/ Motoring

VW emissions scandal: one year on

car emissions

The time last year, news broke that VW had been caught cheating US emissions tests on its diesel engines. At the time, the car manufacturer promised it would fix affected vehicles within a year, but since then, very little progress has been made on the VW emissions scandal.

In the year since news of the emissions scandal broke, I’ve gone from shock, to anger, to bemusement with how VW Group has handled repairing the damage from what is, quite frankly, appalling corporate behaviour.

As the scandal broke, we launched our campaign, ‘Come Clean on Fuel Claims‘, challenging all car manufacturers to reveal if they too had deceived the public as VW had.

With well over one million VW Group cars affected, we urged the government to act fast on its investigation into whether the manipulation of emissions tests was an industry-wide practice.

The Transport Secretary at the time, Patrick McLoughlin MP, said his ’priority is to protect the public as we go through the process of investigating what went wrong and what we can do to stop it happening again in the future‘.

The government were slow to investigate and have been particularly lacklustre in taking action.

Have car owners been conned in the VW emissions scandal?

We’ve now heard from tens of thousands of car owners supporting our campaign. There is real anger at VW. People feel like they’ve been conned. And they are right to feel that way.

In April, we went before parliament to lambast the lack of action from government and the dismal reaction to the scandal by VW.

Before we gave evidence to Parliament, we asked 30,000 Which? supporters what they thought about the scandal and the message was clear: 94% said that car manufacturers weren’t being fair to UK consumers.

Failing to deliver

This is not surprising when you look at the disparity in how UK consumers are treated compared to our cousins in the US. Consumers in the US will be in line for a share of billions of dollars in compensation payouts. While in the UK, VW has dismissed the concerns of consumers outright and refused to compensate for its outright disgraceful and underhand behaviour.

VW can’t even deliver on what it promised owners it would do. It said that it would repair consumers’ cars within a year. It has completely failed to do this and hasn’t done enough to keep VW owners aware of what is happening, including regular Which? Conversation member, Wavechange:

Lack of progress

What has driven me to bemusement in the past couple of weeks though are statements coming out of the European Commission. It seems to have given VW a free pass for another year to repair affected cars. No one asked VW car owners if they wanted to wait.

There has also been minimal movement on securing compensation for owners, as VW outright refuses to pay out in the UK (and there are currently no viable legal routes to make it).

As a campaigner, I’ll admit I’m dismayed at the lack of progress we’ve secured on getting redress for UK consumers and the dispiriting reaction from those with power to hold VW Group to account.

This has been a challenging campaign, against a company that is wilfully ignoring the concerns of its customers and refusing to even hold a discussion with consumer groups in the UK on how it will redress the issues.

So it’s quite clear to us that there’s still much to be done here. And we’re considering the steps we can take to hold VW to account.

Has your car been affected by the VW Group emissions scandal? If so, how has your case been handled? What more do you think can be done to hold VW to account?

Comments

This comment was removed at the request of the user

It seems that the hold-up is caused by VW Group delay in sorting out corrections to all the affected engines and then having them tested and accepted by the EU via the testing agencies – principally KBA in Germany. At the same time the results of these tests need to be made public to see whether emissions and fuel consumption and hopefully engine power differ significantly from what was originally claimed under the NEDC test. Until engine corrections are accepted they cannot be carried out for owners. Until any performance differences are revealed we cannot put numbers on any compensation – both to owners (mpg) and the Government (emissions). Plus any fines the Government might impose for mis-selling.

I would have hoped Which? would be tracking this through the EU and testing agencies to keep up to date with the timetable and to advise on performance. Maybe they are unable to do this?

I am fed up having my VW dealer telling me again and again that they haven’t got to fixing my engine model (1.6 diesel) yet, and the non-action of the UK government has been disgraceful. But I am also angry that Which insists on conflating this scandal with the inaccuracy of fuel consumption figures – everyone knows the fuel consumption figures are wrong by typically 20-25%, and you can measure it yourself. But the NOx scandal is about something consumers can’t measure themselves, is 5, 10 or more TIMES the limits, and involves illegal actions.

Jim S says:
1 October 2016

I was promised a “fix” for my car “early in the new year” by Skoda UK in 2015. It is now October – hardly “early”! What REALLY annoys me is the apparant complete lack of action by the Government (I wonder if they don’t want to upset Germany during the Brexit negotiations) and the cavalier attitude of the VW Group towards the UK owners. They are obviously frightened of the Americans with their litiginous attitude, so have decided to compensate. We often hear of “class actions” being taken – is there a case or procedure for one to be taken against VW in this instance?

I would like Which to take up the whole diesel issue properly. Fuel consumption is a partial red herring and is deflecting Which away from what appears to be the real scandal of NOx emissions. In addition, at the very least, VW should explain exactly what it is that the fix alters.
VW and UK and European transport ministries have said from the start that the software ‘cheat’ only kicked in during the USA test and did not affect normal running or the European/UK test and therefore VW had not acted illegally in the EU. If the car passes the EU test without the software kicking in, then it must be legal in the UK/EU and doesn’t need the fix? If the software was only applied during the USA test, then the ‘fix’ should have no effect at all on normal running.
If that is so, then why is any ‘fix’ needed in Europe? It would seem that it cannot be just the US test cheat.

The answer may lie in a new report published 19th Sept,
http://www.transportenvironment.org/sites/te/files/publications/2016_09_Dieselgate_report_who_what_how_FINAL_0.pdf
If this report is true, then we have all been potentially conned, scammed and misinformed throughout by both most car manufacturers and EU governments.

Report Conclusion, Para 3.8, page 29
12 months ago, Volkswagen claimed the cheating of emissions tests in the US was perpetrated by a handful of rogue engineers. We now know it is an endemic problem throughout the automotive industry with defeat devices systematically installed by VW Group on 11 million vehicles globally and cheating of tests by other companies exposed in Japan29 and South Korea.
However, in Europe the scale of the cheating and resulting impact upon health are of an entirely different scale. 29 million grossly polluting diesel cars are on the EU’s roads and will be there for more than another decade. The high emissions are caused by companies programming their cars to turn down or off exhaust after treatment systems most of the time when the car is driven, misusing a loophole designed to protect the engine in extreme conditions. The illegality of the practice is clear and needs to be challenged by national approval authorities, or the European Commission if the authorities fail to act. The immorality of the companies that have designed their cars to grossly pollute and ignore regulations, significantly contributing to the 72,000 premature deaths from NO2 pollution in the EU, is shameful.
Just as shameful is the refusal of national regulatory authorities to do their job and ensure vehicles properly comply with EU regulations. The EU Single Market relies on rules like these to create a level playing field for competition and ensure products are designed in a way that prevents excessive externalities like air pollution. The Single Market depends on honest and professional regulators to enforce rules. Instead, 12 months of the Dieselgate scandal have demonstrated regulatory capture by the automotive industry of national type approval authorities and their Transport Ministry masters…..continues

Surely the best course of action is not to buy another VW product. I want to replace my VW Tiguan in 2017 but I will not consider another VW Group vehicle until such time as VW make some financial compensation offer to me and get on fixing the problem.

I agree with Bob. I have an affected VW and I am angry. But recent reports indicate that the problem may be much wider than VW. It might be out of the frying pan and into the fire if you buy another diesel right now.
Also, VW and UK and European transport ministries have said from the start that the software ‘cheat’ only kicked in during the USA test and did not affect normal running or the European/UK test. If the car passes the EU test without the software kicking in, then surely it is legal in the UK and doesn’t need the fix? If the software was only applied during the USA test, then the ‘fix’ should have no effect at all on normal running.
If that is so, then why is any ‘fix’ needed in Europe?

More – I have had my VW letter. Although it promises there will be no change to a number of things, it does not say exactly what will change or exactly why it is needed.
I think that Which should be pressing for full details, not just timescale.

Martin K says:
1 October 2016

I am confused and have shared many of the emotions in the article and the responses. The mis-information about VW emissions is disgraceful, but while the VW group takes the rap (or doesn’t?!) there is considerable doubt about the veracity of other manufacturers in this area who are keeping quiet. I, too, have had several letters from VW but no action. In general VW owners are very satisfied with their vehicles and maybe that has something to do with it. My question is, what is this ‘fix’ going to do for me and my VW Passat and will it make any difference to the actual performance or MPG of my vehicle?

David Panter says:
1 October 2016

I have a VW Passat which is affected. I have been given notice that I should take my car for the fix and have subsequently received a reminder because I did not take it to be done. I am concerned from a different angle to that of the above article and most of the comments. I do not trust the fix. The covering information by VW states something along the lines that fuel consumption figures remain unchanged. I did not trust the published figures in the first place to reflect anything like reality (and this is not limited to VW of course) and certainly don’t feel confident that I can assume my fuel consumption will be the same or better after the fix than it is before the fix. The form of words used by VW seem carefully chosen so that they do not have to admit to any adverse effect on fuel consumption. Unless I am legally obliged to have the fix or unless there are very adverse implications, I don’t propose to have the software fix. If fuel consumption is adversely affected, that means I will use more fuel obviously… and that means that, even if e.g. the proportion of nitrous emissions are reduced, this may be at least to some extent countered. I drive very gently and have managed a cumulative av. 53mpg in practice during the period since new in 2012 to date. I would be interested to hear any other views on this and any information others may have which could help me and others to decide whether or not to have the fix at all. Could Which? look into this aspect too? After all, why worry at a personal level about the time taken to get the fix if the fix is not necessarily the right thing to do…or am I missing something (quite possible!)?

As can be seen from my earlier comments, I agree with David.
If (as we have been told) the fix is not legally necessary (for me and VW) and no law has been broken by VW, what exactly is the fix doing and why? As I said before, I do not believe it just to remove the USA cheat.
I would like Which to really push this and investigate. I’d also be interested to know why they have not already done this 🙂

I agree why have the fix done ? VW say it won’t affect MPG or the emissions, but presumably it will now not “cheat” the emissions test-so what if the car now fails the MOT? Will they compensate for that ? Hardly seems worth the risk!

VW have been dishonest and have breached the trust of their customers and broken laws in many countries. It is unacceptable that a clear dialogue of what is happening to put matters right is not easily available from any source that I know about. I don’t drive a VW group product however I do own two diesel vehicles. I am not naive and I suspect that the NOX emission figures of my vehicles are understated by significant amounts otherwise how would the declared figures bear scrutiny next to VW products? I wince when the news shows how diesel fumes are causing deaths and serious health problems. The answer is surely to make all manufacturers fully accountable for their vehicle emissions and misleading their customers. HMG will not act as they are mired down with vested interests and “bigger problems”. There must be a way to tap into the concerns of diesel owners and channel their anger to produce a meaningful response from lawmakers .

Owners in all EU countries consumers are affected by the VW “problem”. All EU countries have one or more Consumers’ Associations, represented by the umbrella organisation BEUC, to which our Consumers’ Association also belongs. And yet we have seen no effective action on behalf of all those consumers, apart from Italy taking Fiat and VW to court. We get regular reports bemoaning the situation, but where are the reports on where VW’s testing has got to (with VCA and KBA for example), what power has the EU in driving the test and re-certification or is it down to national governments, what have the tests on accepted engines so far revealed in terms of performance, what change has their been in car resale values due to the “modifications”, how should compensation be calculated……….

In other words, what useful information has Which? sought and fed back to help consumers? Most of the information and suggestions in these VW Convos (and others) seems to come from commenters. Maybe Consumers’ Associations, despite their large memberships, simply have no teeth when it comes to taking action, and no real expertise, or intent, when it comes to tracking the progress of problems? I’d like to see the Which published policy more than just words “The Which? mission is to make individuals as powerful as the organisations they have to deal with in their daily lives. We identify where consumers are experiencing problems, and through programmes of research, debate and consumer dialogue we develop effective, practical policy solutions.”

Why aren’t the motoring organisations banging the drum on this problem? This might possibly be a minority interest for Which? subscribers. I grant that it is a major consumer issue but sometimes I feel Which? should act on behalf of the unrepresented. It’s all very well people calling for Which? to do all sorts of things with the UK government, the EU, VW, other countries, and so on – but where’s the money for this coming from?

“but where’s the money for this coming from?” From the £100 million that “members” subscribe to Which? (of which so far only £12 million seemingly goes on”Promoting Consumer interests”) It really does not take a great deal of effort to dig out information to give to its members, helped if you know where to look (and Which? should know this). I also suspect that VW is not an insignificant interest and, given the work Which? does on motoring, should be addressed.

“Motoring Organisations” now are really insurance companies, and not really interested in the motorist’s cause.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Malcolm – My previous comments were being written simultaneously with yours but appeared slightly later, so my questions about the motoring organisations and Which? were not a response to your piece.

There was a time when the motoring organisations stood up for car-owners and campaigned for improvements but, as you say, now they are just commercial operations for breakdown cover and insurance.

I agree that this topic is a perfectly legitimate issue for Which? and you are right to point out how little Which? has achieved and how it would be able to obtain better information easily and at little cost. However, I was starting to get the feeling through the Conversation that a lot of people who do not belong to Which? were making demands on it when their anger should perhaps be redirected to their MP or the relevant government departments. Or perhaps they might like to take out a subscription to Which? and help the cause.

I agree with all of that.
Out of sheer frustration, with the apparent lack of effective support for consumers, I have written to the chair of the BIS Committee looking into Whirlpool’s activity (or lack of) concerning the lenient attitude of Trading Standards, the lack of compensation for “delay” (can a year be described as such?), and lack of information as to whether dryers comply with the flammability requirements of the international safety standard. I have asked Which? about all these matters but they refuse to comment.

I feel the same way about the lack of useful information for VW owners.

I share your frustration. I often used to write to my MP about local and national concerns. I was rarely satisfied with the results as she clearly either had no influence with the relevant authorities or, because she had a much wider agenda perhaps, for tactical reasons wasn’t prepared to use any influence she might have had. So most replies I received were along the lines of “I enclose a copy of a letter from . . . . “. I then started to write to the relevant councils, departments, utilities, etc. direct and sometimes got much better responses, but overall it was very unsatisfying. Funnily enough in the light of a recent Conversation, one of my efforts was about post boxes and another one about telephone kiosks but the correspondence was fruitless. It seems to me that the organs of government and the public services have become impenetrable and unresponsive nowadays so we need organisations like Which? more than ever, but we feel it is letting us down.

Les Dangerfield says:
1 October 2016

I am angry that a) it has taken VW so long to rectify the problem; b) that they are offering no compensation whatsoever to UK owners who are affected; c) that no action appears to be being taken to hold VW to account for the crime they have committed. I have recently written to the Director of VW UK to this effect and am awaiting a reply. I would be an enthusiastic supporter of a Which? campaign to address these issues. Is Which? going to do anything?

I have a 2 litre diesel passat which was affected by the emissions scandal. I received several letters starting December 2015 saying a fix is in the pipeline. In June 2015 I was invited to take the vehicle to the local dealership for the work to be done. I can only assume the car is now “clean”. I don’t understand why the fiddle was needed in the first place if software changes have dealt with the problem and according to VW “without compromising performance”.

Like the rest of the motoring world I think it is disgusting that VW are not prepared to offer compensation

This is a very recent report about diesels in general, published 19th September.
https://www.transportenvironment.org/publications/dieselgate-who-what-how
Download the pdf file from that page
The ‘joke’ is that for Euro 6 diesels, according to the report, the VW group seem to be more compliant (but still over the limit) than the others, but most manufacturers across many of their diesel models are alleged to vastly exceed the NOx limits in real use. A very recent WHO report on air quality backs up the health damage claims.
However, the worse part is in the report’s conclusion. We were all assured that EU cars did not cheat the EU tests and were legal. According to this report, that stance is now being challenged.
Once they have checked the veracity of the report (which surely could not cost much as all the main work has been done), as a member, I really would like Which to take this up.

Report conclusion
Para 3.8, page 29

’12 months ago, Volkswagen claimed the cheating of emissions tests in the US was perpetrated by a handful of rogue engineers. We now know it is an endemic problem throughout the automotive industry with defeat devices systematically installed by VW Group on 11 million vehicles globally and cheating of tests by other companies exposed in Japan29 and South Korea.

However, in Europe the scale of the cheating and resulting impact upon health are of an entirely different scale. 29 million grossly polluting diesel cars are on the EU’s roads and will be there for more than another decade. The high emissions are caused by companies programming their cars to turn down or off exhaust after treatment systems most of the time when the car is driven, misusing a loophole designed to protect the engine in extreme conditions. The illegality of the practice is clear and needs to be challenged by national approval authorities, or the European Commission if the authorities fail to act. The immorality of the companies that have designed their cars to grossly pollute and ignore regulations, significantly contributing to the 72,000 premature deaths from NO2 pollution in the EU, is shameful.
Just as shameful is the refusal of national regulatory authorities to do their job and ensure vehicles properly comply with EU regulations. The EU Single Market relies on rules like these to create a level playing field for competition and ensure products are designed in a way that prevents excessive externalities like air pollution. The Single Market depends on honest and professional regulators to enforce rules. Instead, 12 months of the Dieselgate scandal have demonstrated regulatory capture by the automotive industry of national type approval authorities and their Transport Ministry masters…’

What do you really expect from our two party government ping-pong athletes, they are so immured into the ‘lets have fancy cars syndrome’ rather then ‘clean efficient cars syndrome’ BECAUSE they are taking care of not only the corrupt motoring manufacturers but their allies the petrochemical industry a la lobbying quagmire! it’s also a way of getting rid of pensioners as they represent 80% of the air pollution kill ratio ERGO NO PENSIONS for those cadavers EH!! As for the under 6yo who take up the remaining ‘KILL ZONE’ well that’s just unfortunate! The one way things will change is when they kill 10,000 of us every day! This could and should have been solved 20 years ago but thanks to our spineless unethical MP’s and their lot of friends in the motoring trade and manufacturing trade and petrochemical conglomerates.. NRRD I SAY MORE !?

I did but you censored it i may have to stop buying which in future!!

Hello David, I’m really sorry but it seems that your comment was pulled into our spam filter for some reason. I’ve reported this to our development team as this shouldn’t be happening. Thank you

Bob Madden says:
1 October 2016

I bought a year old Skoda Yeti Greenline in March 2016 and have had no communication from Skoda. However, on their website you can enter the car’s VIN number and see if it has the ‘cheat’ software. I found that my car has it, but no contact has been made with me despite my ensuring that Skoda has the car’s details linked to me. Any other second hand buyers out there who have been kept in the dark?

I recently had a long chat with the manager of the emissions team at VW. I was complaining about the letters I have received promising to rectify the software issue in the first quarter of 2016. now entering the 4th quarter I was informed that there is still no availability of a fix for my 2.0 litre diesel Tiguan as “the issue is complex and there are so many different engine versions”. So why make a promise in the first instance that you know cannot possibly be kept. I was offered numerous platitudes when asking what would VW be doing to rebuild customer trust; “we will be listening to what our customers have to say”, but nothing other than these platitudes when asking “HOW do you intend to rebuild trust in your company?” Why oh why did they feel it necessary to do this in the first place- my long held trust in the company’s products has been lost.
A totally wasted phone call.