/ Motoring

Did VW know all along about diesel emissions problems?

VW logo

Another day, another big blow to the reputation of Volkswagen… and another big disappointment for VW drivers.

As the morning papers tell it, the former chief executive of VW, Martin Winterkorn, was told about problems with diesel emissions tests in May 2014 and not when the scandal broke last October. This is a significant departure from the company’s previous defence that only a small group of its engineers knew about the so-called defeat devices used in VW diesel cars.

The car maker said in a statement to a shareholder lawsuit in Germany that a memo was sent to then CEO Martin Winterkorn in 2014 about a US emissions study. The study questioned whether VW diesel cars were emitting more in real-world driving than in official government tests. However, the issue ‘did not initially receive particular attention at the management levels’. VW added:

‘Whether and to which extent Mr Winterkorn took notice of this memo at that time is not documented.’

16 months of inaction

That’s 16 months in which action could have been taken and 16 months in which it wasn’t. Instead it took an in-depth investigation by the US Environmental Protection Agency for Volkswagen bosses to come clean about their defeat device. VW has had countless chances to do the right thing and its customers deserve better.

Over a million VW, Audi, Skoda and Seat owners have been left waiting for the roll-out of a fix that was expected to begin in January this year, but many have yet to hear any updates on when this will now happen. Plus, VW is still not offering compensation for UK owners – even though US owners are receiving up to $1,000. It’s not good enough.

Government investigation into emissions scandal

The Government has been conducting an investigation into the impact of the defeat device and whether it broke UK and EU laws. It’s expected to report on its findings and conclusions in the spring, but no one is quite sure how it’s going and what to expect from it. No clear timetable has been set and no information has been published about its progress, leaving consumers in the dark.

The Transport Select Committee rightly points out that consumer trust has been broken by this scandal and the longer it drags on and the longer VW drivers are expected to drive affected vehicles without knowing what the next steps will be, the more damage will be done.

Nearly 105,000 people support our Come Clean on Fuel Claims campaign, which calls for more stringent emissions and fuel economy tests and redress for those affected by Volkswagen’s actions. We think it’s unacceptable that drivers are still uncertain as to how this scandal will impact their vehicles and what support and redress they can expect from Volkswagen and the Government.

There’s a clear need for the Government to speed up its investigation, ensure VW’s properly held to account and to revise emissions tests so that this never happens again. Are you with us?


It is surely no surprise to learn that those running VW knew about this, and it was not only down to something cooked up by “engineers”. It must be remembered, however, that the real life emissions on the road (which is what were initially measured in the USA) were well known not to be the same as emissions measured during laboratory tests. It did, however, through further investigation, lead to discovery of the defeat device. Most cars differ on the road from their “official” test results.

I hope those directly involved in perpetrating this fraud are penalised (personally fined) and prosecuted.


WHY should test results differ from the road tests?
Fuel consumption is a similar ‘fix’. In 60 years of driving I have never managed to achieve the MPG that car manufacturers claim. It is our fault of course: we just carry on enjoying our motoring thinking someone else will fight our cause.


They knew all along the results were misleading… i drove a vw minibus 8pxs for a couple of years….taxi.the bus day and night would do a minimum of 300 miles a day much of it around town.Subsequently the d.p.f filter was coming on every couple of days so vw sticker in cab says 2000 revs until light goes out….so 50mph it’s a main road job…this burns off the carbon in other words the exhaust soot up to maintain the published figures by storing the excess until it starts to block so you go on the main road in my case the a19 and put all the carbon deposits along withall the nasties in the countryside….. VW the real eco friendly Company NOT


Back in September I learned that my car has emissions ‘discrepancies’. Now we are in March and no action has been taken to fix the problem even though VW has announced the work needed. I was disappointed to learn about what VW had done but more concerned that it could take a year before my car is fixed.

I have never gambled in my life but would be prepared to bet that other motor manufacturers are cheating in other ways, even if the VW Group has a monopoly on cheat software. We will see.


“Another day, another big blow to the reputation of Volkswagen”. The reality is whether this “big blow” affects VW group sales. It will already have had a serious financial impact, not least in funding the remedial work necessary, and goodwill payments in the USA.

We must be careful when we talk about compensation. This, as far as I am aware, is a payment when demonstrable financial loss occurs. In this case I would expect it to cover loss in resale value, any additional fuel consumption caused by the modification, loss of use of the vehicle while it is being modified (unless part of a necessary service), cost of getting the car to the garage for modification (unless, again, part of a necessary service that would have been at the same dealer).

Goodwill payments are probably what Which? have in mind, but clearly compensation should be claimable , once the financial consequences are determined, in varying amounts by owners that depend upon their own losses. It might be easier for VW to cover this by a “universal” goodwill payment. What is Which?’s view on this and what are they doing to resolve this for owners?


malcolm r
you missed one “loss” from your list.

When this story first broke I wrote to my m.p. and asked him to pass on to the Treasury dept. He did. In my letter I explained that if nitrous oxide is being cheated then carbon dioxide must be equally cheated. As Britain levies it’s vehicle excise duty on CO2 levels VW cars would be paying less than they should. This would amount to a deprivation of money for the Treasury and once they’d calculated that figure they should charge it directly to VW.
Mr Gauke at the Treasury responded in the first instance with a dismaissal of my logic. Once the US had announced their intention to fine VW and at about the same time, VW announced they had in fact cheated CO2 values as well I wrote again to my m.p.
Mr Gauke was more pleasant in his second response and assures me he is keeping his options open.
I really wouold like to see our government show some backbone and fine VW for this revenue loss. Their other option would be to levy a charge on VW car owners and let them (in a class action) recover their “costs” back from VW. The latter option is however inefficient as legal fees will cost a fortune.


Mike, thanks. Until tests have been completed we will not know whether, under NEDC testing, fuel consumption has been adversely affected, so compensation for owners extra costs would only be appropriate if it has increased. Then, if fuel consumption increases so will CO2 emissions. However I am told that the UK Govt has assured owners that if this changes the CO2 band they will not be required to pay extra for VED or benefit in kind, so there will be no need to compensate car owners on this score. It is, as you rightly point out, the Govt. that will lose this extra revenue and they whom VW Group should compensate. VW Group will also be subject to EC fines because their “fleet” CO2 will be higher than declared, for which there are existing penalties.

You must wonder why a huge business like VW Group resorts to amateur deception in this way, with the certainty that at some point it would be found out, either by tests or by prompting from a disaffected employee blowing the whistle.

But still, banks, local authorities, government departments and staff, NHS, education and all sorts of organisations seem to think they can deceive us. They are all run by people just like many of the rest of us with our weaknesses, arrogance, limited brain power, power complexes…………..so we just need to be aware that we will never have honest, transparent, trustworthy organisations where people are involved.

I’d like a whistleblowers’ charter with an organisation that willingly listens to people who know of problems, protects them, investigates and takes proper action where justified. That might stop some of the potential miscreants from thinking they can escape discovery and retribution. The trouble is, who will run the organisation? I’m squeaky clean so put my name down. 🙂

Ray G. says:
3 March 2016

I’m retired now, but worked in the motor industry all my life. Towards the latter part of my career I spent around 10 years dealing with “Type Approval” and “Homologation” issues as well as research and development for a major vehicle importer and subsequently manufacturers as an independent consultant. During this period, the premise was not so much on getting the product right, but on getting the paperwork into a position where it was acceptable to the governing body or VCA.
Naturally testing was always a pressure day, but not for the reasons you may first think. Cheats were made in several directions. Firstly and for-mostly, the test HAD to be passed, secondly, the vehicle may well have been secretly modified to ensure a pass was secured. Thirdly, the paperwork and test vehicle had to appear as if it was a standard production vehicle.
Because there was never any room for failure, subsequent retests and additional expense, you were pressurized to make sure you got it right the first time. That pressure came from the very top and everybody in the subsequent chain, was also fully aware of what was going on. So yes, I do believe the CEO of Volkswagen was fully aware of what was happening within his group and probably even sanctioned it, be it only verbally.


Ray I dont know where you were working but it all seems a little familiar although I held a position further back in the design system but we got pressured to “make changes to suit” as such
Ray I whole heartedly agree with much of what you say , , you are saying more or less what I have said all along but that VW just went the extra mile to be fraudsters but in doing so crossed all lines of morals etc
I agree that that the management will have known and that the management and company should be held to account. .
I do not agree with suggestions that it was only lowly engineers/technicians or software writers who had sole responsibility for the goings on or any idea or suggestion that these people should be punished. . If Directors cannot be punished p*** away off and leave the workers alone also. . It is management who drives this corruption but they are I’ll bet under cover of the investigation pulling cover over themselves
This idea that directors etc cannot be punished is bonkers and they know and they are milking it
It is time for this to end
VW are scoundrels, , simple..


Obviously the V.W. group were wrong to make false claims about their engine efficiency. Perhaps someone has spoken about this in previous conversations, but… Were V.W. s claims so impossible that they might have invited an investigation for this without the discovery of the addition to their engines? If so, why did these revelations take so long to surface? Do their real emission results -on the road – vary significantly from those of other car manufacturers? No doubt they all strive to make the cleanest engines and it is unlikely that any one of them could be that much better than their rivals. If one engine is as dirty as the next, no one is wearing a halo. The anger comes from being duped into buying a car that was believed to be ultra clean, and wasn’t. Someone fairly high up would have designed the Urea addition, and someone would have manufactured the part on V.W.’s instruction. Anyone assembling the engine would have known that it was there. Hardly a state secret then.


Vynor, , There was no Urea system. . Just a cheap Exhaust gas recirculation system with a diesel particulate filter to change the then excessive soot from the black stuff we once seen to a much lighter coloured stuff we didnt as easily see
Recirculating exhaust gases reduces NOX but makes loads more soot
They needed the DPF to then reduce the soot
Both systems use power/reduce power and use fuel
The cars started every morning in clean mode but as soon as they recognised normal road conditions they went for economy
To do this they simply stopped or almost stopped the operation of the EGR
Stopping or seriously reducing the use of the EGR reduced the production of soot
Stopping the use of the EGR also gave the little diesels back their true lean burn genetics that always gave diesel the economy
Along with that came the power that everyone likes
It was a really simple cheat but unlike many others this was not a simple mod to enable a little better test results these cars could fly through any test with flying colours any day any where but once on the open road the cheat allowed the car to get better economy and more power

The people assembling the engines or indeed the cars would not know there was a cheat
The cheat is not a visible device. . It is purely software related
All the emissions equipment was present and correct and as above could pass any test so it’s unfair to say those assembling the engines knew anything
Many of the test engineers would not have known either because the testing would have been done in similar fashion to test expected of it
It could only have been those much further up the ladder who knew. . This cannot happen without the very highest knowledge

As to Urea injection
Without going into all kinds of boring details it is not so simple as it first appears. . What is??
So those with thoughts that Urea is the saviour are perhaps a little wishful. . It has drawbacks also

There are no clean engines. . There are no clean vehicles. . Even the production of a vehicle is very pollution causing
Yes your right no one can wear a Halo but I dont see any others attempting to do so nor do I see any here saying that all others as squeaky clean but??
To date VW have been the big guys to outright cheat. .It might not have tasted taste so bad had they not been caught at this software test cheat thing in the past which they in fact were caught for
There are many who knew VW had to be at something but I dont believe anyone outside of VW really believed what they were doing until they held their hands up
Many like myself who had learned to dislike VW for being swell headed and all conquering have been vindicated if only to a small degree but many were working their guts out to compete with a cheat. .
This cheating was pushing the industry into ever more “quirky” or less than perfect practices
No different to being an athlete competing against others who you know have an unfair advantage but you cannot put your finger on the problem


Perhaps we should explore other forms of cheating in the motor industry. For years I have been reading about the ways that manufacturers can modify their vehicles prior to testing, so that they can produce higher mpg and lower carbon dioxide emissions. Here is a 2014 press release by the European consumers’ association BEUC: http://www.beuc.eu/publications/beuc-pr-2014-020_fuel_consumption.pdf It describes some of the ways that manufacturers can modify their cheat in the tests, and others ways of cheating have been described elsewhere. There is no doubt that the tests are out of date, but that is no reason for modifying cars to perform better in tests. Car tests for Which? are carried out on unmodified cars as far as I am aware.

The problem is that we don’t know which ways different manufacturers are cheating. It’s a secret, like the software that was used by the VW Group to cheat in the nitrogen oxide emissions tests.

Now is a good time to find out what other cheating is going on in the motor industry.


Reports into the effect of modifying vehicles prior to NEDC testing – modifications that the NEDC test doers not prohibit – indicate that the effect on the results are relatively small. It must also be remembered that the NEDC test does not, and was not designed to, represent “real life” performance, simply to make relative comparisons between vehicles. So don’t rely on the figures it produces as representing what you will get in practice. Which? has an “on the road” driving style test cycle that is quite different from the EC’s NEDC. They are not comparable.

The EC is introducing a very different laboratory test – the WLTP – which is said to be much more representative of the ways cars are driven. It will replace the NEDC test. It is also introducing a “real driving emission” test to measure emissions during on-the-road driving; this will give a much better basis for assessing and regulating emissions, like NOx.

We should concentrate on getting these tests up and running and producing results. At the same time the EC is looking at other measures, such as ensuring all the independent laboratories used for vehicle certification work work on a comparable basis and are regularly audited, with independent oversight.


We have discussed the forthcoming tests at great length, but I would be interested to explore cheating within the motor industry. Six months ago we learned about blatant cheating by the VW Group but I would like to know about other examples even though they are likely to be less serious.


VW group are the only manufacturer found to have cheated – so far. If there is evidence that any other has “cheated” then I will be the (first) second to condemn them. But I would like to see something to substantiate any such allegation. 🙁


We did not know that VW had cheated until six months ago. Maybe it’s time to look for evidence of other cheating.


The EC and others, like the UK, are looking at car testing to see whether there are any issues of this kind.


I purchased my vw golf when I retired thinking that I had got a car with good fuel economy and low co2 emissions, how wrong can you be. You listen to all what the salesman tells you about how good it is on fuel, very low emissions and good resale value then out of the blue the truth emerges. I love my car the auto box is the best I have ever driven,but the fuel consumption is know where near what vw is saying and now we know that the emissions have been fiddled so they can sell more cars to America.
I could not believe that a company with the reputation that vw had could do such a terrible thing. My next problem will be when I go to sell or part exchange my car I have noticed how much the value of the car has dropped, will we in the uk get any compensation like our fellow Americans have been offered I don’t think so.


The cheating refers to nitrogen oxide emissions and not directly to fuel economy and carbon dioxide emissions. Modifying the problem cars is likely to decrease fuel economy and increase carbon dioxide emissions to some extent, but it will reduce the amount of nitrogen oxide emissions, which are harmful to our health. All cars, diesel and petrol, produce nitrogen oxides and in some cities the levels are above the permitted threshold.


NOx emissions are only measured, currently, during the EC’s NEDC laboratory test. The limits regulated by the EC (currently 60 mg/km for petrol and 80 mg/km for diesel under the Euro 6 requirements) are only compared with the NEDC results. These are the results used by the EC to grant a car’s approval.

There are no “permitted thresholds” for emissions produced “on-the-road”, as yet. The EC’s “real driving emissions” test is designed to sort out what happens under these conditions and should lead to a more practical outcome. It has recently been introduced for trial purposes.

Most vehicles on the road are likely to produce higher emissions than Euro 6 anyway because of their age. The only way to seriously reduce NOx levels in towns and cities is to substantially reduce the number of fossil-fueled vehicles using them, particularly at peak times. We should concentrate on producing a real and workable solution, not tinkering at the edges. That is, if we are serious about reducing pollution.


Modifying the affected cars to comply with emission limits will also reduce the emissions on the road.


It will have minimal effect – it is the number of vehicles on the road that cause such high levels of pollution. If London sees the whole of its annual emissions levels being exceeded in some areas in only a few days, with other cities facing similar problems, then simply tinkering with individual emissions will be useless. The fact is that we do not measure vehicle emissions under the conditions in which they are used. Until we know what happens in practice – and this is what the EC’s real driving emissions test is designed to find – we do not know what further measures to take that will be genuinely effective. And what about the vast majority of road vehicles – cars, buses, lorries, taxis – that are nowhere near the performance of Euro 6 and their commercial equivalents? I doubt you can modify those.

Town and city air pollution is a serious problem that can only be solved by a radical solution. But who takes it seriously enough to take a brave step? We’ve seen the pollution levels in China and India; do we want it to get like that here just because of our personal right to use a polluting car whenever and wherever we like? Perhaps we do.


Malcolm – You have often mentioned the need for a radical solution to tackle pollution but having done my best to avoid driving in cities since I learned to drive at age 17 it grates a bit. Do you practise what you preach?


This is not about you or me but all of us, wavechange. It won’t happen unless there is some kind of legislation.
I am not “preaching” as you put it, simply pointing out what I believe to be one way that pollution can be controlled. I’m sure your contribution helps and no, I very rarely drive in towns and cities and not in the rush hour.


Thanks Malcolm. I wish more people would behave more responsibly and there would be less need to control people’s lives. I have no idea if I would have cared about environmental issues if I had not been badly affected by poor air quality since my childhood.


If you take seat belts, using hand held mobile phones in cars as examples, would we have the situation where the vast majority wear belts and don’t use phones unless they had been persuaded by legislation. Personal responsibility is a bit relative and most people need encouragement.

As far as driving in town is concerned, it may persuade people not to if there were more, better, cheaper public transport and free out of town parking. But many calculate that it is cheaper to drive (fuel cost) particularly if more than one person is travelling,. This needs to change.


Unfortunately these measures would attract little support and would make politicians unpopular. I’m surprised that the smoking ban succeeded.

Unfortunately we are off-topic. 🙁


Malcolm, as 80% of the UK population reside in urban towns and cities, Its a bit unrealistic to expect people to give up their love affair with the car in favour of public transport, the cost for which would prove restrictive and prohibitive for many families.


Beryl, I’m afraid it is, but these same people will live amongst the fumes. The alternative needs to be attractive public transport that is affordable.


Curbing the emissions is surely the most cost effective approach Malcolm with the introduction of more hybrids and electric vehicles. There would be mass unemployment and the economy would suffer as manufacturers pulled out of the U.k if people abandoned their cars altogether.

There is of course always room for cleaner and cheaper public transport and people would be a lot healthier through more exercise so a combination of both is the ideal solution.


I think an easy way to curb emissions is to ban private cars from city centres. London has, more or less, already done this by means of its congestion charge.

But, as Beryl says, most folk would rather sit in traffic jams breathing foul air than walk or cycle in clean air.