Volkswagen Diesel Cheats — Product Of Piech’s “Reign Of Terror,” Bob Lutz … – CleanTechnica

Posted: Monday, December 14, 2015


Published on December 14th, 2015 |
by Steve Hanley


December 14th, 2015 by  

Originally published on GAS2.


Volkswagen chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch told the press in Wolfsburg Friday that the whole diesel emissions cheating mess started back in 2005. That’s when company’s engineers were unable to make its new 2.0-liter EA189 diesel engine comply with the limits for NOx emissions imposed by the EPA. At the time, US rules for diesels were considerably more stringent than European standards.

“Looking back, we regrettably have to recognize that the developers involved in the EA 189 project quite simply could not find a way to meet the tougher NOx limits in the United States by permissible means, or at least they could not find a way they felt at the time to be meaningful and that fitted the time frame and the budget they had been given,” Poetsch said. To find a way out of the box management had put them in, VW engineers developed software that contained two emissions strategies: one to yield low NOx in lab tests and another for real-world driving that produced significantly higher NOx levels.

According to Automotive News, the first cars sold in the US with the EA189 engine were the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta sedan and Sportwagen. They were touted by VW as being almost as fuel efficient but less expensive than Toyota’s hot-selling Prius. They won the “Green Car of the Year” award and were widely praised by the automotive press.

The original EA 189 diesel used a novel “lean NOx trap” exhaust system to reduce NOx emissions. Other competitors trying to join in the “clean diesel” craze in the US used a urea-based exhaust treatment system that was effective but more expensive. Volkswagen switched to its own urea system for its 2012 cars, but the offending software continued to be used. Customers continued to rave that their diesel-powered cars actually got far better fuel economy than advertised.

vw-tdi-engine“Later down the line, when the effective technical solutions to reduce NOx became available, these solutions were not in fact used as they should have been done, apparently in the mistaken interest of customers,” Poetsch said. “As a result, NOx levels on the test bench were particularly low but they were significantly higher on the road. With hindsight, this all sounds almost a little banal, but that is perhaps why we find the whole thing so painful.” He said the cheating software went against the values of Volkswagen and all of its 600,000 employees.

“We still do not know whether these people involved in this issue from 2005 to the present day were fully aware of the risks they were taking and of the potential damage they could expose the company to,” said Poetsch, “but that’s something else that we’re going to find out.” Volkswagen says 9 managers who “may” have been involved in the emissions manipulations have been suspended.

But that’s not the whole story, is it? Until last spring, Volkswagen was run with an iron fist by Ferdinand Piech. He was shoved aside by Martin Winterkorn, a long-time Volkswagen employee widely regarded as Germany’s best engineer. Now Winterkorn himself has been relieved of his command and another highly regarded engineer, Ulrich Hackenberg, has left the company unexpectedly.

The German government is pursuing a criminal investigation of the company. Any or all of those men may yet be called to account for their actions. For German authorities, the question will be a Nixonian, “What did they know and when did they know it?”

One person who thinks he knows what happened is perennial auto industry gadfly Bob Lutz. He told Road & Track that Ferdinand Piech’s time at the head of Volkswagen was a “reign of terror … where performance was driven by fear and intimidation.” Lutz calls him a ruthless leader who workers would do anything to please — including breaking the rules. “I imagine that at some point, the VW engineering team said to Piech, ‘We don’t know how to pass the emissions test with the hardware we have,’ ” Lutz wrote. “The reply, in that culture, most likely was, ‘You will pass! I demand it! Or I’ll find someone who can do it!’ “

Remember that statement by Poetsch, the one that said engineers “could not find a way they felt at the time to be meaningful and that fitted the time frame and the budget they had been given.” The chances are, the time frame and the budget he is referring to were dictated by none other than Ferdinand Piech. Those with long memories may remember Piech strutting about 10 years ago telling anyone who would listen that his company’s diesel engines didn’t need no stinking urea injection system. Except they did.

In the real world, some mid-level engineers will probably get their heads chopped off while company leaders get a golden handshake. That’s usually the way things are handled in the military. Generals get accolades while lieutenants go to Leavenworth. We haven’t heard the last of Dieselgate yet. 
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About the Author

writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Rhode Island. You can follow him on Google + and on Twitter.

  • It’s Piëch with an umlaut.This is so unusual on the letter “e” it has to be explained to Germans.

  • “With hindsight, this all sounds almost a little banal, but that is perhaps why we find the whole thing so painful.”
    An unbelievably telling statement of the VW mindset.

  • This report appears to contain contradictions that are present in many others about this issue yet never discussed. The report states that VW did in fact produce a car, on time (by implication) and on budget (again by implication) that met the EPA test requirements. VW succeeded with a particular software strategy (I have not read that this by itself is not permissible), and without any special hardware.

    If they had left the EPA software strategy in place then presumably the car could have sold without any trouble. I have not read any reports that indicated there was something wrong with the EPA software strategy, only that it was different from the one used outside of the EPA test.

    If the car did pass the EPA acceleration/speed/efficiency/emissions test, and these numbers were reported in the sales brochure that brought customers to the dealership, then VW had a sellable car, presumably at a price less than the Toyota Prius with the almost as efficient quoted EPA values. The acceleration and power values in the brochure presumably also matched EPA test values and were acceptable.

    There is speculation that performance would have been unacceptable, however no numbers are presented nor an explanation as to why the brochure specified values would not have been real or acceptable.

    There is one vague part in the line,
    “Looking back, we regrettably have to recognize that the developers involved in the EA 189 project quite simply could not find a way to meet the tougher NOx limits in the United States .., or at least they could not find a way they felt at the time to be meaningful”

    It is not clear what this means. By accounts read so far they did succeed, passed the EPA tests, and the customers were satisfied with the numbers in the brochure.

    Were the values quoted in the brochure different from the EPA test numbers ? What are the numbers for the non-EPA test software strategy ? Why were customers happy with the real world fuel economy ? Many like myself perform independent tests recording the mileage and added fuel volume at the fuel station.

    • All this doesn’t matter. The fact remains that the vehicle operates very differently under test conditions compared to real-world driving. Plus, there are a bunch of VWs out there that are spewing illegal amounts of pollution into the air. Now VW has to ensure their vehicles operate the same during testing and real-world driving (as far as emissions controls go) and they will have to sacrifice fuel economy and engine performance to do so.

      You know as well as I do that people don’t look at window stickers all that carefully and fuel economy numbers are low on their priority list generally. In addition, stories of people routinely exceeding the EPA’s fuel economy numbers did a lot to make people care even less about window sticker numbers. VW may have produced a car that met EPA standards, but it couldn’t meet VW’s own performance standards at the same time, hence the defeat devices intended to satisfy both requirements (although this was an illegal solution to the problem). Nobody lugs a NOx meter around them as they drive, so people were completely unaware they were causing so much pollution. But people were satisfied with their vehicle’s performance since VW designed these cars to hit specific performance metrics, especially with the emissions controls curtailed.

  • Thanks for your final note that it is the people who carry out the orders who get punished while the top brass goes free. It is true over and over.

  • Sounds a lot like NY Home Performance with Energy Star. Can’t get results? Bury them…


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