It appears the nearly half million diesel TDI models sold in the U.S. found implicated in a cheating scandal are the tip of the iceberg.
Today from Frankfurt, the German automaker estimated 11 million of its European-spec cars were equipped with software enabling them to bypass emissions regulations.
Michael Horn, President and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America: “Our company was dishonest … we have totally screwed up”
Written in benign language steering wide of actually admitting wrongdoing, Volkswagen said in a statement it’s “working at full speed to clarify irregularities concerning a particular software used in diesel engines.”
It so happens these irregularities create conditions now being contemplated in the U.S. in a growing scandal in which the automaker admitted to regulators it created software intentionally. However, following is what it committed to about new vehicles with EU 6 diesel engines currently available in the European Union.
“Discrepancies relate to vehicles with Type EA 189 engines, involving some eleven million vehicles worldwide,” said the automaker in a statement of a four-cylinder turbo diesel engine. “A noticeable deviation between bench test results and actual road use was established solely for this type of engine. Volkswagen is working intensely to eliminate these deviations through technical measures. The company is therefore in contact with the relevant authorities and the German Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA – Kraftfahrtbundesamt).”
Volkswagen AG additionally said it is reserving 6.5 billion Euros ($7.3 billion), or around half of one-year’s profits to remedy the problem.
Oddly, in the above-linked statement Volkswagen says it is working to bring back “trust,” does not tolerate breaking of the law, but it also says the software does not affect emissions.
The 6.5 billion Euros is “To cover the necessary service measures and other efforts to win back the trust of our customers,” it said, and “Volkswagen does not tolerate any kind of violation of laws whatsoever. It is and remains the top priority of the Board of Management to win back lost trust and to avert damage to our customers.”
However, it’s not immediately clear how emissions are not affected, which is precisely what are affected and the reason for the statement, but VW does say this in wording undoubtedly reviewed if not outright written by corporate lawyers.
Thew vehicles in question, says VW, “comply with legal requirements and environmental standards [emphases ours]. The software in question does not affect handling, consumption or emissions [emphasis ours]. This gives clarity to customers and dealers.”
Even in admitting wrongdoing, it appears to be saying nothing is wrong.
In any event, the cars affected by the EA189 four-cylinder were not specified, but are believed to be mainly in Europe where one out of every four cars it sells are diesel. Meanwhile European authorities are investigating, and dire op-eds suggesting the virtual end of diesel as a cost-prohibitive-to-control fuel have gone forth.
Be that premature, or accurately predictive remains to be seen, but
Already coming are civil suits, fines, and cost to repair or retrofit vehicles that do not meet emissions standards in respective markets.
In the EU market, diesels have enjoyed as much as half of all passenger vehicle sales. The regulations are not as tough as EPA standards, though getting stricter.
EU regulators have already gone on record even before any known illegalities were at play saying their regulations were not containing the problem.
Unbeknownst perhaps to some of them the real problem may have been more than just not strict enough rules.
Meanwhile in the U.S. a full-blown investigation of the automaker is underway in what may be the biggest automotive scandal in recent memory.