The Volkswagen Company (VW) has admitted using technology that allows diesel engines to appear cleaner in official tests than in normal road conditions. This deliberate deception amounts to cheating on emissions tests.
After testing VW diesel engines and obtaining higher emissions than reported by the VW company, the testers reported their findings to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which opened an investigation into the company in May, 2014. On the open road, the Jetta exceeded U.S. toxic emissions standard by 14-35 times. The Passat was 5-20 times the standard. Only the BMW X5 passed the road test.
When the EPA and California regulators asked why its cars were running much dirtier on the road, VW blamed unrelated issues for more than a year. The agencies refused to approve 2016 models without an answer. Only then did VW admit to the manufacture and installation of software that switches its diesel engines to a cleaner mode during testing for compliance with EPA emissions standards. After testing, the software switches off again, giving the cars more power but emitting as much as 40 times the legal air pollution limit during actual driving. Toxic exhaust emissions can cause a variety of respiratory diseases, including emphysema and bronchitis. The stealth software was installed starting in 2009. VW has not said who installed the software, who authorized its installation, or the purpose for which it was installed.
Michael Horn, chief executive of the Volkswagen Group of America, issued an apology. “Let’s be clear about this,” he said. “Our company was dishonest. We have totally screwed up. We must fix the cars to prevent this from ever happening again and we have to make this right. This kind of behavior is totally inconsistent with our qualities. We are committed to do what must be done and to begin to restore your trust. We will pay what we have to pay.”
An apology also came from VW CEO Martin Winterkorn for the deception that occurred under his leadership. He pledged a fast and thorough investigation. “I am endlessly sorry that we have disappointed this trust,” he said. “I apologize in every way to our customers, to authorities and the whole public for the wrongdoing. We will do everything necessary to reverse the damage this has caused. We are asking, I am asking for your trust.” He later resigned to clear the way for a “fresh start” for the company.
Zandy Hartig, an actress in Los Angeles who bought a diesel-powered Jedda Sportswagen in 2013, says she’ll never buy another Volkswagen. “It’s not a design flaw,” she said. “It’s deliberately manipulating the system, and it’s quite evil. I really feel like I’ve been had. I’ve been hoodwinked. This is deliberate fraud and deceit.”