/ 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?


I got a call a few months ago from Skoda to do a ‘survey’. I immediately guessed what it was about. After a series of innocuous questions, a few about the emissions scandal were slipped in.

Not that they were phrased that way of course.

So I stopped the survey at that point and asked directly if that was the point. I was astonished because I was answered by a ‘yes’ and the man was extremely knowledgeable and answered some quite tricky technical questions as well as the general ones that I had.

As an owner of a top spec Superb, perhaps I was specifically targeted, but to cut a long conversation short, I gave him both barrels and let him know I was not happy with the treatment of UK customers by VW and would be seriously looking to change the make of my next car, after 16 happy years with Skoda.

I must have made an impression. Within 3 days I had a letter thanking me for my comments which included a £30 Skoda gift voucher. Frankly I felt insulted. I hope he did not think this would be an equivalent to the US compensation pay-outs.

It’s clear they know they have a problem, but it looks like they are trying to do nothing in the UK (I consider £30 ‘nothing’) until it goes away or all affected cars fade to dust.

The problem is, I love my car …..

chris says:
4 October 2016

|re you going to try and do something about it? it needs a large group to pull together to petition the government and vw and even the german government and the EU to do something about it.

if i was in the USA id have a payout covering the difference in the value of my vehicle but as im in the UK, i get nothing.

The British Lung Foundation has launched a petition for clean air. One topic they include is
“Establish clean air zones
Establish a network of clean air zones in pollution hotspots across the UK. We need the most polluting vehicles to be banned from the most polluted places.”

No amount of tinkering with car engines will reduce pollution significantly in the medium term. There are far too many older vehicles on the road with much higher emissions that will continue to pollute for years to come.

If we want an immediate reduction in pollution in towns and cities, we’ll need an immediate reduction in vehicles, particularly at peak times with the congestion that results. If we really want to reduce pollution are we prepared to support the necessary traffic restrictions?

Chris says:
18 October 2016

My 2ltr golf is one of those affected. I am asked to take it to the dealer to receive the software update. I am reluctant given the very careful language used by VW in assuring me everything will be fine and because of some of the comments I have read about owners experiencing problems, such as increased fuel consumption and “pinking”. I am disappointed that Which is offering no guidance on what the impact of the fix is and no advice upon whether or not owners should have it done. This is a real failure on your part.

We have a Golf 1.6TDI Bluemotion – we have had our third letter which basically says it may be 2017 before our car is fixed. Has anyone had their 2.6 diesel ” fixed ” yet and if so have they noticed any change in performance and/or fuel consumption. From what I can see affected VW owners in the US are going to be entitled to a minimum $5100 dollars . Are VW saying categorically there is no compensation for VW owners in the UK not even service vouchers which they issued immediately in the US to the value of $1000 ? Is anyone holding VW to account or is it just dying a death ?

I have had three letters now and nothing is being done i am just told to be patient and they will get to me soon why did VW pay the American people $7000 and yet we get offered nothing how can that be right surely we should be good for compensation as well good enough for them so it should be the same for us

The EU is threatening legal action against 7 member nations – including the UK – for not taking legal action against VW over the emissions issue. I don’t know whether the VW testing, and the outcome of those tests, is yet completed so the extent of VWs cheating may not be known. Surely until that is settled the basis for legal action cannot be finalised.

This seems really to be about a frustrated EU, whose law prevents them from taking any action themselves. They require such action to be taken by each member nation – that’ll be 28 actions then to keep the lawyers fed and watered. I’m rather pleased we are leaving – well hopefully.

Peter W says:
14 December 2016

We bought our diesel VW Golf Plus new in November 2010. Very happy with all the details at the time. Since the emissions fibs issues have arisen we have somewhat lost confidence. We no longer know who we can trust about information regarding emissions and pollution we are producing.
In October 2015 we received a letter from VW wanting to “reassure” us, saying we need take no “immediate action”. However, they said “a service action including your car will be required to rectify the issue.” They would contact us again about that.
In December 2015, another letter from VW with further information. The solution for our car was to “involve the fitting of a ‘flow transformer’ …”. They suggested this would happen in the 2nd or 3rd quarters of 2016.
April 2016, another update letter from VW. More waffle about all the complexities and difficulties they were having but the works would be carried out across the remainder of 2016. The process for our car should “take approximately 60 minutes of labour time to complete”.
During the summer of 2016 we received a letter from our local VW General Sales Manager suggesting we phone them (at our expense!) to discuss with their Brand Manager some “good news about your existing vehicle.” We didn’t bother.
In August 2016 we received another letter from VW, this time offering us an opportunity to attend their local “official Cost Price Golden Ticket event”. We did not take up the offer.
In October 2016, another VW letter with the heading and crest of “Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency”. Not sure if this was from DVLA or VW although it was “signed” by a “Director of Volkswagen”. Apparently VW had “received approval and released technical measures for over 440,000 affected vehicles.” They intended to release technical measures for … vehicles with an outstanding EA 189 service action by the end of 2016.” The work would continue into 2017.
In December 2016 we received another VW letter with a “Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency” heading and crest – again signed by the “Director of Volkswagen”. VW are ready to carry out the service action for which we won’t be charged!!!. They tell us that we will “be reassured to hear that independent testing authorities have confirmed that there will be no negative impact on engine performance, torque, fuel consumption, noise and CO2 emissions as a result …” They have given us the necessary booking details.
By coincidence we had our car serviced and MOTd at our local VW at the end of October 2016. It appears from the car’s computer that our fuel consumption has increased since then, returning about 48 mpg instead of the previous 56/57! Has anyone else experienced anything similar?
Does Which agree that the proposed work will have no detrimental affect on performance, fuel consumption, etc.?
How likely is it that compensation may be offered to UK owners and, if it is still a possibility, will having the work carried out help or hinder a claim?
Is Which of the opinion that its affected members should have the work carried out?

When I was first informed by letter – over a year ago – regarding the steps that the vW group would take to redress the emissions situation that affected my vehicle, I voiced my concerns, anger and frustration by letter to the Director ‘responsible’ for the missive. No reply or response was forthcoming. Although a faithful – and previously highly satisfied -purchaser of Skodas for over 20 years, I now seriously question whether I should buy another.

An interesting observation was that when I recently requested a valuation – from my local VW garage – for my 3yr old top of the range Skoda Yeti, in potential part exchange for a similar model, I received a lower valuation than I achieved for my previous Skoda Yeti (same model, specification and mileage) from the same garage three years ago ! I was assured that this had nothing to do with the fact that my vehicle was one of those affected by emissions issue . I remain unconvinced.

When my car recently had the software ‘cure’ – after a wait of over a year from the first letter – I was given a few freebies including a small umbrella, a notebook and pen. Trivial compensation compared to an American with a similar car in the same situation.

While enjoying my Christmas break the postman delivered a letter from VW asking me to book in my car to have the ’emission service action’ applied. I’m told that ‘independent leading authorities have confirmed that there will be no negative impact on engine performance, maximum torque, fuel consumption, noise and carbon dioxide emissions as a result of having this update applied’. I will receive a certificate as proof that the service action has been carried out.

The letter appears to be endorsed by the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency, but this is not explained.

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Nitrogen oxide emissions are not measured in the MOT test and I don’t know if owners who don’t have their vehicle modified will be pursued to have them modified. I don’t think the government would be popular if owners were told that they could not renew their VED unless the work had been done.

Unmodified vehicles are producing more nitrogen oxides than they should and it would be irresponsible not to have the work done, so I will get my car booked in and report back. I cannot believe that the car will behave exactly as it did before modification – which is what the company has implied.

When booking in my car to have the ’emissions service action’ applied I asked the main dealer if other owners had experienced any problems as a result of the modifications. I was told that some had seen a temporary increase in fuel consumption for around six weeks until the system has ‘learned’ about the modifications. Some owners’ vehicles have required replacement of parts and the full cost has been borne by VW.

My car will carry on emitting excessive pollution for another five weeks because the dealer is busy modifying vehicles. 🙁

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I appreciate the time needed to optimise performance, Duncan, though six weeks seems a long time. I don’t have test equipment, so I will not know for sure. Nevertheless, I have been driving the car for four and a half years so I have a good idea of how it handles. If there is not much change, that is fine by me but I would be very surprised if there is no change whatsoever.

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Indeed. It was not an engineer I spoke to. I’ll report back, whether it is good news or bad.

Lauren says:
6 January 2017

Have any Audi A3’s been fixed yet? I have had about 3-4 letters telling me that my car repair is not yet ready and have just checked the Audi website which says there is no fix but it should be ready in November/December 2016 (which we are now past). I’m not even sure if I will go in to get my car fixed as my closest Audi garage is about 50-60 miles away and it seems like a bit of a waste of money in fuel if the fixes are terrible. Regarding the compensation – think it’s about time the UK did something to compensate British owners.

We have just received a second letter from VW with a Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency heading as well as the VW logo. This is only the second letter but we are now being invited to book a fix. Does the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency heading mean that our government are now complicent in forcing a minimal solution on UK residents. To give VW their due they will do one of three things for you
1. Collect and return our car to save us the bother.
2. Provide a courtesy car. Because surprise surprise you might need your car.
3. Offer you free coffee and wifi while you wait
Their generosity knows no bounds. We have never received a word of apology for their serious criminal actions.
Would getting the fix carried out now negate the possibility of any compensation later?

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As far as I know the UK has to accept the “fix” that VW provide complies with the necessary regulations – I assume the VCA does this on their behalf. So the fix should be approved by the UK regulatory authority.

I’ve just been contacted by a no win no fee company inviting me to join a group claim for compensation for the vehicle emission scandal affecting my VW Jetta. They say the fee is 30% of any compensation plus the cost of distributing the settlement. They expect a successful claim to be “only a few thousand” and that those who sign up would be excluded from accepting alternative forms of compensation from VW – e.g. discount on a new car.

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Was it these guys?: http://www.vwemissionsaction.com/
This group action has been reported by the BBC today: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-38552828

Which?, do you know anything about it?

Hi Fran,

Yes, we do.

Here’s what Vickie Sheriff, director of campaigns and communications at Which? said about the news: “Which? agrees that VW must not be let off the hook.

“Volkswagen customers in the UK will rightly question why US consumers are getting compensation and there is still nothing on the table for the 1.2m owners affected in this country.

“The UK government also has a responsibility to ensure that UK customers are treated fairly. It simply has not done enough to hold VW to account throughout this scandal.”

It’s good to know there’s a new Sheriff in town…

A group litigation is featured on BBC News today: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-38552828
The firms leading the litigation have a dedicated website: http://www.vwemissionsaction.com/

Questions for Which?: Do you know anything about this action? Are there any other group litigation being pursued in the UK?

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Lauren says:
10 January 2017

I had a look into the group litigation for my Audi last night but after reading the terms and conditions, I decided against going with it. First off, if you were to receive compensation of £3000 – they would be taking £900 of it for themselves. I also read in the terms and conditions that there is still a risk you would need to pay even though it says you don’t have to pay in another part of the document. I don’t really understand legal speak but a risk is too much of a risk for me and I decided it wasn’t worth it. I’m also hoping that if anything does happen in a legal claim, VW would have to compensate everyone else too so I’ll keep my options open for now and not commit to anything.

Lexi says:
10 January 2017

I have also decided against going with the litigation. The terms and conditions state that you won’t have to pay anything if you lose however, on the next page it says that there is still a risk you may have to pay. They also want to claim £900 of my £3000 just for them to represent me. No thank you.

The projected cost of joining in the group litigation seems excessive to me. The lawyers [and there are numerous competing firms doing this] will have a considerable expense in getting a case in front of the court [first they have to get permission to bring the case so there is some immediate preparation required] but the cost of that work does not increase substantially as more people join in the action [there will be some relatively small expense in doing a fact-find in respect of each litigant but no doubt a standard enquiry form will suffice that each VW owner will fill in and submit]. Although the sum of £3,000 has been bandied about as potential compensation there is no guarantee that that is what the court will award, or whether it will be uniform. If our car was affected by this I would bide my time and see what happens. It will be interesting to know what the claim will be based on – higher depreciation/reduced resale value, higher fuel consumption, uncertainty and inconvenience? Presumably the lawyers would be looking for a compromise settlement that might be less for some than would otherwise be justified. Don’t expect much clarity on these points until the case is in the court.

Finally had my recall for the emissions and attended the garage yesterday. I left the garage in the evening only to drive a short distance before engine warning lights came on. It is a minimum 2.5 hour trip 80+ miles to return to the garage so I called to find out what they suggested. Already they are taking a stand that it is co-incidence and nothing to do with their work yesterday. Odd because they took the liberty of running a full check on my Golf which passed all their tests. Has anyone else had problems with this? I am not looking forward to tomorrow as the attitude on the phone was less than helpful, verging on aggressive. What are the chances they will add insult to injury and charge me for this?

As I mentioned above, I have been assured by my dealer that the cost of any problems will be met by VW.

Try speaking to someone else and maybe ask how long they guarantee their work for. Be polite, even if they are not and make sure you know who you have been speaking to. If the dealer remains uncooperative then I suggest you contact VW. Best of luck and please let us know

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This is the British Lung Foundation’s information on pollution https://www.blf.org.uk/support-for-you/air-pollution
My suggestion to reduce pollution would be to limit the volume of traffic – particularly private cars and delivery vehicles – at peak times in congested areas of town.

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I don’t see a McPaper duncan I’m afraid. I have to say I am not in favour of congestion charges and parking taxes – that simply means you can pay to pollute with no control over when, and the wealthier members of society can buy out of their responsibility to help. If we are to reduce air pollution to acceptable levels I believe we must limit polluting traffic by limiting numbers; simply reducing car emissions is not enough when we allow more and more vehicles into towns…..longer traffic jams……. even more pollution…….. Park and ride could be a better solution providing the operators don’t try to use it as a cash cow.

Electric trams used to do a very good job of providing clean and cheap transport; still used on the Continent and making a bit of a comeback here. Electric buses are more flexible though, although less efficient, but don’t need the costly infrastructure..

For the past ten years I have been car sharing and using park & ride where I attend meetings. We take turns driving and then get on the bus.

I agree with Malcolm that it is wrong that some can pay to pollute, so we need to restrict vehicles and promote walking, cycling and public transport in city centres. It won’t happen voluntarily.

Lauren says:
31 January 2017

Don’t see why this is anything to do with VW emissions – this is about emissions in general. However, it’s pretty obvious that you come from some town or city that is populated with public transport. Try living in Scotland for a week and see how far you get without a car. And I don’t mean Aberdeen, Glasgow or Edinburgh – I mean out in the middle of the countryside where the closest bus stop is 5 miles away and there’s absolutely nothing between the house and the bus. You try that, then you moan about pollution.

We are a bit off-topic Lauren. The problems with vehicle pollution are mainly in large cities rather than in rural areas, so it makes sense to look at ways of improving the situation. Following the Clean Air Act, smokeless zones were introduced in built-up areas.

What lies behind this Convo is the damage emissions can do; VW might not be in the firing line if emissions were safe. So we need to also think about how that damage can be avoided. Hence alternatives to simply thinking about reducing emissions from individual vehicles – we need to think about more radical solutions. That is just my opinion.

Nothing to stop you driving in the countryside. It is driving in town that gives excessive pollution and can harm people, particularly those with breathing problems. So we could have car parks on town perimeters and get most people completing the journey on public transport. There will be exceptions of course.