/ 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.