Several Volkswagen engineers have admitted manipulating carbon dioxide emissions data, saying the ambitious goals set by former Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn were difficult to achieve, Bild am Sonntag reported.
VW engineers have admitted manipulating CO2 emissions data-paper
The paper said VW engineers tampered with tyre pressure and mixed diesel with their motor oil to make them use less fuel, a deception that began in 2013 and carried on until the spring of this year.
“Employees have indicated in an internal investigation that there were irregularities in ascertaining fuel consumption data. How this happened is subject to ongoing proceedings,” a Volkswagen spokesman said, declining to comment on the Bild report.
Volkswagen on Tuesday said it had understated the fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions of about 800,000 vehicles sold in Europe and later said it would foot the bill for extra taxes incurred by drivers as a result.
The latest allegation has deepened a crisis which erupted in September when Volkswagen admitted it had rigged U.S. tests for nitrogen oxide emissions. Auto analysts say the company could face a bill as high as 35 billion euros ($38 billion) for fines, lawsuits and vehicle refits.
According to Bild, Winterkorn declared at the Geneva auto show in March 2012 that VW wanted to reduce its CO2 emissions by 30 percent by 2015 and the engineers did not dare to tell him that this would be difficult to achieve.
Volkswagen VOWG_p.DE has declined to comment on whether the firm’s culture or the management style of Winterkorn, who resigned in September, had been a factor in the cheating. Lawyers for Winterkorn have not responded to a request for comment.
An engineer at VW’s headquarters in Wolfsburg, who works in the Research & Development department, broke his silence at the end of October and told his superiors about the large-scale deception, Bild said citing only what it said was information it had received.
It said the engineers used several illegal measures to manipulate the emissions values, including through a higher tyre pressure of 3.5 bar. They also mixed diesel in the motor oil so that the vehicle ran more smoothly and used less fuel.
The paper said VW was examining which employees to suspend following the revelations but said the engineer who made the deception known would be allowed to stay.
“We can’t punish someone who has taken such a brave step,” Bild quoted a person in VW’s top management as saying.
VW is conducting an internal investigation into its handling of all pollution-related issues after admitting that it had cheated on diesel emissions tests in the United States.
VW doubles down on electric vehicles, hoping to move beyond the diesel scandal
Volkswagen’s renewed focus on hybrid and electric vehicles may be its last great hope of containing the fallout from a rapidly spreading diesel emissions scandal that has engulfed its Porsche and Audi brands – and, most recently, even some of its gasoline-powered cars.
After setting aside more than $7 billion to pay for recalls and repairs, the German automaker lost $1.84 billion in the third quarter – its first loss in at least 15 years. And it tumbled from its hard-won perch as the world’s largest auto manufacturer, a title it had wrested from Toyota earlier this year.
Even as it struggles to cope with its cascading woes, capped by an admission last week that it had understated carbon dioxide emissions in as many as 800,000 gas-powered vehicles, Volkswagen has spent much of the past month doubling down on its commitment to zero-emissions electric vehicles.
In addition to reducing the lease price of its plug-in e-Golf to $229 from $299 per month, it introduced an even lower-priced SE version of the e-Golf that can be leased for just $199 per month, making it one of the least expensive electric vehicles on the market.
In a mid-October announcement of its near-term product strategy, VW committed to making an all-electric version of its Phaeton luxury sedan, after it had stopped sales of all affected diesel models – new and used – at its U.S. dealers.
The Environmental Protection Agency rejected Volkswagen’s 2016 diesel lineup for sale in the U.S. after the company admitted to intentionally rigging five of its diesel models with software that allowed them to pollute as much as 40 times the legal limit.
“VW was over half the market for all diesel passenger cars sold in the U.S. That’s what they’re known for, so clearly, they want to change that image,” said Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst at the auto-information website Edmunds.com in Santa Monica. “As a result, you’re seeing a lot more emphasis on hybrids and EVs moving forward, as they try to distance themselves from the whole diesel scandal.”
VW currently offers just one hybrid vehicle in the U.S. – the Jetta, which was available with diesel or gasoline engines. The company also makes a plug-in hybrid version of its Golf hatchback that is for sale only in Europe but is making the rounds among U.S. auto critics, raising its prospects for sale here.
Whether additional no- and low-emissions Volkswagen vehicles will be headed our way soon could be known as early as Nov. 18, when VW holds a news conference at the Los Angeles Auto Show, where it traditionally has launched multiple new vehicles, including a hydrogen fuel cell concept it debuted last year.
“Volkswagen believes that sustainable mobility continues to be of increasing importance and is part of the company’s broader sustainability strategy,” said VW spokesman Darryll Harrison.
The company, which sold 10.14 million vehicles globally in 2014 but has seen U.S. sales flatten in recent months, has invested in research and development of various electric powertrains “for many years, with a rich history of developing prototypes and components in this space,” Harrison said.
That research has so far led to the e-Golf, on sale in the U.S. since late last year, and the Golf GTE plug-in hybrid, and “will result in new products in the years to come,” he said.
Since Sept. 18, when VW publicly admitted that it had installed so-called defeat devices on many of its diesel cars to intentionally circumvent federal emissions standards, the company has been largely mum about its plans.
Volkswagen has not yet recalled the 482,000 diesels with deceitful software that it sold in the U.S. since 2009, nor has it announced a specific solution for them.
The company’s denial of wrongdoing after the EPA’s Nov. 2 announcement that it had found similar software in the 2014 VW Touareg, 2015 Porsche Cayenne and five 2016 Audi models only complicates an issue that will likely take years to resolve.
On Oct. 8, Michael Horn, chief executive of Volkswagen Group of America, told the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee in Washington that the company would not begin to recall or repair the rigged diesel cars until 2016. He said the recall process will take at least a year to complete.
In October, while the rest of the U.S. auto industry saw sales increase 13.6 percent over the same month a year earlier, VW’s sales were flat. Shares in the company have plummeted since Tuesday, when VW revealed it had understated emissions in many of its gas-powered cars. Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the company’s outlook to “negative.”
To stem further losses, Volkswagen of America is offering VW owners $2,000 toward the purchase or lease of new gasoline and hybrid models, and additional cash bonuses to dealers of at least $2,000 for the gas-powered versions of popular models that are affected by the diesel scandal, including the Passat and Jetta.
That’s in addition to discounting its e-Golf automobiles, 80 percent of which have been sold in California since it came on the U.S. market in December.
That’s too little too late for Jerzy Lach, who has owned three Volkswagens, most recently a diesel Jetta SportWagen he bought by trading in a gas-powered Jetta this year.
Like a lot of VW owners, Lach liked the German engineering and style without the high price. And he enjoyed the same benefits as everyone else who bought a supposedly clean diesel: its quick acceleration, its ability to travel hundreds of miles on a single tank and an engine he thought was less polluting.
While Lach believes “electric is the future, no doubt,” he won’t be buying one any time soon because he doesn’t want to wait hours to charge the car, he said. If and when he does, it’s unlikely to be a VW.
“I forgive, but I don’t forget,” said Lach, who is considering a gas-powered Subaru Crosstrek.
While falling gas prices have reduced demand for electric vehicles overall, VW spokesman Harrison said sales of its e-Golf models have been steady over the past year and they will continue to receive marketing support as “Volkswagen continues to remain committed to being a leader in e-mobility in the coming years.”
Akshay Anand, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book in Irvine, said that even before the scandal broke, “VW seemed like it had genuine intent to electrify a whole bunch of vehicles within its lineup.”
In the years it will take to bring those vehicles to market, “a lot of this diesel issue will have died down,” Anand said. What will prevent VW from selling more EVs, he added, isn’t the diesel scandal per se.
“Most people aren’t even concerned about the fact that it’s an emissions violation,” Anand said, citing KBB research. “They’re concerned with VW cheating, period. That they lied, period. Emissions are such an intangible thing to people. It’s such an abstract concept. It’s not like there were 50 accidents.”
What VW has to do to be successful at repositioning itself with electrics is “first, take full ownership of the crisis, which they’ve done to an extent,” Anand said.
“I don’t know if there’s anything they can do in the immediate near term to get back in the good graces of the public, because things like this take time – and a lot of times with automotive issues, they only start to die down when another crisis pops up.”
What VW has to do to get more people to buy into its truly clean electric vehicles is what every other automaker has to do: offer cars that go as far per fill as gas-powered cars – and at a comparable vehicle purchase price, Anand said.
Current electric car models go about half as far as internal combustion cars and cost twice as much. The cost of charging an electric vehicle varies, but in general it’s about 3 cents per mile. That compares to about 15 cents per mile for cars with gas motors.
Volkswagen May Offer Cash to Ease Owners’ Ire
Volkswagen is expected to offer cash to the owners of diesel cars in the United States this coming week as it steps up an effort to recover some of the good will it lost after admitting in September that the vehicles were programmed to cheat on emissions tests.
Volkswagen officials said the company would make an announcement on Monday but would not confirm a report on an automotive website that diesel owners would be offered up to $1,250. The site, The Truth About Cars, said the owners would get a cash card worth $500 that they could spend any way they liked, and another $500 to $750 that they could spend at a Volkswagen dealer.
The company faces lawsuits from owners seeking compensation for the decreased resale value of the roughly 500,000 Volkswagen and Audi vehicles that were equipped with illegal software. It was not clear whether owners would have to give up any rights to sue if they accepted the cash.
The software allowed the cars to detect when emissions testing was underway and turn on the emissions controls. But when the cars were on the road, they emitted up to 40 times the permissible amount of nitrogen oxide, which is harmful to the lungs.
Volkswagen has promised to make changes to cars so they comply with emissions limits. But the repairs are likely to be costly and complicated, and Volkswagen has not said how they would be carried out. Two dealers said on Saturday that they were aware that Volkswagen was planning something but did not know specifics. “There is a program in the works with VW, that I do understand,” said Alan Brown, head of an association of Volkswagen dealers.
Cars with illegal software include diesel Golf, Jetta, Beetle and Passat models sold since the 2009 model year, as well as Audi A3 cars.
The Environmental Protection Agency said on Monday that some larger Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche diesel vehicles, all of which are produced by Volkswagen, also had software that was not allowed.
But Volkswagen has denied that the software in those cars was designed to cheat on emissions tests, and they would probably not be eligible for the cash compensation.
Already, Volkswagen has been trying to minimize the damage to sales by offering cash incentives to existing owners if they buy or lease a new car, as well as big discounts for all buyers.