The Volkswagen emissions cheating is the biggest scandal the automotive industry has seen in a long time, thanks to the constant stream of media reports and new pieces of information appearing daily. And now it looks like the 11 million affected vehicles total could grow higher.
In case you haven’t been near a television, computer, newspaper, or radio in the last month, here’s a short recap. On the 18th of September Volkswagen admitted, after the EPA stopped accepting their excuses, that they had fitted a “defeat device” in 11 million of their vehicles. This device was able to cheat emissions testing because it could sense when the car was being tested and when it was driving in the real world. When under test conditions, the system would switch on the software and the car would produce less emissions. When in reality, the emissions were up to 40x higher than the legal standards. For an in depth look at the scandal, please see our previous blog post.
A variety of Volkswagen vehicles and its partnered models were fitted with this device, all produced between 2008 and 2015. The affected models include: the Volkswagen Passat, Golf, Beetle and Polo, as well as the Audi A3, and models from the Seat and Skoda brands. These vehicles were fitted with the EA 189 engine, which is at the centre of the scandal.
News broke only a few days ago that the German brand are currently investigating another engine, the EA 288, which potentially could also have the illegal software. They’ve stressed that the current and older EU5/EU6 EA 288 engines in Europe are not fitted with any “unacceptable defeat devices within the meaning of the legislation”, but they failed to comment on whether the engines in the US have the software installed, or whether the EU4 288 could be affected. Sources told Reuters that various versions of the software have been installed into an array of different engines over the last seven years. Volkswagen are yet to comment on this claim.
As part of the ongoing investigation, 10 senior executives have been suspended. All the suspended employees have either been associated directly or indirectly with the development or management of the EA 189 engine in question. One of those is the head of quality control. The suspensions were a result of the company’s head offices in Germany and France being raided by the police and finding “incriminating evidence” allegedly linking the unnamed senior employees.
New CEO Matthias Müller, among other senior VW members, have told reporters they believe the scandal is a result of “a handful of people“. The internal investigation will be a long process, so it’ll be quite a while before we know who began the scandal. It doesn’t seem like the public, or the governments believe a scandal of this size could be down to just a couple of employees. The number of people involved in the scandal is key for the company’s investors; the higher the amount of aware individuals, the higher the potential fines.
The scandal has resulted in the resignation of long-time CEO Martin Winterkorn, shares dropping by a third, car industry and public global outrage, and a damaged reputation. The company has put €6.5billion (£4.7bn) aside to cover the costs of the damage, but expert analysts are predicting the costs will be much higher once everything is settled. If the new investigations into the older EA 288 engines reveal more defeat devices, the costs will only increase. It’s very likely Volkswagen will be facing lawsuits from every affected country, not to mention legal fines, drops in sales, possible compensation claims, and the costly effort to rebrand their image after this is all over. They came back from a troubled image once, so it’s probable they will do it again, but it won’t be cheap or fast.
On top of everything that has happened, the company has also been criticised for the handling of the emissions scandal. There are no solid plans in place yet, but we do know that 8.5 million cars will be recalled in Europe for software or hardware repairs. The company has said they are considering compensating owners if their cars resale prices drops, but they will not be offering full refunds.
If you are unsure whether your car is part of the affected millions, see our post on the VIN database where you can find out.