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VW boss apologises for diesels emission software

Fuel fooled: Volkswagen is under investigation after a clean air group in the US discovered some diesels might be producing misleading emissions test results.

US EPA reprimands Volkswagen over 'defeat device' software

Volkswagen logo22 Sep 2015

By DANIEL GARDNER

VOLKSWAGEN'S CEO Martin Winterkorn has apologised for breaking the trust of its customers, after the United States Environmental Protection Agency discovered that some of its diesel engines were deliberately mapped to cheat emissions tests.

In conjunction with the Californian Air Resources Board (CARB) and University of West Virginia, the EPA found that some diesel-powered Audi and Volkswagen models only activated full emissions controls when under test conditions, allowing significantly higher emissions during normal driving.

In an official statement, Mr Winterkorn said he was “deeply sorry” and that the company would be doing everything it takes to regain the trust of its customers.

“Volkswagen has ordered an external investigation of this matter,” he said. “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.”

According to a report by the EPA, a “defeat device” was programmed into the software of “roughly” 482,000 vehicles to create misleading air quality measures, violating American environmental standards.

Volkswagen of America now faces the task of identifying vehicles with the software, developing an EPA-approved fix, before rolling it out to almost half a million cars.

Two-litre diesel versions of some models built between 2009 and 2015 are believed to be the vehicles concerned, with a focus only in the US at this stage, but Volkswagen Group Australia is awaiting an update regarding locally sold vehicles.

“With regards to the Australian market, we are seeking clarification on this topic from our head office in Germany, and we will be providing further information once we have more details,” said VW Group Australia public relations manager Kurt McGuiness.

The EPA advises that Jetta, Beetle, Golf and Audi A3 models built between 2009 and 2015 may be affected, as well as Passats produced in the last year.

At this stage, the EPA has not taken any further action beyond its initial reprimand, but is entitled to fine Volkswagen up to $US37,500 per offending vehicle. With around 500,000 vehicles likely to be effected, the maximum fine could run into billions of dollars if the EPA finds VW guilty and goes for the jugular.

The agency is investigating if Volkswagen deliberately mislead the emissions testing authority, but at this stage it is understood that clever software can detect when the vehicle is under testing conditions and reign in harmful oxides of nitrogen.

When under normal driving conditions the pollutant levels can spike to as much as 40 times greater than when under testing with the “defeat device,” and with high enough levels can cause respiratory irritation in humans.

“Working with US EPA we are taking this important step to protect public health thanks to the dogged investigations by our laboratory scientists and staff,” said Air Resources Board executive officer Richard Corey. “Our goal now is to ensure that the affected cars are brought into compliance, to dig more deeply into the extent and implications of Volkswagen’s efforts to cheat on clean air rules, and to take appropriate further action.” The EPA adds that owners of effected cars should have no concerns over safety, road-worthiness or resale complications and the cars are still legal to use.

However, a permanent fix that reduces emissions may also have a detrimental effect on performance, which could cause further headaches for Volkswagen down the line from disgruntled customers.

With yesterday's announcement that Volkswagen may be in hot water, the German car-maker's stocks fell a dramatic 18.6 per cent in one day.

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