Fraud, Deception and Ineptitude: The Story of Volkswagen and the EPA


This week it was revealed that iconic German car manufacturer Volkswagen had been rigging US emissions tests to assist sales of its car as an environmentally friendly product. It is believed that 11million cars were affected. This is the ‘mother of all crimes.’ These extra emissions will mean extra deaths – from cancer or other pollution related illnesses. This is not just a scandal, it is corporate fraud at a huge scale. Despite apologies from VW chief Martin Winterkorn and even an admission from boss of Volkswagen’s US business, Michael Horn, that the firm “totally screwed up”, I am livid at the board and its management. You simply cannot do something like this – it is so criminal that they have obscured every criminality.

Volkswagen as a huge corporation deliberately deceived regulators and consumers. This disaster will kill Volkswagen.

The Environmental Protection Agency says US Volkswagen vehicles emitted between 10,392 and 41,571 of NOx each year if they were all being judged against the 2016 model emissions standards. It means far more harmful NOx emissions, including nitrogen dioxide, have been pumped into the air than was first thought – on one analysis, between 250,000 to 1m extra tonnes every year.

The hidden damage from these VW vehicles could equate to all of the UK’s NOx emissions from all power stations, vehicles, industry and agriculture.

US emissions standards were introduced in 2007. It was these tests that forced VW to stop selling its diesel models, introducing new bestselling “clean diesel” models instead, that we now know were not especially clean at all. The treachery was hidden deep in the computer chips that operate modern vehicles, yet the cars had the EPA’s stamp of approval. All by fraud and deception.

How did they do it?

They introduced an intelligent software that was ‘evil ingenuity incarnate.’ It adjusted the engine’s output in order to reduce emissions when a car was hooked up to any testing equipment, then increased the emissions above legal levels when the car was on the road, giving the engine more power to go along with the extra smog.

EPA says the fine for this alleged deception could rise as high as $18-billion.

How were VW found out?

EPA was actually sleeping like any government agency. It was International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) that caught them. An NGO, the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), performed independent – and crucially on-road – emissions tests, on the VW Passat, the VW Jetta, and a BMW X5. These tests followed five routes on similar lines to the EPA simulations: highway, urban, suburban and rural up/downhill driving. The emissions performance of the Volkswagen cars, but not the BMW, was so much worse than expectations that the ICCT ran further tests on a dynamometer. In these circumstances, the cars passed with flying colours. It was at this point that the ICCT contacted the EPA.


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