Volkswagen: ‘New Dimension Of A Cheater Scandal’ Unfolds – Forbes

Posted: Sunday, January 29, 2017

A car is prepared for standard emissions testing (Photo: JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)

German media are tracking emission cheating by Volkswagen that would, if proven, reach “a completely new dimension of a scandal” as Germany’s Weser-Kurier writes. Months after the dieselgate scandal broke in 2015, Volkswagen seems to have slipped regulators cars for type approval that were not what later was sold.

The paper, along with many others, has seen written communications from German regulator KBA to Volkswagen that apparently was written after Volkswagen was found out. The KBA is quoted by the paper:

“Due to the uncertainty that production vehicles are always used for type approval examinations and that the technical service can reach its findings in an unfettered manner, the KBA will perform random tests and will commission another technical service for the test.”

For the EU type approval procedure, the automaker usually submits paperwork using a technical service like Germany’s TÜV, or the UK’s VCA. The regulator usually relies on the technical service and rubberstamps the submitted application. This differs from the American system where the regulator accepts the self-certification, but where routine spot checks using cars bought at random dealers are common. In Europe, such cross-checks would be highly uncommon. Said the paper after examining the documents:

“The regulator seems to have harbored serious doubts that cars were tested that had the same technology as the cars that later went to the dealers.”

Students of the still unfolding scandal remember that in November 2015, two months after dieselgate became public, Volkswagen informed an aghast public that roundabout 800,000 Volkswagen cars in circulation could produce more CO2 than stated on the paperwork. In Europe, CO2 emissions have an immediate effect on the car tax. A little NOx here and there can be overlooked, but the line is being drawn at understated taxes. In various EU countries, police raided Volkswagen offices. Volkswagen begged that the tax bills are sent straight to Wolfsburg, and not to each of the 800,000 customers. The damage was estimated at 2 billion Euro.

A month later, Volkswagen said it was false alarm. Fittingly, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung put the story under the headline “CO2 manipulation at VW vanishes into thin air.”

Now it looks like the scandal could reach far beyond Volkswagen. Environmental groups in Europe suspect, says the Weser-Kurier, that many EU automakers “use especially prepared prototypes for the type approval, possibly equipped with software that later won’t be used in the production models.” With that, “the emission scandal would reach a new dimension,” says the paper. Dieselgate cars use software that mostly disables the emission treatment when the car is out of the lab. If the new dimension of cheating is true, now the software is only used to flummox the tester during type approval, in the production model, the expense can be spared.

The scandal once again points fingers at the incestuous relationship between regulators and carmakers in Europe. “It was not clear,” wrote Reuters today, “whether the KBA remains concerned about the transparency of VW’s CO2 emissions tests.” Green Party parliamentarian Oliver Krischer mused that “the critical questions of the KBA could also just have been blowing smoke.”

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