Timeline: Is Volkswagen’s ‘Bug’ an EU Feature? [UPDATED]

[photo: macwagen via Flickr]

[photo: macwagen via Flickr]

Reports this last week that Volkswagen deployed “defeat devices” — software designed to cheat diesel passenger vehicle emissions controls tests — revealed more than an automobile manufacturing group run amok. One might suspect European Union’s emissions governance after looking at a timeline of events.

NOTE: This timeline is in progress and is subject to updating as new items are identified. [Update 7:00 pm EDT – note added about translation, and note added to citation [4]]

— 1970 —
February 1970 — The Council of the European Communities issued the Council Directive 70/156/EEC, which established a mutual baseline for technical specifications of vehicles sold across the member states. This included 3.2.20. Measures taken against air pollution.

— 1992 —
July 1992 — The first standard for passenger vehicle emissions, Euro 1 through 6, is implemented. Level Euro 1 for new diesel-fueled vehicles limited emissions of carbon monoxide (CO) to 2.72 grams per kilometer, with no initial limit on nitrous oxides (NOx) alone, but a combined limit of hydrocarbon+nitrous oxides (HC+NOx) at 0.97 g/km.

— 2004 – 2009 —
Dates Vary — Vehicle manufacturers phased in the remaining Euro 4 through 6 emissions standards.

19 October 2004 — European Environment Agency published a press release, Poor European test standards understate air pollution from cars, which summarized the problem:

Inadequate test standards are underestimating emissions of harmful air pollutants from new cars and evidence indicates that many diesel car owners are making things worse by modifying their engines to increase power, the European Environment Agency warned today.

No specific orders or directions were offered to resolve the problem with emissions test standards.

— 2007 —
(Month TBD) — Volkswagen subsidiary Audi launched its “Truth in Engineering” ad campaign. This tagline remains in use to present.

— 2008 —
(Month TBD) — VW announced its “Clean Diesel” (TDI model) technology, and began selling it in 4-cylinder diesel Jetta, Beetle, Audi A3, and Golf cars to the US market.

(Month TBD) — Green Car Journal named VW’s 2009 Jetta TDI “Green Car of the Year.”

— 2009 —
September 2009 — European emission standard Euro 5a for diesel passenger vehicles enacted, limiting CO to 0.50 grams per kilometer, NOx to 0.180 g/km , and HC+NOx to 0.230 g/km.

These levels are a reduction from Euro 4 standard implemented in January 2005 (CO=0.05, NOx=0.25, HC+NOx=0.30).

— 2011 —
September 2011 — EU emission standard Euro 5b phased in, using same levels as 5a, but applying a specific particulate measure of 6×10(11th).

December 2011 — Report in Atmospheric Environment [1] says,

…The lack of a decrease in the concentration of NOx and in particular NO2 is of concern given European air quality standards are set in law. The lack of decrease in the concentration of NOx and NO2 is also in clear disagreement with emission inventory estimates and projections. … We find that there are significant discrepancies between current UK/European estimates of NOx emissions and those derived from the remote sensing data for several important classes of vehicle. In the case of light duty diesel vehicles it is found that NOx emissions have changed little over 20 years or so over a period when the proportion of directly emitted NO2 has increased substantially. For diesel cars it is found that absolute emissions of NOx are higher across all legislative classes than suggested by UK and other European emission inventories. Moreover, the analysis shows that more recent technology diesel cars (Euro 3–5) have clear increasing NOx emissions as a function of Vehicle Specific Power, which is absent for older technology vehicles. … [emphasis mine]

— 2012 —
April 2012 — The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), an independent nonprofit, published a report, Discrepancies between type-approval and real-world fuel consumption and CO2 values in 2001-2011 European passenger cars. Its summary is rather benign, though it does suggest there are discrepancies in emissions reporting:

This paper compares fuel consumption / CO2 values of passenger cars from different sources and aims at quantifying the discrepancy between laboratory type-approval values and real-world values, including a retrospective analysis for the years 2001-2011 to determine if the gap between the two datasets has increased over time. Potential explanations for the discrepancies found are discussed and possible practical solutions for the future outlined.

The report expressed concerns about consumers’ perceptions that fuel efficiency does not match figures reported at time of sale, and that consumers might resist emissions controls because efficiency does not yield an offset in fuel savings.

— 2013 —
November 2013 — An op-ed by Christian Wüst in Der Spiegel, Artists of the Dynamometer (Artisten des Prüfstands), criticized automakers for failing to install particulate filters costing an estimated 100 euros per each gasoline-powered vehicle. Though Wüst had training as a mechanic as well as education in journalism, he may have been fooled by reports on diesel-powered vehicle emissions tests, with regard to soot-particulate filters.

… Die schon beim Diesel bewährten Filter hingegen könnten all diese Trickserei überflüssig machen. Sie fangen mehr als 99 Prozent der Partikel ein. Selbst auf Messfahrt bei Vollgas bliebe ein Benzinauto mit diesem Gerät weit unter dem zulässigen Grenzwert. …
[Translation: The already proven diesel filter on the other hand could make all this tricks* superfluous. They capture more than 99 percent of the particles. Even on test runs at full throttle, a gasoline car with this device is far below the allowable limit. …]

(Month TBD) — West Virginia University’s Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines & Emissions (CAFEE) researchers are commissioned by the ICCT to test Volkswagen diesel passenger car emissions.

— 2014 —
May 2014 — WVU’s CAFEE researchers issue a Final Report [2] to ICCT.

(Month TBD) — VW began selling “Clean Diesel” Passats in the US market.

September 2014 — Emissions standard Euro 6 implemented, with CO limit unchanged at 0.50 g/km; NOX 0.080, HC+NOX 0.170, and particulate unchanged at 6×10(11th).

28 September 2014 — ICCT published a report [3] updating previous work and extending “an analysis of the gap between official and real-world fuel consumption and CO2 emissions for passenger cars in Europe, which reached 38% in 2013 and continues to grow at an accelerated pace.” The report calls for implementation of “new Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP), a more appropriate test that will produce more realistic type-approval values.”

11 October 2014 — ICCT published another report [4] — in summary:

Documents the discrepancy between type-approval and real-world NOx emissions from new diesel passenger cars. On average, on-road NOx emissions from the vehicles tested for this analysis were about seven times higher than the limits set by the Euro 6 standard. [emphasis mine]

— 2015 —
(Month TBD) — VW’s 2015 Passat TDI named by Cars.com the “Eco-friendly Car of the Year.”

18 September 2015 — U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued to Volkswagen AG, Audi AG, and Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., a Notice of Violation (NOV) of the Clean Air Act, alleging:

…four-cylinder Volkswagen and Audi diesel cars from model years 2009-2015 include software that circumvents EPA emissions standards for certain air pollutants. California is separately issuing an In-Use Compliance letter to Volkswagen, and EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) have both initiated investigations based on Volkswagen’s alleged actions. …

20 September 2015VW halted sales of some 4-cylinder diesel-powered vehicles in the U.S.

22 September 2015 — VW admitted that 11 million vehicles had been fitted with the “defeat device” software to thwart accurate testing of emissions.

23 September 2015 — VW’s CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned; law firm Kirkland & Ellis, which represented BP after the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, was retained by VW.

(If you have a point you believe is critical to this timeline, feel free to share it in comments for consideration.)

Initial Conclusion:
On first pass, it appears that the EU did not have adequate mechanisms in place to investigate the disparities between actual emissions and test emission levels reported over the course of the last handful of years. Until the U.S. regulatory body took action, the EU did not appear to respond at all beyond press release(s).

It’s not clear what happened between the time ICCT received their commissioned report from WVU-CAFEE and the U.S. EPA gave VW its NOV. This gap in time may have been the normal bureaucratic lag from reporting a problem through the federal government’s validation of the problem — but this gap meant 16 months of additional air pollution and more new vehicles sold with the cheating software on board.

The lack of prompt, effective action despite years of evidence mirrors the EU’s response to the refugee crisis. Both issues are at complete odds with the EU’s response to Greece’s economic crisis. This begs the question whether the EU has outsourced pollution monitoring to the U.S., and whether the EU itself has real function beyond policing economic policy and banking legislation.

We might ask if the disparity in EU reaction to different crises a bug or a feature, or is the EU merely asleep at the wheel? Whatever the case, thousands of U.S. and EU citizens have sickened or died prematurely because of exposure to air pollution, and climate change has only grown worse, setting up conditions for more crises ahead.
* Translation here in question. By all diese Trickserei überflüssig machen, did Wüst mean:

— all these tricks are made superfluous, or
— all this trickery is superfluous

In either case, you get the gist, I’m sure.


[1]  Carslaw, D., Beevers, S., Tate, J., Westmoreland, E., & Williams, M. (2011). Recent evidence concerning higher NOx emissions from passenger cars and light duty vehicles. Atmospheric Environment, 45(39), 7053-7063.

[2] Thompson, Dr. Gregory J., Daniel K. Carder, Marc C. Besch, Arvind Thiruvengadam, and Hemanth K. Kappanna. In-Use Emissions Testing of Light-Duty Diesel Vehicles in the United States. Report (PDF), May 15, 2014.

[3] Mock, Peter, and Uwe Tietge, Vicente Franco, John German, Anup Bandivadekar (ICCT), Norbert Ligterink (TNO), Udo Lambrecht (IFEU), Jörg Kühlwein (KISU), and Iddo Riemersma (Sidekick Project Support). From Laboratory to Road: A 2014 Update. The International Council on Clean Transportation. 28 Sept. 2014.

[4] Franco, Vicente, and Francisco Posada Sánchez, John German, Peter Mock. Real-world exhaust emissions from modern diesel cars. The International Council on Clean Transportation. 11 Oct. 2014. [EDITED: Note this is PART 1: AGGREGATED RESULTS of the entire study; PART 2: DETAILED RESULTS has been requested as it is not available online. ]

Blogger since 2002, political activist since 2003, geek since birth. Opinions informed by mixed-race, multi-ethnic, cis-female condition, further shaped by kind friends of all persuasions. Sci-tech frenemy, wannabe artist, decent cook, determined author, successful troublemaker. Mother of invention and two excessively smart-assed young adult kids. Attended School of Hard Knocks; Rather Unfortunate Smallish Private Business School in Midwest; Affordable Mid-State Community College w/evening classes. Self-employed at Tiny Consulting Business; previously at Large-ish Chemical Company with HQ in Midwest in multiple marginalizing corporate drone roles, and at Rather Big IT Service Provider as a project manager, preceded by a motley assortment of gigs before the gig economy was a thing. Blogging experience includes a personal blog at the original blogs.salon.com, managing editor for a state-based news site, and a stint at Firedoglake before landing here at emptywheel as technology’s less-virginal-but-still-accursed Cassandra.
54 replies
  1. bloopie2 says:

    Sure does look like the EU is way behind on this emissions testing stuff. But I’m wondering if the US is better – after all, it took a little NGO to notice this, after all these years, and the EPA only moved when it all became public.

  2. wayoutwest says:

    Interesting factoid, NOx is a Global Coolant that can help destroy methane molecules a major and growing greenhouse gas.

  3. orionATL says:

    what is particulate matter emitted by diezel engines?


    oddly, this epa document emphasizes the carcinogin aspect of exposure to diesel particulates. it never mentions the cardiovascular and pulmonary aspects of exposure. i believe i read recently that defeating diesel emissions controls as vw did could lead to 5-6,000 additionsl heart attack deaths per year in the u.s.

  4. Rayne says:

    bloopie2 — The US hasn’t had to do as much monitoring because its tax policy on gasoline versus diesel fuel makes diesel far more expensive. It’s also more difficult for US users because it’s not as available as gasoline for passenger vehicle consumers — only half of gas stations have a diesel pump.

    In terms of marketshare, diesel passenger vehicles represent less than 5% of US passenger vehicles, while in the EU they are in excess of 50% of passenger vehicles on the road. Sadly, there had been a double-digit boom in diesel car sales recently in the US, all of it predicated on grossly inaccurate data about “clean diesel.”

    Aggregated NOx emissions measurements also suggested that NOx in the US has been fairly stable. See this graph. I’ll post a graph showing recent NOx aggregate emissions measurements taken in Zurich Switzerland in an update shortly for comparison.

    wayoutwest — Sorry, I’m going to go to the U.S. EPA for info about NOx impact (aka N2O).

    In 2013, nitrous oxide (N2O) accounted for about 5% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. Nitrous oxide is naturally present in the atmosphere as part of the Earth’s nitrogen cycle, and has a variety of natural sources. However, human activities such as agriculture, fossil fuel combustion, wastewater management, and industrial processes are increasing the amount of N2O in the atmosphere. Nitrous oxide molecules stay in the atmosphere for an average of 114 years before being removed by a sink or destroyed through chemical reactions. The impact of 1 pound of N2O on warming the atmosphere is almost 300 times that of 1 pound of carbon dioxide.

    As noted, NOx is a greenhouse gas; increasing it in the atmosphere will only release more methane locked up in other sources like permafrost.

    To the best of my knowledge the reaction between NOx and methane relies on a catalyst like palladium and higher temps — not exactly normal, ambient conditions. If catalyzing methane+NOx was that easy, we’d have fuel cells all over the place already.

    • bloopie2 says:

      Thanks for the update. “I’ll post a graph showing recent NOx aggregate emissions measurements taken in Zurich Switzerland in an update shortly for comparison [I assume it will be much higher of course].” All that shit (>methane) and hot air (lies lies and damn lies) coming out of FIFA in Switzerland wouldn’t be related, would it now? Just a thought.
      Also, can one use such software to cheat on a gasoline test?

    • wayoutwest says:

      I think you’re confusing N2O with NOX-NO2 , one is emitted by dentists and the other by combustion especially internal combustion. Hotrodders do inject N2O into their engines to produce dramatic power gains but no one has laughing fits from breathing the exhaust.

      NO2 is a powerful Global Coolant even if it is a pollutant with adverse atmospheric and human effects.

      • Rayne says:

        I am not confusing the two. The two are referred to interchangeably, though NOx means a wider range of oxides than just N20. Read the EPA, ICCT, other environmental docs about emissions. NO+NO2+N2O=NOx, any and all that might generated by diesel ignition.


      • orionATL says:

        fyi –


        i.e., nox is a true “catch all” term, as is “particulates”:



        [… Diesel particulate matter (DPM), as defined by the EPA regulations and sampling procedures, is a complex aggregate of solid and liquid material. Its origin is carbonaceous particles generated in the engine cylinder during combustion. The primary carbon particles form larger agglomerates and combine with several other, both organic and inorganic, components of diesel exhaust. Generally, DPM is divided into three basic fractions (Figure 1):
        Solids – dry carbon particles, commonly known as soot,
        SOF – heavy hydrocarbons adsorbed and condensed on the carbon particles, called Soluble Organic Fraction,
        SO4 – sulfate fraction, hydrated sulfuric acid.
        The actual composition of DPM will depend on the particular engine and its load and speed conditions. “Wet” particulates can contain up to 60% of the hydrocarbon fraction (SOF), while “dry” particulates are comprised mostly of dry carbon. The amount of sulfates is directly related to the sulfur contents of the diesel fuel.

        Figure 1. Schematic Composition of Diesel Particulate Matter ….

        Diesel particulates are very fine. The primary (nuclei) carbon particles have a diameter of 0.01 – 0.08 micron, while the agglomerated particles diameter is in the 0.08 to 1 micron range. As such, diesel particulate matter is almost totally respirable and has a significant health impact on humans. It has been classified by several government agencies as either “human carcinogen” or “probable human carcinogen”. It is also known to increase the risk of heart and respiratory diseases.

        Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) are hydrocarbons containing two or more benzene rings. Many compounds in this class are known human carcinogens. PAHs in the exhaust gas are split between gas and particulate phase. The most harmful compounds of four and five rings are present in the organic fraction of DPM (SOF).… ]

  5. Rayne says:

    PJ Evans — yes, thanks for that. NOx is specifically a key component of smog; gasoline-fueled vehicles do not produce as much NOx as diesel-fueled do.

    orionATL — Thanks for the mention about cardiovascular impact; EPA may not have this posted, but I know other resources do, including Union of Concerned Scientists.

    Particulate matter is the soot resulting from incomplete ignition of fuel; there’s more particulate from diesel because it is not as completely refined as gasoline. The particulate itself may be an irritant triggering inflammatory responses and cancer due to exposure.

    Appreciate the link, I’ll give it a look-see to figure out how to use the info in the timeline. Fits with the report I have from ICCT showing lack of NOx regulation in EU.

  6. orionATL says:

    vw’s conduct is especially reprehensible because its political activities were responsible for making diesel a big part of the current european car market.

    diesel was not a big part of the european car market thru the early ’90’s. at that point vw began to lobby the german government hard to allow/encourage/facilitate more diesel production using the nox argument.

  7. Rayne says:

    orionATL — Yeah, I suspect that’s all going to come out. This is a Too-Big-To-Fail Business, EU edition; can’t imagine what will happen if VW is really forced to pay for damages AND to fix their mess.

    bloopie2 — I believe it’s possible, but the incentives to cheat on gasoline are much less than for gasoline because so much engineering has already been done to make gasoline vehicles clean. The incentives for VW to cheat was its marketshare across EU, as well as its rapid growth in US market as long as gas prices were climbing. Although it’s much less likely, you can bet there will be a lot of road testing under real-world conditions to see if gasoline emissions testing has likewise been gamed.

    Should also note, too, that both Toyota and GM have been under such intense scrutiny because of failures related to electronic components that the likelihood they have gamed emissions is pretty low.

  8. orionATL says:

    thanks, rayne, for this excellent long-range look at the current mess. your resesrch reinforces that nothing on the scale of this mess for vw (11 mill recalls?) happens overnight.

    i’m confident that every word winterkorn and other vw muckty-mucks have said publicly was scripted by a disaster mitigation unit of a public relations firm – most particularly the oleaginous “i accept complete responsibility” and “vw does not tolerate this kind of behavior”.

    i want to know who the p.r. firm is, and who the employees are who are writing vw’s mea maxima culpa teevee/print scripts.

  9. Rayne says:

    orionATL — Oh, if they hired BP’s attorneys, you can bet they hired a US-crisis management specialist, too. But they’ll use BP’s handling of Deepwater Horizon as a what-not-to-do. Already running off the alt playbook with CEO stepping down, no on-the-fly comments, and a replacement in the wings.

    The speed of the replacement also hints at advance planning, though whether this was foresight about this crisis, or normal succession sped up, who knows as yet?

  10. wayoutwest says:

    I think you have to accept that stationary dyno testing will continue to be the baseline for mass testing of vehicle emissions. It was already well known that under road driving conditions emissions increased especially under heavy loads and acceleration, further testing under those conditions is a good idea but there will be powerful opposition to what may be required to lower those emissions.

    The atmospheric data from Europe that shows no reduction in total NOx emissions from diesels even with modern emissions controls may be a huge problem without an easy or cheap solution.

    • orionATL says:

      “… I think you have to accept that stationary dyno testing will continue to be the baseline for mass testing of vehicle emissions…”

      really ?

      the most recent federally mandated, urban area, passenger vehicle, emissions test i observed not quite two months ago, ignored the very common dynamometer test though we had to drive right over the in-floor rollers.

      how do you explain that?

      • wayoutwest says:

        I haven’t had to have a vehicle tested in years but those rollers are probably the dyno which mimics some road like conditions during the stationary test.

        • orionATL says:

          i didn’t ask you what they were.

          i asked you why they weren’t recently used if, as you asserted, dynamometers “will continuevto be blah, blah, blah”.

          • wayoutwest says:

            Sorry, O I misread your question. Not using the dyno may mean you are not under federal sanction for your city’s failure to meet AQ standards earlier and I think only a sniffer test is required in cities that meet standards. Just guessing because there was never a dyno test where I had vehicles tested and diesels may be tested differently than gas engines.

            Asking the tech at the testing station would have answered your question as to why it wasn’t used, when you noticed it why didn’t you ask?

            Have you read about urea injection? Mercedes developed it and claim it reduces NOx emissions by 80%, Dodge and probably other diesel trucks are using it.

    • orionATL says:

      so much for your “continue to be the baseline” :

      “… German said it was unclear how the defeat device software worked, but the software could work by detecting periods when the steering column wasn’t turning but the wheels were which would indicate the car was on dynamo-meters for testing, or could also test for the precise uniform temperature that the tests are carried out at…”

      • jerryy says:

        “… German said it was unclear how the defeat device software worked, but the software could work by detecting periods when the steering column wasn’t turning…”
        Cars like that have an actual ’emissions test mode’ that the tech doing the test puts the car into. This is to keep the cars’ ecu from freaking out over one set of wheels turning while the other set is not and then automatically applying traction / stability control to the non turning wheels thereby causing all kinds of troubles.
        I wonder if that could be misused somehow…

        • orionATL says:

          that’s interesting. if the guy who’s studied the problem can’t figure out quite how vw managed to have a “dumb” computer determine that a car was in for emissions and not driving around p.j.’s neighborhood farting nox,

          can we bet vw had put a bunch of engineers and computer programmers on the problem ?

          • jerryy says:

            Hmm, I am not sure which end of the bet you are wanting me to take … :^)
            I hope the folks that are opposing GM and John Deere’s efforts to apply the DMCA to planes, trains, autos and tractors are paying some attention to this (bmaz wrote about this a very short while back), because under the DMCA, what WVU did could be considered illegal. Which means that in that kind of future, this sort of thing will be hard to ever find out.

          • Rayne says:

            You know what would be easier to mess with than VW? Messing with the company making the testing equipment and the software on which it relies.

            Wanna’ bet part of the defeat system is in the testing systems?

            • orionATL says:

              well, i sure am interested in any additional or superceding explanation. it’s way to early for definitive declarations as to cause.

              what i keep wondering though is how u.s. and european epa’s could miss this problem gathering “steam” :) over YEARS,

              and how vw engineers involved in emissions design work, and emissions certification work, and emissions testing work could all miss a software problem, even if the states mandated field testing equipment (if that’s “the company” you’re thinking of) was the source of the problem.

              i suppose too you could be referring to a contractor vw engaged to design and build the emissions systems for the four (?) vehicles involved, rather like toyota’s contractor for air bag’s massive (as it turned out) problem.

              • Rayne says:

                WRT U.S. EPA and EU EEA — I don’t think the EPA was prepared for this mess based on the way the U.S. system has been configured. There’s been heavy reliance on California for worst-case/most stringent testing, and if the “defeat device” could overcome the California testing, then the EPA had more pressing problems on which to concentrate.

                Since diesel passenger cars represent less than 5% of the U.S. market, the EPA had much bigger problems to tackle based on scale alone.

                But the EU’s EEA? That’s a real problem. They had plenty of notification that air quality was decreasing. The European Commission actually sued the UK (I think in 2013) for air quality in 6-7 cities, but never really pressed for a root-cause analysis. Why was there no connection made between the increasing use of diesel-fueled passenger vehicles, and increasing NOx in air quality testing?

                It doesn’t help that so much policing of environment is left to local/state authorities in EU. This is very different from the U.S. where California’s necessarily stringent standards shape the rest of the U.S.

                And it doesn’t help that both EU automotive businesses and EU states want to push back or relax emissions standards. Can’t help but shake my head and wonder how they managed to be worse than GOP Congress on environment.

                WRT “contractor vw engaged to design and build the emissions ” —
                I am thinking of one, maybe two makers of components, and German’s tight, protectionist specifications. Get the right component maker under contract to supply these parts, write the spec in such a way this component maker has a lock on supplying these parts, and it’s all sewn up. Virtually no intel leaks, all the cars react the same way to testing equipment. I’m not going to name any names because I can’t yet be certain this would work, or if there’s a failsafe secondary system as well.

        • Rayne says:

          This is interesting, but I think it may be the software in the electronics, not the conditions detected by the car or software (like steering wheel engaged). We should have seen a high rate of failure from California’s smog checkpoints from VW-group vehicles, but I don’t recall ever seeing any such reports.

          Because all the smog detection requires two things, 1) car’s system plugged into computer, and 2) detection at exhaust, I suspect the defeat system is engaged when computer port is engaged. As soon as the computer sees a VW diesel, the handshake process launches “malware” that reinterprets exhaust information.

          This is similar to Stuxnet. An infected USB stick was plugged in, the software infected the computer once the correct parameters were detected (ex: is this VW diesel? Y/N, if Y, engage), which in turn changed data including some partially randomized content to suggest a realistic output.

          The other problem EU has with testing is that both companies and countries are trying to demand an easing to make these diesel cars look better than they are — like reporting the vehicle’s weight under/over, running tests on downhill slopes, etc. (There’s a general lack of commitment to real air quality improvement, let alone halting/undoing climate change.) How much of the fraudulent test results over the years have been due to these other factors being gamed?

          • jerryy says:

            What you are suggesting is certainly possible, but far too risky. Considering the controversy the tests face in various communities, infected testing stations would have been detected by vendor audits that are performed in-order to justify the programs existence and cost, anything even vaguely related to the EPA faces constant opposition and scrutiny.
            Additionally, in many places, the usual testing method is only the ‘wand up the tail pipe’ check. California’s requirements (and engines supplied to the California market) are different than to the rest of the US.

  11. orionATL says:

    from today’s guardian:


    “… “The VWs were massively exceeding their official emissions readings in normal driving conditions, which was completely inexplicable and totally surprised us,” German said. …”

    “… a couple of months later the California Air Resources Board (Carb) carried out spot checks and discovered that the “defeat device” software – used to dramatically reduces nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions only when the cars are undergoing strict emission tests – was still present.

    “That is actually the single most inexplicable thing about this whole business,” German said. “VW had a chance to fix the problem, and they continued to try and cheat and do what they had done… ”

    my personal conclusion:

    – a series of cold calculations by vw, post notification, based on anticipated problems for their huge sales in europe.

    – active collusion by the u.s. epa for inexplicable (at the moment) reasons

  12. wayoutwest says:

    We have come to expect this type of behavior from GM but the German manufactures were supposed to represent quality and integrity not greenwashing and fraud. Apparently they have raised a new generation of greedy sociopaths right at home in the swamps of Global Capitalism.

    GM just got away with multiple murders as did Toyota and the rubes are still buying and bragging about their great vehicles so this little bit of cheating will be forgotten quickly, the brand will be rehabilitated and business will continue as usual.

    • Rayne says:

      Bullshit. Look up this guy: José Ignacio López de Arriortúa

      Much of what went wrong after Chrysler’s bailout in the 1980s can be laid at this asshole’s feet. He single-handedly halted GM’s quality turnaround, changing the corporate mission to chase short-term improvements in profitability and increases in share price.

      He was so good at what he did that Volkswagen wanted him.

      VW is no damned different than any other Too-Big-To-Fail business.

      • wayoutwest says:

        I never realized GM had produced that great of quality to turn around to and they certainly were never known for their pursuit of safety. I’m restoring a ’65 GTO and it needed major upgrades to its poor quality suspension and its dangerously undersized braking system.

        I agree with you about the bean counters such as de Arriortua who influenced the culture in the auto industry but that was in reaction to Japanese government subsidized competition. It was still a stupid way to respond, improved quality attracts and keeps loyal customers.

        The crimes of VW seem to go far beyond cutting corners for profit, this was a major long term conspiracy to defraud their customers and government while celebrating their Green credentials. This required a special kind of criminal mindset that had to be widespread at least in management and their engineering department.

        It’s strange that after almost 10 years no present or past employee of VW blew the whistle on this fraud, that shows some perverse loyalty to the Company.

        • Rayne says:

          Take a really good look at all the cars produced around the world in 1965. Very few were outstanding quality, and definitely not those mass-produced like Pontiacs. You’re asking a lot out of a car built on a low-budget family sedan platform, repackaged as a muscle car.

          I worked for GM at one time, and I worked for several companies to which GM outsourced machining and manufacturing. I remember very well the diktat from GM in 1988 telling my employer they would implement a total quality control system with documentation, or lose GM’s business — it would have been MY job to implement it had I stayed with that company. Less than five years later, Lopez had wiped out GM’s mandatory TQC/TQM policy along with development of preferred vendors, to concentrate on lowest price. His efforts became a B-school test case of what-not-to-do.

          GM’s shift to TQM in the late 1980s was a response to Japanese competition — not Lopez’ race-to-the-bottom. I’ll point out, too, the Japanese auto industry only managed to improve its quality by taking to heart American W. Edwards Deming‘s teachings on quality. It took them quite a long time post-WWII to get that right; apparently you don’t recall what rusty POS Datsuns were in the 1970s. There was no way GM could overhaul their entire supply chain between late 1988 and 1992. The comparison isn’t possible.

          WRT VW — when one in seven Germans works in some way for the automotive industry, and they rely heavily on exports, I’m not surprised there were no leaks. And with what I know about VW hiring Lopez, their culture was ripe for this outright fraud.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        GM loved Lopez. Its top leadership followed him in an orgasmic dream state when he walked away from Deming and quality in order to chase the cheapest global prices for components and systems. GM’s own recent systemic safety failures are most likely one outcome of that walk in the woods. That same management went postal when Lopez absconded and went to VW. The staff who hounded him for years were handsomely rewarded when VW was finally forced to let him go. One takeaway here should be to reassess all manufacturers’ claims about emissions and safety, not just VW’s.

        • orionATL says:

          “One takeaway here should be to reassess all manufacturers’ claims about emissions and safety, not just VW’s.”

          i was thinking just that earlier today, though not on the basis of the sort of knowledge you and rayne have, rather, on general grounds of suspicion of regulated corporations’ (and gov’s) behavior in our era of corp-to-gov-to-corp revolving door personnel.

          • orionATL says:

            to explain a bit more, the revolving door generates the zen of not looking TOO closely and not pursuing leads or suspicions TOO persistently.

            cf. banks, too-big-to-fail.

  13. orionATL says:

    you have the background to know far better than most, and certainly all here.

    it occurred to me after i wrote “YEARS” that who knows how long, maybe only recently. it would be interesting to buy some of the involved models back for several years – i didn’t have the sense that german had done that. do a little bit of auto archaeology. test the older models. then, along the lines of your suggestion, look at what contractor(s) got the job when.

  14. lefty665 says:

    Seems pretty straightforward, if emissions test then engage pollution controls, else let it rip. If there’s an OBD command for emissions testing, that makes it easy to detect, otherwise do something like look to see if one pair of wheels is stationary while the other pair is driving. Pretty straight up fraud.
    wayoutwest: Hey, Pontiac did all they had to do with the goats by shoehorning a 389 into a LeMans body and slapping the GTO badges on the fenders. Handling and stopping, who cares? Listening to those 3 2’s suck air and burning rubber at stop lights was what it was all about. They’d put a hurt on small block Chevrolets. Biggest hurdle Pontiac had was getting past GM’s anti racing HP to weight ratio restrictions. Olz did a better job in the handling and stopping department with their original 442, but it wasn’t as quick as the goat.

    • wayoutwest says:

      John DeLorean’s concept for the GTO was a much more advanced idea than what was produced, it included IRS and a transaxle and probably unibody construction. When I was racing on Woodward in the late ’60s GTO’s were referred to as Gas Tires and Oil although in a straight line they performed quite well.

      All GM intermediates used the same sloppy suspension and brakes but they did improve somewhat later in the decade. All Pontiac V8 blocks from 287 to 455 share the same external dimensions. GM limited the displacement on these cars to 400ci but some dealers offered larger engine swaps to compete with Mopar and Ford.

      There was a good reason for GM to quit racing and promoting Muscle Cars , they controlled almost half of the US auto market in the early ’60s and the government was planning to break up the company if they exceeded 50%.

      Chrysler’s B Body Plymouth with its lighter, stiffer and safer unibody and a real stout suspension handled and performed better and they had properly oversized brakes on the performance models. If you has deep pockets you could even put an Elephant under the hood.

      • lefty665 says:

        I hear you. DeLorean quit (fired? I’ve forgotten the details) and did a very interesting car of his own. Earlier versions of the GM Pontiac version of the intermediate body had a transaxle and the infamous curved driveshaft. When I was in B school one of the truisms was “Don’t look to GM for how to do things, their primary objective is to avoid going much over 50% of the domestic market.” They’ve solved that problem.
        I was hanging out with the oval track boys in Virgina. We cared as much about handling as just going fast in a straight line, but those cars would step right along too. We figured below about 10:1 weight to HP was where stuff started to get quick, but that torque was king. One of the guys got one of the first street hemis after Chrysler made 500 of them to have them certified by NASCAR. It was awesome, but out of the box didn’t handle any better than what we were building. Most of the others were engine swaps including stuff like a 421 ’55 Pontiac, 406 ’56 Ford Vicky and a small block ’50 Chevy. It was a good time.

        • wayoutwest says:

          Those old southern moonshiners knew how to go fast with Detroit horsepower. It was a lot of fun and the Cops didn’t interfere too much with the street crowd.

          Put a (Superstock) Dodge in your garage ads with Little Old Lady from Pasadena as background music was too much for the hand wringers and those who though young people having fun was sinful but the era did last about seven years. The Xtians even forced Chrysler to change the name of the Dodge Demon to something less devilish.

          When insurance rate increases and emissions reduction ended the fun and sales the Car Co’s did a little cheating by making the three speed manual transmission standard equipment on most Muscle Cars which under the insurance rules meant they qualified for lower standard rates.

          I’ve owned some of the prime examples from that era including Road Runners, Super Bees, RT Chargers, a ’57 Corvette and my last and rarest a ’69 Hemi four-speed Road Runner but my first Muscle Car was the ’63 Le Mans heavily modified with a 389 and four speed. Look up the ’63 Super Duty Le Mans, it is an engineering marvel and extreme performance car, Mercedes bough one to reverse engineer its Power Shift transaxle. A few years ago one that was a rusted shell sold for $226K.

  15. Anon says:

    VW must be kicking themselves for letting this get out into the open before the TISA gives them immunity for any such laws.

  16. lefty665 says:

    It was a lot of fun and we never killed anyone, us or bystanders. Local yokels were driving 413 Dodges with 2 4s. Late at night you’d hear them head out of town with the hammer down chasing phantoms. They liked to go fast too. You’re right, as long as we weren’t doing anything too stupid they’d usually look the other way. It was the D.C. area and before the Beltway was open we’d slip around the barriers and run on it. Nice straight and flat, 2 lanes of concrete and no traffic. Reston was another good place to run, streets all laid out but deserted. At night you could see the cops coming a couple of miles away
    I’ve still got a ’64 1/2 442 I bought in ’65. It’s got one of the last of the big bore short stroke 400s Olds put out before emissions controls got earnest. It’s gotta come out of the garage real soon now, but it’s a project. It got rode hard and put away wet. You’re further down into stuff than I was, you’ve had lots of hot iron. Neat on the Le Mans, I’d forgotten about them, nice story at the link. They made quite a splash.
    We were hanging around the oval track modified scene, some of what they were running wasn’t too hard to migrate to the street. Funny too remembering Grand National races before NASCAR went big time. Quite a few of those first generation drivers got started running whiskey. Junior Johnson, Cale Yarborough… Always seemed fitting that sprint cars ran on alcohol.

    • wayoutwest says:

      I hope you can get your 4-4-2 restored while you can still enjoy it, it is a rare low production car. Very few people were able or wise enough to keep their early Muscle Cars so you have a unique story to tell the interested youngsters at car shows.

  17. lefty665 says:

    Thanks, but I think Tom Wolfe had it right, you can’t go home again. But fun to think about. I’m driving a truck with twin turbos and fuel injection. It goes pretty good, more hp and torque than the 442 out of a six banger. Who’d a guessed it years ago?

    • wayoutwest says:

      New trucks are powerful and some are efficient, except for Fords, their new aluminum body may help that problem. You can drive that truck and few people will notice but anywhere you drive the 4-4-2 everyone will notice and many will recall fond memories of their delinquent youth.

      It’s true that you can’t go home but an old time-machine will get you close to the feeling of that unique era.

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