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VW scandal update: 08/10/2015


What is the VW emissions scandal?

Full details of how the software operated are sketchy, but it caused discrepancies in the values for oxides of nitrogen (NOx) during tests.

One of the world’s leading automobile manufacturers and the largest carmaker in Europe, VW Group, was caught by the US for violating vehicle emissions standards. VW had installed a ‘defeat device’ software procedure on its cars to manipulate exhaust emissions tests making its cars appear cleaner than they really are.

The US has strict emission limits and the net result of the software was that cars passed the strict limits under laboratory conditions, but outside of test, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reveals that the diesel engines emit nitrogen oxides (NOx) up to 40 times the legal limit.

Due to the European NOx emission limit being less stringent than the EPA’s standards, it remains unclear whether the cars found to be deliberately cheating US tests have broken the law, although VW admits that the same software is present.


What’s in the exhaust?

Exhaust products Effects on the environment and our health
Nitrogen (N2) No adverse effects
Oxygen (O2) No adverse effects
Water (H2O) No adverse effects
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Non-toxic gas but contributes towards acidification of oceans and one of the most important greenhouse gases.
Carbon Monoxide (CO) Reduces the ability of blood to carry oxygen and can cause headaches, respiratory problems and, at high concentrations, even death
Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx) Oxidised in the atmosphere and contribute to acid rain. They react with hydrocarbons to produce low level ozone which can cause inflammation of the airways, reduced lung function and trigger asthma, and also contribute to the formation of particulate matter.
Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) Leads to acid rain and engine corrosion. It also contributes to the formation of ozone and of particulate matter.
Hydrocarbons (HC) They react with NOx in sunlight to produce photochemical oxidants (including ozone), which cause breathing problems and increased symptoms in those with asthma.
Benzene (C6H6) Toxic and carcinogenic. Long-term exposure has been linked with leukaemia.
Lead (Pb) Accumulates in the body systems and is known to interfere with the normal production of red blood cells.
Particulates (PM) PM10s and the smaller PM2.5s are particles that can pass deep into the lungs causing respiratory complaints and contributing to the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.


EU Emission Standards

The first European exhaust emissions standard for passenger cars was introduced in 1970. 22 years later in 1992 the ‘Euro 1’ standard was introduced to predominately reduce CO emissions. Since then there has been tighter controls on emission limits with the latest standard reducing some pollutants by 96% compared to the 1992 limits. The latest standard, ‘Euro 6’, applies to new type approvals from September 2014 and all new cars from September 2015.

Euro emission standards for petrol cars

Euro Standard Date CO (mg/km) NOx (mg/km) PM (mg/km)
Euro 1 1992 2720 490
Euro 2 1996 2200 500 (+ HC)
Euro 3 2000 2300 150
Euro 4 2005 1000 80
Euro 5 2009 1000 60 5
Euro 6 2014 1000 60 5


Euro emission standards for diesel cars

Euro Standard Date CO (mg/km) NOx (mg/km) PM (mg/km)
Euro 1 1992 2720 780 140
Euro 2 1996 1000 700 80
Euro 3 2000 640 500 50
Euro 4 2005 500 250 25
Euro 5 2009 500 180 5
Euro 6 2014 500 80 5

Source: The AA



New EU Emission Tests: World Harmonised Light Vehicle Testing Procedure (WLTP)

There has been much criticism regarding laboratory emission tests; so to make the tests more reflective of real world driving, a new global set of emissions testing standards are currently under proposal to be introduced in 2017.

A new test procedure, the Worldwide harmonized Light vehicles Test Procedures (WLTP), has been adopted in the United Nations system (UNECE) for measuring pollutant emissions and CO2 emissions from passenger cars and light commercial vans in the laboratory. For NOx, Real Driving Emission (RDE) testing will complement laboratory test procedures. The RDE is to be carried out on the road instead of the lab, and will use a portable emissions measurement system to record real world emissions.

The RDE element is expected to introduce a more accurate representation of vehicle mileage and emissions, helping manufacturers like VW win back trust from buyers.

More information can be found at http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-15-5705_en.htm

What does this mean for emissions and mpg testing, how will it look in the future?

There are already plans to adopt more stringent emissions and mpg tests in the EU, and the VW diesel scandal will surely add fuel to the fire in showing just how important appropriate testing standards are for car buyers.

What should you do if you own a VW car?

The VW scandal will not affect your everyday driving; the software only alters the behaviour of the car when undergoing emissions tests.

Nevertheless, you might have to make a trip to the local garage at the VW Group’s expense as a recall is likely to be on the cards. On 5 October 2015 VW released an online service where users input their VIN number to see if their cars are affected by the scandal but the company will still contact customers individually to make arrangements for the recall to take place. On 7 October Matthias Mueller, the car giant’s new chief executive, said VW expects to start a recall of cars affected by its emissions scandal in January and all affected cars will be fixed by the end of 2016.

Online service accessed here: http://www.volkswagen.co.uk/owners/dieselinfo

VW remains reserved and are still unable to answer many questions. But it seems VW is aiming to “present technical solutions and measures to relevant responsible authorities” before the end of October. It seems that vehicles will most likely require a software upgrade, in which case the car will only be off the road for a matter of hours. But if more serious work is required, it would likely to be at least a day, possibly longer. Given that 1.2m cars have been recalled across the group, this is likely to take many months – well into 2016 – to resolve.

Will I get a replacement car while mine is being worked on?

The huge number of recalls may make this near impossible – but the Consumer group Which? says drivers should be entitled to one.


What about my vehicle tax band, will I have to pay a higher rate?

The Department for Transport (DfT) announced on 2 October 2015, that UK taxpayers will not incur higher Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) if their existing vehicles are found to be fitted with illegal software that manipulates emissions tests.



What will be the likely impact of the work?

VW will desperately be hoping that the affected cars will continue to perform as drivers expect after the upgrade work is carried out. Matthias Mueller has voiced that “technical solutions were “within view” and the firm would do everything it could to keep jobs secure”. It is clear that future investment in plant, technology and vehicles would be put “under scrutiny” and VW will be doing everything to ensure that they will stand for good and secure jobs in the future. However, if the car performance, emissions or fuel consumption deteriorates substantially, lawyers will be queuing up to bring claims against the manufacturer for fraudulent misrepresentation and breach of the 1979 Sale of Goods Act by owners.

More information: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34462074

What is the potential claim?

This is the real question!

Can VW remedy the problem and still replicate the emissions levels produced by its cars in the official tests? If not, it may face claims for fraudulent misrepresentation and breach of the 1979 Sale of Goods Act by owners.

But who exactly should you claim against? Is it the third party that sold you the car, the manufacturer of the car, the creator of the defeat device or the man who decided to violate vehicle emissions standards?

Were you even that concerned about the NOx emissions that it would have stopped them from buying the car altogether? Why didn’t you buy a Nissan Leaf? Do you even know what NOx emissions are? I am sure that most buyers are more interested in the leather interior, smell of new carpets and how fast it goes from 0-60mph.

There is also a need to consider the possibility that VW have not actually committed an offence in Europe. The European emission standards are much higher than in the US so it remains unclear whether the cars found to be deliberately cheating US tests have broken any of our laws.

Another possible claim – the reduction in the resale value of your vehicle due to loss of faith in the Volkswagen brand. VW has lost a big chunk of its market value in the stock markets, indicating the damage that has been done to the reputations of the brands involved. This could ultimately funnel down to the resale value of VW vehicles but it’s too early to say on what scale and could be classed as highly speculative.

The most viable claim in the near future will only occur if VW is unable to replicate the emissions levels produced by its cars in the official tests. What will make claims more probable is if the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) confirmed that the VW Group’s violation of vehicle emissions standards is a criminal offence and orders them to compensate their customers. The new question will be “have you been mis-sold TDI?”

Nevertheless, The DfT has already announced it will be re-testing a range of diesel cars in the UK to compare real world figures to the ones achieved in official tests that are quoted by the manufacturers. They have begun an ongoing investigation last week into the extent of this practice and whether the illegal software used by VW is being used elsewhere.

The ‘Dieselgate’ scandal is still at the forefront of the media with 4,000 new cars withdrawn from sale in the UK and a recall of 11 million affected vehicles already with Volkswagen, SEAT, Skoda and Audi customers across the world. As of 8 October the VW Group has withdrawn its application for emissions certification for its 2016 diesel models, leaving thousands of vehicles stranded at ports. This move raises the possibility that the defeat device is also included in its new cars.

Volkswagen is still unable to answer many questions. It is going to be weeks rather than months before people find out what the technical fix is.

1 Comment

  1. Mr Ross Holden
    October 15, 2015

    I am the owner of a Golf 1.6TDI Bluemotion Reg: KP11CZW according to VW’s own website my vehicle is fitted with the “cheating software” and I like others would like to pursue the VW Group for compensation .

    Depreciation on the subsequent value of my car
    Extra cost of fuel used

    Thank You