Volkswagen emissions scandal may affect thousands more cars

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A 2010 VW Golf TDI with "Clean Diesel", one of the cars affected by the scandal.
Image: Mariordo Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz.

The Volkswagen emissions scandal continued yesterday with the company announcing 800,000 mainly diesel vehicles may also be affected by carbon dioxide emissions problems.

The company stated "the safety of the vehicles is in no way compromised". They estimated potentially this could cost them 2bn on top of the €6.7bn set aside to pay for the cost of correcting 11 million cars affected when the scandal broke, in addition to fines by regulators.

Cquote1.svg the safety of the vehicles is in no way compromised Cquote2.svg

—Volkswagen

This follows Monday's revelation that the emissions scandal has affected up to 10,000 vehicles sold in the USA by brands in the Volkswagen group, although the company refutes the allegation. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the regulatory body which has been investigating Volkswagen, claims the company fitted a number of recent Audi, Porsche, and Volkswagen models with technology that initiates secret components during emission tests to ensure the results are favourable.

The scandal began with damaging revelations that the car manufacturer has been using illegal software to enable diesel cars to cheat on mandatory emissions tests. This lead to a public apology on September 20 by then-chief executive Martin Winterkorn and the promise of an outside inquiry. He then resigned on September 23, and was replaced by Matthias Müller. The new allegation about Porsche is of particular concern for Müller, because he had previously been in charge of Porsche.

File photo of Martin Winterkorn who was CEO of Volkswagen when the scandal began.
Image: Volkswagen Sweden.

The company is expected to foot the bill for the recall of close to 500,000 VW and Audi cars affected at the time. There is also the possibility of Volkswagen having to pay federal fines of up to US$18 billion dollars because the US Clean Air Act sets a maximum fine of US$37,500 for each vehicle that contravenes the requirements of the Act.

An investigation into alleged breaches of environmental law was originally initiated on the advice of the International Council on Clean Transportation, a European non-governmental organisation. The EPA requested tests be carried out by West Virginia University, where the secret software was discovered.

The software, known as a "defeat device", enabled cars to identify when they were being tested and to switch on the emission control system. The devices may have been adding urea to the car exhaust because that would reduce the amount of nitrogen dioxide. The car would release a fraction of the nitrogen oxide compared to when they were being driven normally. Emissions of nitrogen oxide contribute to smog and are thought to have caused a rise in respiratory illnesses like asthma.


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