On Sunday two German newspapers claimed Volkswagen had been warned as far back as 2007 against cheating on emissions tests. A little over a week ago what’s now called the Dieselgate scandal broke when the EPA and CARB publicized a complaint that some Volkswagen/Audi TDI Diesel vehicles were illegally emitting more air pollution than allowed, in violation of the Clean Air Act. The news that Volkswagen had been warned is described as coming from an internal investigation into the matter.
One newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine, said a VW technician warned in 2011 against illegal practices in connection with the exhaust system in some vehicles. The other, Bild, reported that in addition Bosch (the German auto parts supplier) had sent a letter to Volkswagen warning against illegal use of software solely meant for testing. Bosch supplied the engine control and emissions control components for these vehicles, and had supplied some software that was meant for testing. However, according to the letter, Volkswagen’s proposed use of that software was illegal.
Bild says that Bosch replied saying they (Bosch) cannot comment because their relationship with Volkswagen is confidential.
Both reports rely on unnamed sources within Volkswagen, one being a VW Supervisory Board member. The information surfaced as part of an internal Volkswagen investigation into itself. The company is also hiring an external investigator, and of course many government agencies have announced investigations.
The Dieselgate scandal is concerned with the discovery that certain VW/Audi 2.0 liter TDI Diesel vehicles manufactured since 2009 emit 10-40x the NOx air pollution allowed by air pollution regulations. VW admitted to the EPA and CARB in early September 2015 that the affected vehicles were designed to detect an emissions test, and to adjust emissions control settings to pass the test. In all other situations, the car would instead emit lots of air pollution in order to preserve that peppy high performance driving experience that makes these TDI Diesel cars so highly desired.
One of the big questions in this scandal is just how high up the chain of command was the emissions test cheating decision made. So far VW’s upper management has denied its own responsibility, and instead blamed mid-level engineering staff, some of whom have already been fired.
At the same time there is evidence that similar wrong-doing is practiced by the other automakers, and even affects gasoline-engine cars. The EPA is widening its investigation to include cars from other manufacturers, and has warned automakers that extra time will be required to run extra tests.