engine is the 2.0-liter TDI four-cylinder unit. German regulators are also investigating to see if European diesel models have manipulated emissions testing.

Volkswagen has come forward and admitted that 11 million cars have the illegal software globally. The EPA has also announced that it is expanding its investigation to include the automaker’s 3.0-liter V6 diesel engine, which is used in various Audi models and the Porsche Cayenne.

UPDATE: Audi has revealed that 2.1 million of its vehicles are fit with software that is meant to cheat diesel emissions tests.

If you own one of the affected Volkswagen vehicles and are wondering what to do next, click here.

Volkswagen Golf TDI diesel

3. Has there been a recall?

At this point, no official recall has been announced, though it seems almost certain there will be one. In its initial release, the EPA said that, “It is incumbent upon Volkswagen to initiate the process that will fix the cars’ emissions systems.”

VW maintains the cars are still completely safe and legal to drive.

UPDATE: Volkswagen has signaled its intention to recall all 11 million of the affected vehicles. The company says that is has a “comprehensive” plan to fix the affected cars, but as of September. 29, the details of the plan are still unknown.

 SEE ALSO: Volkswagen Just Lost Billions in Post-Scandal Stock Slide

4. Are these cars still for sale?

No. Volkswagen is currently not selling any 2015 model year cars with the 2.0-liter TDI four-cylinder engine. At this time, the EPA will not grant a “certificate of conformity” for 2016 model year Volkswagen vehicles with the TDI engine, meaning they are also not for sale. Canada has also issued a stop sale on the affected cars until the issue is resolved.

SEE ALSO: With Diesel Sales Halted, Here’s What Volkswagen is Doing to Help its Dealers

Volkswagen is offering financial assistance to its dealers to help them while sales of these diesel vehicles are halted. The company is guaranteeing bonus payments in September of $300 for each new car sold and $600 for each Passat, while offering floorplan financing reimbursement for diesel vehicles stuck on dealership lots that cannot be sold. The reimbursement plan will include both new and certified-used TDI models affected by the stop-sale until repair instructions are released.

5. How will VW fix this?

That is also unclear at this point. If Volkswagen simply issues a software fix, it is very likely that its TDI vehicles will lose performance and fuel efficiency to meet the proper standards. Another possibility is the addition of an entirely new Urea injection system, something most of these cars do not have. That would likely cost thousands of dollars per car.

SEE ALSO: What is Diesel Exhaust Fluid?

6. What is Volkswagen saying?

VW’s official statement reads: 

“As environmental protection and sustainability are among Volkswagen’s strategic corporate objectives, the company takes this matter very seriously and is cooperating with the investigation. Volkswagen is committed to fixing this issue as soon as possible. We want to assure customers and owners of these models that their automobiles are safe to drive, and we are working to develop a remedy that meets emissions standards and satisfies our loyal and valued customers. Owners of these vehicles do not need to take any action at this time.”

Volkwagen’s CEO, Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn issued a statement on the matter along with a video apology.

“The Board of Management at Volkswagen AG takes these findings very seriously. I personally am deeply sorry that we have broken the trust of our customers and the public. We will cooperate fully with the responsible agencies, with transparency and urgency, to clearly, openly, and completely establish all of the facts of this case. Volkswagen has ordered an external investigation of this matter.

“We do not and will not tolerate violations of any kind of our internal rules or of the law. The trust of our customers and the public is and continues to be our most important asset. We at Volkswagen will do everything that must be done in order to re-establish the trust that so many people have placed in us, and we will do everything necessary in order to reverse the damage this has caused. This matter has first priority for me, personally, and for our entire Board of Management.”

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UPDATE: Volkswagen CEO DR. Martin Winterkorn resigned his position in the wake of the issue.”I am shocked by the events of the past few days. Above all, I am stunned that misconduct on such a scale was possible in the Volkswagen Group,” Winterkorn said in a statement issued announcing his resignation. “As CEO I accept responsibility for the irregularities that have been found in diesel engines and have therefore requested the Supervisory Board to agree on terminating my function as CEO of the Volkswagen Group,” said Winterkorn.

SEE ALSO: VW CEO Resigns in Wake of Diesel Emissions Scandal

Volkswagen USA CEO Michael Horn commented on the scandal during the unveiling of the new 2016 Passat.

“As you have seen since Friday, the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, has issued a statement and reality that Volkswagen Group manipulated engine software in our TDI diesel cars, and we violated emissions standards.

“The CEO of our parent company, Dr. Martin Winterkorn, said yesterday Volkswagen will fully cooperate with the responsible agencies, and much much more important as I see it, he stated that he was personally and deeply sorry for this—that Volkswagen has broken the trust of our customers, and the public here in America. And lastly he stated that this matter, and this is I think common sense, now this is the first priority for him personally and for the entire product management team.

“So let’s be clear about this: Our company was dishonest with the EPA and the California Air Resources Board, and with all of you. And in my German words, we’ve totally screwed up. We must fix those cars and prevent this from ever happening again, and we have to make things right—with the government, the public, our customers, our employees, and also very importantly our dealers.”

SEE ALSO: Winterkorn Apologizes Again, VW Denies Report of CEO’s Firing

Sources reported early in the week that Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn had been fired from his post and replaced by Porsche CEO Matthias Müller. So far, Volkswagen has denied these reports, and Winterkorn has shown no signs of quitting. Volkswagen’s supervisory board has a meeting coming up to discuss extending or ending Winterkorn’s contract.

UPDATE: Volkswagen has named Matthias Müller as its new CEO.

SEE ALSO: Porsche Boss Matthias Mueller Named CEO of Volkswagen


7. What are the penalties?

If the EPA leverages its maximum fine, which is $37,500 per vehicle, the overall penalty could add up to $18-billion. The EPA is also working with the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the case and criminal charges may follow. A report from Bloomberg says that Volkswagen is the target of a U.S. criminal probe.

The impact could be even bigger if European authorities or regulators find any wrongdoing in their investigations. German regulators have said they will investigate to see if Volkswagen manipulated emissions testing in Europe.

Besides fines, Volkswagen’s market value has dropped by almost 20 percent, and the company has lost 15-billion euros (USD$16.9-billion) in market value so far.

UPDATE: A class action lawsuit has also been filed against Volkswagen.

8. What is the EPA saying?

The environmental protection agency has announced its intention to make diesel emissions testing stricter to make sure that an issue like this does not happen again.
The agency will begin by testing new diesel cars on the road, so that they get a clear indication of the vehicle’s emissions in everyday situations. Test vehicles will be obtained from customers or rental fleets, so that the automaker cannot tamper with the chosen vehicles.

VW will also have to endure a huge PR crisis as it attempts to repair the damage this scandal has done to its reputation. Volkswagen will have to regain the trust of consumers globally, even though the cars affected so far are only in the U.S.

With all the money lost in fines and lawsuits, the costs of an inevitable and huge recall, a massive PR campaign, and the hit to its market value, this could affect development of future vehicles and people’s trust in automakers and diesel in general. People will also inevitably start wondering if other automakers with diesel cars have cheated.

For people who own the affected cars, they will be inconvenienced by having to go into the dealership for the inevitable recall. Resale values for the affected cars will also likely take a hit.

Discuss this story at our Volkswagen Forum
  • Eric Cameron

    I thought the rule was simple. DON’T CHEAT. At least, that’s what I learned throughout my years of childhood in education. You cheat, you get busted.

    I always thought VW was using magic with their TDI lineup of powertrains. Best-in-class diesel fuel efficiency and all. Now we know why. I had no idea it would end up with 40x more NOx emissions though.

    This is essentially the third strike for automotive manufacturers in the last decade or so. First Toyota, then GM, and now VW. When will the federal governments and agencies say enough is enough and fine them with the largest fines and put the people who cheated in jail? With all these major violations, we’re talking about our ONLY PLANET and human life here.

    I’m glad investors sold their stocks out of VW today. I hope it drops another 20%.

  • Jonny_Vancouver

    They are only sorry they got caught.

  • Isend2C

    I haven’t been a fan of VW since they started American-izing their products to ‘suit our market better’ by being cheaper, bigger, blander. This seems like VW wants to play by their own rules and ignore the ones the government puts in place. I’m sure many makes //want// to do that, but no other brand has cheated like this. Most every recall is for something they didn’t know what going to happen, this is wilfully bypassing regulations.

  • Jeff

    Nobody is saying WHY they would do this. From what I’ve found on many diesel forums some people want to delete their EGR and only modifying the ECU will take advantage of the change. Does anyone know if that’s true? Does anyone know any other reason VW would do this?

  • Mark Wheeler

    VW is in BIG trouble with the GOV’t !!! They will pull all diesels and none will be sold at the dealers as of this month. They will get fined a BILLION dollars. Their stock is crashing in Germany as I write this. The Germans, like the Japanese are LIARS and this is another example !!!!

  • Suraj Somvanshi

    This is seriously not expected from the automaker giant like VW. “Environment protection is VW’s strategic objective”. Is this what you called as strategy? VW’s sales are at their peak. It’s best time for VW as recentely they overtook Toyota in sales. But doing such UNETHICAL practices will definitely loose company’s brand image. Forgot about brand image. This is serious CHEATING..not only with LOYAL CUSTOMERS & GOVERNMENT but also with ENVIRONMET. It is going to be TOUGH time for VW to solve this issue & legal proceedings. And one more this once you break the trust of customers, they can throw you out from business.

  • johnls39 .

    This does not make any sense that one or several persons who cheat make it bad for the economy and for everybody. VW gets what’s coming to them.

  • Mark Wheeler

    Over priced hard plastic surfaces just about everywhere! The mechanical’s are flimsy at best. Any stock holder is in deeper trouble.

  • smartacus

    If you cheat, either don’t get caught or be the best friend of the prosecutor.

  • VoiceofReason14

    So, is VW going to pay people for the loss in power, fuel efficiency, resale value etc? Why does the government get the 18 Billion and not the people who it actually effects?

  • Dave

    The general public have purchased these cars in good faith and spent their money, i agree totally its them who should be compensated, under any legal stance the contract was between VW and the customer not the government. The only claim the government should have is for any loss of duty in relation to loss of VED duty

  • Jerry Baustian

    Volkswagen knew this day would come. They ought to have a legal defense of some kind, and maybe they do, but first I think they want to see how greedy the regulators are going to be.

    And they have an engineering fix, but it’s probably not going to be cheap. TDI owners in some states aren’t going to have a choice; but a lot of them in other states are going to ignore any recall notices.

  • Galo

    As a very happy owner of a 2010 Jetta TDI six-speed manual, if the fix (software reflash) does indeed reduce performance and fuel efficiency, mine is NOT going back to he dealer -ever!
    I’ll just take my car to an independent mechanic for whatever it might need done and the car will remain on the current code until it dies…

  • Blerv

    What did Toyota do? The “runaway Prius” (if that’s what you are referring to) was actually a scam. The perp had hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt from I recall gambling. The floormat recalls were good effort to try to “fix” a problem that could not be verified.

    Again, no offense. Just curious if I missed something in the news. I’m a big Toyota fan so clearly biased. At the least even if their recalls were legitimate (like the Ford cruise-control switch fires) the intent wasn’t to sweep things under the rug. GM and VW, not so much.

  • frank seymour

    The real question is: will Chattanooga become the new, New Stanton of this century?

  • Mark Wheeler

    ” mine is NOT going back to he dealer -ever!” You will not be able to get your registration renewal unless the main computer is re-flashed.
    You will have no recourse in this situation.

    VW will be out well over 20-35 BILLION dollars. For VW CRIME doesn’t pay. You have to work on Wall Street to skate.

  • Mark Wheeler

    No matter how VW puts the SPIN on this they are SCREWED !!!!

  • Galo

    The DEQ tests done here in Oregon for cars equipped with OBD-II systems (as is VW) check only that you don’t have an active (ie, illuminated) check engine light which indicates some form of mechanical fault exists.
    The systems here do not check that you have the most up-to-date ECU code, so…..unless the whole system here in OR changes so that it looks for a particular ECU code revision on top of checking for active faults, they will never know that I am running the ‘old’ (current) code.

  • James Christian

    If you read some history on smog controls, it was Ford who got caught first in the early seventies or late sixties. They all have been doing it. I’m still amazed at all the people who really dislike VW. By the way I drive a 2015 GTI fast when I can and it probably still does not pollute as much as my 1967 Impala did in 1974.

  • NinoNessuno

    Its not true, technically VW didn’t even break the law 😉 http://www.audiq3forum.com/forum/337-car-lounge/7729-dieselgate-vw-didn-t-even-break-law.html

  • tech

    And as soon as the computer needs reflashed for another problem then its over

  • tech

    Omg my bleeding heart

  • tech

    Every car maker has cheated in one way or another it will always happen end of story. To be quit honest the autotruck industry in general is the biggest employer in the world so no matter who the manufacturer is it affects everyone. Volkswagen has been busted for cheating emissions before so this is no big shocker, those of you who believe in everything you see and read that a manufacturer advertises and that ur elected officials tell you are as much a part of the problem as vw is. So suck it up get over the fact u were lied to or bought into the bs and move on. Or do what needs to be done and do ur do diligence and correct the wrongs that effects us all. And if u think that global warming is an issue think again. Research it yourself and I mean true research of correct studies not the political bs.

  • tech

    How much should u be compensated u don’t even know how much of a difference the programming even makes so u will have to depend on a govnt agency to decide for you how much you can get when it was there system that failed to catch everything in the first place. The epa needs money to clean up a river they polluted and vw is gonna help pay for it

  • tech

    If u want money its gonna be a class action suit which on this scale is usually a joke. The govnt cares not about you and your purchase like the current administration said no one built anything someone else did. So I wish you luck especially if u have it reflashed and get the same fuel economy as any other diesel that’s on the same level. Oh and if u refuse to have it flashed then u yourself are in violation of federal law and emissions standards and can be put in jail and or fined so they have u coming and going

  • tech

    Vw has made everyone of you vw driving, banner flying,non compensated independent sales associates, environmentalist look like fools, how does it truly feel

  • tech

    100% outstanding!

  • tech

    All the desiel engines that have been adapted to have emission control devices all get less fuel economy based on programming. The egr eliminates only the oxides of nitrogen which is produced from high combustion chamber temperatures. In actuality the egr does not rob horsepower and actually can help keep the pyrometer temps down and keep u from cracking cylinder heads and burning pistons all the while giving the ability to add more fuel for more power

  • tech

    No it wasn’t a scam and there’s a lot more to it than most know and the investigation is still being carried out. Toyota does their own platform for the “black box” which means that they could control the outcome of the information most everyone else uses an independent 3rd party set up which is interrogated by the 3rd party. Biased or not misinformation is the standard of the day but there are several lawsuits right now that have been verified that there is something wrong but the jury is still out on what specifically it is