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AAA hits out at Volkswagen over dieselgate – again

Smackdown: The AAA and VGA have engaged in a war of words since news of dieselgate first broke in September 2015.

Volkswagen diesels up to 14 per cent less fuel efficient post-update, AAA claims

Volkswagen logo12 Mar 2018

UPDATED: 13/03/2018

THE Australian Automobile Association (AAA) has criticised Volkswagen Group Australia (VGA) over its dieselgate-related recall, with claims that affected vehicles are less fuel efficient and just as pollutant post-update, but the German car-maker’s local arm has staunchly denied the claims.

Commissioning its own real-world testing alongside the global governing body of motorsport, the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the AAA found that impacted vehicles were using up to 14 per cent more diesel after having their software updated, while nitrogen oxide emissions remain 4.11 times higher than their alleged laboratory levels.

A statement released by VGA criticised the AAA over its study, saying that the software update in question was endorsed by the German government and verified by automotive bodies in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

“Volkswagen rejects the comparison sought to be made by the AAA,” the statement read.

“The German government approved Volkswagen’s software update on the basis that it did not adversely affect the emissions or fuel economy of vehicles in test conditions.

“The leading motorists’ organisations in Germany, Austria and Switzerland have tested vehicles and concluded that vehicles continue to perform as expected after the software update.

“Their conclusions after testing these cars, consistent with the views of the German government agency responsible for approving the software update, are exactly the opposite of what the AAA has asserted its testing shows.”

On behalf of the FIA and AAA, research firm ABMARC ran tests on a Euro 5-compliant 2010 Golf wagon in late 2016, finding that the vehicle used seven per cent more fuel – or 0.5 litres per 100 kilometres – after it had its software updated under the recall.

Economy worsened by two per cent in urban areas, seven per cent on rural roads and 14 per cent during highway driving, while power and torque outputs slightly increased, too.

Nevertheless, test results showed a reduction in nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide and particulate matter emissions, but, as mentioned, the former was still 4.11 times higher in real-world conditions.

“The testing further supports the AAA’s call for a real-world emission testing program in Australia,” a statement from the AAA read.

“The AAA has strongly advocated for the introduction of a real-world emissions test program following its own research program, which tested 30 Australian cars on Australian roads using Australian fuels.

“An Australian real-world test program would allow consumers to make more informed purchasing decisions and allow policy makers to ensure that regulatory settings reflect real-world conditions.

“The AAA argues that there is no point in introducing tougher vehicle emissions standards in a laboratory setting unless information on real-world performance is in the hands of consumers.”

Echoing this sentiment, Choice campaigns and policy team lead Katinka Day stressed that fuel prices remain a significant bugbear for motorists, which pushes the need for trustworthy data.

“With the cost of fuel remaining one of the biggest household cost-of-living concerns, consumers need to be able to trust that the advertised fuel consumption is accurate,” she said.

“It’s time Australia follows the lead of other jurisdictions, such as the EU, and adopt real-world driving tests for emissions.”

In a separate statement, VGA managing director Michael Bartsch added that the methodology used in the tests was flawed and not indicative of real-world testing.

“While the PEMS testing procedure used by the AAA may in principle be appropriate for testing emissions of nitrogen oxides, due to the high PEMS tolerances of ± 10%, it is simply not suitable for testing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions,” he said.

“Furthermore, major flaws which render the tests wholly unfit for purpose included substantial variations in the test runs and atmospheric conditions both on the same vehicle and different vehicles and even the performance of different vehicles being compared.

“The so-called new test results are not new and were published by AAA early 2017 and sank without a trace.

“This is cynical opportunism based on the timing of an important trial in the Federal Court.

“The differences between laboratory tests and on-road testing results are well known, and the ACCC has worked with all automobile manufacturers on approved wording, which Volkswagen Group members use in Australia to ensure that this is properly disclosed to consumers.”

VGA is currently involved in three separate Federal Court proceedings relating to dieselgate, with one brought against it by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), while the other two are led by class-action firms.

About 11 million Volkswagen Group vehicles are implicated in dieselgate worldwide, with vehicles from Audi, Skoda, Porsche and Seat among those impacted. About six million cars have been updated worldwide to date.

Specifically, about 100,000 vehicles are affected in Australia, including 61,189 Volkswagen passenger cars, 17,256 Volkswagen commercial vehicles, 5148 Skoda vehicles and 16,085 Audi cars.

Volkswagen Group admitted in September 2015 that it had installed a so-called cheat device in various diesel engines across its portfolio that activated full emissions controls when under test conditions, but allowed significantly higher emissions during normal driving.

The AAA is the peak organisation of Australia’s motoring clubs, representing the eight state-based clubs which include the NRMA, RACV and RACQ, among others.

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