This is just the beginning of what will no doubt be a long, public, and very expensive flogging for German automaker Volkswagen. We reported late last week that the company got caught cheating on U.S. EPA emissions tests by using a “defeat device.” To put it succinctly, VW programed the engine control units (ECU) of its vehicles equipped with 2.0-liter diesel engines to operate more cleanly when it detected that the EPA’s usual battery of emissions tests were being performed. However, under normal driving situations, the vehicles were emitting far more harmful pollutants into the air — in some cases up to 40 times the level of nitrogen oxides (NOx) than what’s permissible.
Now that VW’s wide-scale and long-running emissions scam has been revealed for all to see, Volkswagen AG CEO Martin Winterkorn is apologizing for his company’s actions. “I personally am deeply sorry that we have broken the trust of our customers and the public,” said Winterkorn. “We will cooperate fully with the responsible agencies, with transparency and urgency, to clearly, openly, and completely establish all of the facts of this case. Volkswagen has ordered an external investigation of this matter.
Volkswagen can't sell any 2016 model year vehicles equipped with the 2.0-liter TDI engine.
“The trust of our customers and the public is and continues to be our most important asset. We at Volkswagen will do everything that must be done in order to re-establish the trust that so many people have placed in us, and we will do everything necessary in order to reverse the damage this has caused.”
The damage to VW’s reputation is just starting, and the company is already facing serious ramifications for its actions. Volkswagen’s diesel-powered vehicles (or TDIs) are hot-selling items in the U.S. Customers that placed orders months ago for 2016 TDIs were baffled to find out that their vehicles were being held at port, with delivery dates slipping further and further behind with no real explanation for the delay. Now that the emissions gaffe has been exposed to the public, customers are now realizing why they haven’t been able to take possession of their new cars.
The EPA issued a stop-sale on all VW’s equipped with the 2.0-liter TDI engine until it receives “answers to the questions of how these vehicles are being operated. Volkswagen couldn’t explain why we’re getting these excess emissions,” said Christopher Grundler, director of the EPA’s Office of Transportation of Air Quality. Without a “certificate of conformity,” none of those 2016 TDIs will ever reach dealerships or waiting customers. That also means that dealers are also going to be irate as most have already exhausted (or nearly exhausted) their 2015 model year inventory.
VW’s 2016 vehicles are among the first vehicles available in the U.S. to offer broad support for both Google’s Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay infotainment systems.
When it comes to the numbers game, Volkswagen is accused of gaming the system with 482,000 diesel equipped vehicles that it sold between 2008 and 2015. The company faces civil penalties of up to $37,500 for each vehicle sold, meaning that the maximum penalty is roughly $18 billion dollars. However, once VW’s lawyers get involved, the penalty will likely to fall to a few billion dollars or even less.