Volkswagen under investigation over illegal software that masks emissions


According to Germany’s Transport Minister, Volkswagen has admitted using the same fake emissions test in Europe as it used to falsify results in the US, the BBC reports.

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Following the discovery by US regulators that Volkswagen designed software for close to half a million diesel cars that gave false emissions data, the carmaker has ordered an external investigation its CEO said.

“I personally am deeply sorry that we have broken the trust of our customers and the public,” Martin Winterkorn said in a recent statement. “Volkswagen has ordered an external investigation of this matter.”

The German carmaker has been ordered to recall half a million cars.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the software deceived regulators measuring toxic emissions, and as a consequence of this Volkswagen could face fines of up to US$18 billion (£11.5 billion).

Cynthia Giles, an enforcement officer at the EPA, was quoted as saying that the diesel cars in question “contained software that turns off emissions controls when driving normally and turns them on when the car is undergoing an emissions test”.

A defeat device

The software, which the EPA called a defeat device, hides the true emissions only during testing and therefore when the cars are on the road they emit as much as 40 times the level of pollutants allowed under clean air rules meant to ensure public health is protected, said Giles.

In light of the investigation, Volkswagen has suspended sales of cars containing the company’s four-cylinder turbo direct injection (TDI) engine. Car models using the TDI engine include the Beetle, Golf, Jetta, Passat and the VW-owned Audi A3.

The defeat device software was discovered following independent analysis by researchers at West Virginia University, who were encouraged into action by the International Council on Clean Technology, an NGO.

When confronted with the EPA’s evidence, VW admitted that its cars were fitted with the defeat device. The company is fully co-operating with the relevant agencies.

Different system in the EU

Stricter regulations means manufacturers in Europe must test their cars under real world conditions and not in laboratories, helping to reduce improbable claims about emissions.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders stresses: “The EU operates a fundamentally different system to the US – with all European tests performed in strict conditions as required by EU law and witnessed by a government-appointed independent approval agency.”