By Sam Shikora (Political Editor).
Wolfsburg, Germany automaker Volkswagen was recently caught red handed in a scandal that involved technology implemented in its diesel-powered vehicles, which recognizes when the car is being tested for emissions, and activates the emissions control system. This system detunes the engine and retards ignition timing. This system has been implemented in most Volkswagen, Audi, SEAT, and Škoda turbo diesel injected (TDI) models since 2008.
In the developed world, most countries require all cars and trucks sold within their borders to pass strict emissions regulations to prevent vehicles from dumping poisonous gases such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide2 nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, and particulate smoke into the air.
Volkswagen AG is the parent company of Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, Lamborghini, Bugatti, and Bentley, companies not marketed for the US such as SEAT and Škoda, and heavy-duty truck companies MAN, Scania and Neoplan. As a result, a significant amount of engine sharing occurs between VW AG’s most marketable subsidiaries: Volkswagen, Audi, Škoda, and SEAT.
It is important to note that while the emissions control system is engaged, emissions decrease significantly, but so do fuel economy and power output.
SHS graduate of 2015 Varun Rao owns a late-model Volkswagen with a TDI engine. He says he would buy another Volkswagen despite the scandalous behavior because it drives well and has the same features of an expensive luxury car but without the name brand. “German cars are still the best in the world,” he said.
Despite producing more smoke, diesel engines tend to be more environmentally friendly than their gasoline counterparts. For years, Volkswagen Group TDI-powered vehicles have been almost as or even more fuel-efficient than the Toyota Prius while producing more power/torque and supposedly being more environmentally friendly while on the road.
In the United States, where diesel fuel is less popular and emissions regulations are more stringent, 482,000 vehicles fitted with TDI engines are affected. Among non-Volkswagen-branded models affected, this only includes the Audi A3 TDI. In other parts of the world, where the vast majority of all vehicles sold are diesel-powered, nearly 11 million vehicles are affected.
Language coordinator Dr. Dahlen also owns a late-model Volkswagen with a diesel engine. She intends to reserve judgment towards Volkswagen Group until more information surfaces and they handle the situation. “I love my local VW garage and trust that they will do their best. I do not believe that VW is the only company cutting corners and at least my safety was not impacted as with many other car companies [in such scandals and recalls],” she said.
In their use of this “defeat device”, Volkswagen Group violated two parts of the Clean Air Act and may face fines of up to $37,500 per vehicle, nearly double the price of a base model 2016 VW Jetta TDI, at $21,640.
There has been chatter since the scandal broke in mid-September about possible fixes. While some argue that Volkswagen should and will buy back all of the current dealer stock as well as privately owned cars, it seems most plausible at this point that a retrofit of new programming of affected diesel models will occur. Volkswagen has set aside $7.27 billion to repair all cheating vehicles.
“I just hope the fix does not compromise the driving experience or gas mileage,” Dahlen said.
Volkswagen stock has plummeted by nearly 70 points since the story originally broke on September 18th. Resale values of new and used TDI models are expected to sharply decrease. Volkswagen and Audi dealers are halting sales of the new affected TDI models in the United States, Switzerland, and The Netherlands, among other countries. Volkswagen has pulled all affected TDI models from its US website, and Audi pulled the A3 2.0 TDI from its US website, the only Audi model affected in the United States.
Dr. Libano drives a gasoline powered Audi. While this scandal doesn’t directly affect him, he says that their reputation has been damaged and that Volkswagen AG will be in court soon enough. “It’s disappointing that executives were not honest with the public about the affected vehicles and their impact on the environment,” he said.
Dr. Libano also received an email from Audi of America president Scott Keogh, promising to mend fences with Audi owners. “Make no mistake, we at Audi of America view this situation as unacceptable and we are pushing for remedies that can be presented to regulatory authorities and to our loyal customers and fans. We intend to make things right,” Keogh wrote in a bulk email to all American Audi owners.