2006-2007: In the spring of 2006, facing stricter emissions standards in the United States, Volkswagen is forced to cancel production of many of its small diesel cars for the 2007 model year. Soon after, in 2007, the automaker first purchases the diesel engine management software from Bosch, a German engineering giant, that would eventually used in devices that enabled Volkswagen to cheat on emissions tests.
This past September, Volkswagen admitted to installing such software on millions of cars in Europe and the United States over a period of several years.
The defeat devices are present in 4-cylinder diesel Volkswagen and Audi vehicles from 2009-2015 model years. They circumvent emissions regulations by turning on full emissions controls during testing, then shutting them down once the vehicle is back on the road.
The defeat device was designed to conceal emissions of nitrogen oxide. During road driving, when the emissions controls were turned off, the vehicles produced as much as 40 times the legal limit of nitrogen oxide pollution, according to the EPA.
Other car companies, including Honda and Ford in 1998, have been caught using similar defeat devices in the past. However, the scale of the Volkswagen scandal has not previously been seen. In the US, nearly 500,000 vehicles are thought to have defeat devices installed. In Europe Volkswagen has recalled a staggering 8.5 million diesel vehicles so far.
Volkswagen faces potentially staggering fines. The maximum fines from the EPA are the United States for 500,000 cars is around $18 billion, although it is unlikely to reach that point. The fines in Europe could be even higher.
Who within Volkswagen ordered the installation of the software, as well as who installed them, is still unknown. The timing of the installation of the first defeat devices suggests that the raised standards by the US EPA Tier 2 program, which was transitioning into effect from 2004-2009, may have spurred Volkswagen to explore alternative methods to appear to meet emissions standards.