By on January 26, 2016

1.6 TDI Motor ( EA 189 ):  Flow straightener Volkswagen

Last we heard, Volkswagen’s small loophole that it could technically skate through on the definition of “cheating” in Europe was fairly well closed.

Last week, Volkswagen’s chief in the UK asserted in a letter to British Parliament that the company may not have have technically cheated in Europe.

“Volkswagen accepts that a defeat device was used in the USA in certain models, in the context of the very different regulatory framework and factual circumstances there,” Paul Willis wrote in a December letter (via New York Times). “However we do not think that it is possible to make the same definitive legal determination in relation to the software that was fitted to those differently configured vehicles in the UK and EU.” (Emphasis ours.)

Holy shit. Really?

The letter is a lengthy response to inquiries made by British officials into the timing, rollout and response by Volkswagen when they admitted that 11 million cars worldwide were fitted with an emissions-test detecting device to reduce nitrous oxide emissions to pass.

In Willis’ own letter, he admits that the cars were fitted with a device to reduce emissions, and that the device was similar to a device used in America that Volkswagen has admitted “cheated” emissions tests over here.

“In very simple terms, the software did amend the NOx characteristics in testing. The vehicle did meet EU5 standards, so it clearly contributed to meeting the EU5 standards in testing,” Willis wrote.

But in further questions, Willis said it was impossible to tell if the cars could meet EU5 emissions standards without using the software because deleting the software would disable the car from running.

Which is like saying, “The cake calls for icing. If I don’t ice the cake, I can’t make it to the next step. So we’ll never know what the cake tastes like without icing because we can’t comprehend a universe without icing.”

Volkswagen’s PR machine rolls on.

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52 Comments on “Volkswagen Still Talking Technicalities in Definition of ‘Cheat’...”


  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    After the Porsche-Volkswagen saga, I’ve been anxious to see what comes next – the Germans come up with great, plot twisting stories that go on and on. It looks like it’s time to stock up on popcorn again.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    Apparently VW seems unfamiliar with the concept of “groveling for forgiveness”. The Powers That Be at VW must have been terribly spoiled as children.

    Statements like this have a tendency to mightily annoy reglators, and make the final punishment, whatever it is, that much worse. (Similar to how the punishment a conviction after a “not guilty” plea is higher than that for a guilty plea.)

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Well my dear it depends what the definition of cheat is.

  • avatar
    Mazda323

    I would speculate from this that VW is planning to fight to be able to offer a lower level of compensation/reparations in Europe than in the US, and this is a way of justifying that in advance.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    I’m not going to defend VW, but you have completely misinterpreted/sensationalized its response.

    Go back and read the document. VW is claiming that the cars will comply with Euro 5 once they are fixed.

    You’ve taken VW’s remarks out of context. The company was trying to address the specifics of the question posed by the Transport Committee, which asked whether the cars would have met type approval without the defeat device. VW answered by stating that the cars wouldn’t operate without the defeat device, but that the cars could be fixed so that they could comply with regulations and receive type approval.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Mr Willis is parsing words, whilst ignoring the spirit of the question.

      The Committee is trying to gauge the effect of the defeat device on meeting Euro 5 standards during the vehicle’s operation. Deleting software is obviously not an option, and nobody posed that question. They want to know if the vehicle would meet Euro 5 without the Special Features of the defeat device in effect.

      Mr Willis’ answer is rather glib and dismissive. Saying “we’ll fix it someday, promise” is evasive and vague, and I think Aaron is right to call it out.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Go read the original document. He addressed the question reasonably.

        • 0 avatar
          NickS

          I have read the first 3 pages so far and I cannot believe how dissembling it is. The guy is provocatively playing with words to make sure the reader is left to think that nothing illegal was done.

          I really dont mind being wrong on this. I would like to see what others think though. If you have one min, grab the PDF and read up to say 2.3 and share what you think.

          There is nothing that I see there that I would characterise as answered reasonably.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            VW is arguing in 1.3 that it didn’t necessarily violate EU law, even though it violated US law.

            And if you don’t read 2.4, then you won’t follow the point being made.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            It is going to be very hard to pin him down with differences in US and European regulations. Would be easier to have one set of regulations

          • 0 avatar
            NickS

            I read 2.4 and beyond. 2.4 is where he starts using future tense to refer to what will happen. I. All the previous responses he used past tense to basically claim that whatever the software did was not illegal in any way. Best as I understand it, he may be suggesting that the vehicles comply with emissions during normal driving (because nobody tests them during real-life use, and there is no standard for that), and that the mode they worked in during testing was reasonable one implementation (insinuating it was an acceptable/not illegal one) but will change the program to make it more in line with the owners’ and regulators’ expectations.

            I don’t argue about US vs UK law. It is de facto true that these are different law and regulatory systems and as such whatever vw did will need to be evaluated and judged in the context of each country’s legal frameworks. It may indeed prove that hey never broke the law in the UK due to some technicality. So be it. It’s a problem for the Brits to solve.

            Further on, he seems to indicate that because KBA approved the fixes, that is all every EU country should need to approve those fixes.

            These responses have been written by a legal team that has already formed their defense roadmap and is now perhaps for the first time revealing what their core arguments will be. We got a taste of that when Muller spoke to NPR recently.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            I’m not sure what you want. You want VW to confess to a violation when it believes that it may not have committed a violation?

          • 0 avatar
            NickS

            Well, that’s the George Costanza argument. It is not lying if you believe it.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            If something that is illegal in the United States is legal in the UK, then why should VW claim to have violated UK law?

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          @Pch101: I did read it; he’s answering as though he’s in court.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Fight back, where are your surprise witnesses? Where’s your slogan a la “If It Doesn’t Fit, You Must Acquit”?

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            VW is saying that one can’t use its violation of US law to support the contention that it broke EU law. That is a perfectly reasonable thing to say, given that the laws are different.

            Question 1: Did you break the law? (Why is your software not a defeat device?)

            1.1 Yes, we put software on the car, and we apologize.
            1.2 But we’re not quite sure exactly what that did in the context of changing EU test results.
            1.3 Don’t use the US results to determine EU compliance, since the laws are different.
            1.4 We’ll fix the cars, irrespective of the defeat device argument.

            Question 2 is essentially the same: Did you break the law? (Would the cars pass the NOx test without the software?)

            2.1 Go back and read 1.1-1.4
            2.2-2.3 We can’t comment on whether the car would have met type approval without the defeat device because the car wouldn’t run without it (so obviously it wouldn’t have been submitted for type approval, since the car wouldn’t have been running otherwise.)
            2.4 But we’re going to fix it.

            This only sounds conspiratorial to those who don’t understand these kinds of documents.

            Since VW is arguing that it didn’t necessarily violate EU law, why should it confess to violating laws that it claims not to have violated? Perhaps what it did was illegal, but it is claiming that it may not have been and that it is investigating.

            And VW is right on that point. The defeat devices are clearly illegal under US law, so there is no defense there. But EU laws are more permissive.

        • 0 avatar
          wmba

          Your definition of reasonable and mine are not the same. VW is arguing that the point of the test is to pass the test, and that any relationship between that and real-world driving is unconnected.

          Why would any government introduce a test that has no relevance to the real world? They wouldn’t. The expectation is that the test results would be broadly reflected in real world use. Otherwise, there is zero point in having a test in the first place, now is there. No point at all. None.

          So VW says, oh no – the point of the test is to pass it. To me, that’s avoiding the obvious spirit of testing regimes in the first place, so it’s entirely UNreasonable, unless this is some logic class on Planet Zog, where only exact wording counts and all else is up for grabs.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            I think that you guys want VW to confess to something that it claims not to have done.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            part of it is reasonable. this part:

            “But in further questions, Willis said it was impossible to tell if the cars could meet EU5 emissions standards without using the software because deleting the software would disable the car from running.”

            is like a child trying to evade punishment by answering a different question than what was asked.

            when the EU asks “Will your cars conform to EU5 without the defeat device?” they mean “is it possible to bring these cars into compliance as they exist today?” Not “can you just rip out the offending code?” which is the question VW is answering.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “when the EU asks ‘Will your cars conform to EU5 without the defeat device?” they mean “is it possible to bring these cars into compliance as they exist today?\'”

            And if you read the document, the response in 2.4 says that the cars will comply with Euro 5 after the software is removed, which addresses the essence of the question.

            However, VW is also noting that just removing the software alone is not enough — if the only thing that VW did was to delete the code, the cars would not run. So it isn’t just a matter of deleting the code, but of replacing it with something else.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            “However, VW is also noting that just removing the software alone is not enough — if the only thing that VW did was to delete the code, the cars would not run. So it isn’t just a matter of deleting the code, but of replacing it with something else.”

            the “unreasonable” part was VW acting like that even needed to be said. It reinforces the appearance of them continually dodging and mincing words.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            The response is being provided to a government body. The language has to be nuanced.

            If VW gave the answer that you wanted to hear, then it would be false.

  • avatar
    johnny ringo

    This statement from VW sounds suspiciously like Bill Clinton’s statement during the Monica Lewinsky scandal when he stated: “I did not have sex with that woman.” I guess it’s time to get out the beer and chips, sit back and enjoy the proceedings.

  • avatar
    Dan R

    This sort of attitude is going to sink them.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    After asking for the definition of their term “German Engineering” for so long, I now have it, at least in the Volkswagen-Audi-Group sense of the phrase.

    Also, who in the world has the tools and the time to look through 100 TB of data?

    • 0 avatar
      NickS

      They can hire an outside company to aggregate it all, index it and wrap it all with a search engine on top. It’s really not that hard technically. I would still take forever but most prosecutors have the budget for it. And there are lawyers who do discovery exclusively.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Amazing reading, that PDF document from VW UK.

    Apparently VW thinks that “there is no real world standard” for NOx emissions. So they don’t have to meet anything. All they were required to ensure was that their diesels met Euro test standards on a dynamometer during type approval testing, which of course they do. And that’s it.

    They further claim that there is no way they can predict the way an individual driver will drive, so how can they possibly correct for that anyway. Although they airily continue, new technology has helped in that regard, and with any luck, the “updated” EA189 engines will produce a little less NOx in the real world.

    The completely new technology is probably SCR with urea injection, and they manage to try to confuse that with the “updates”, which are not SCR. Over the highway big rigs manage to work in the real world, but VWs cannot due to too many variables. Utter BS.

    Who can trust any mealy-mouthed outfit like VW? Should one not expect that lab testing is meant to reflect into the real world? According to VW, no, they are two entirely separate things. Completely irrational and unbelievable, and not something a reasonable person would expect.

    I hope the EPA and CARB screw these pontificating pompous cheats into bankruptcy. They need a serious comeuppance to straighten their twisted logic out.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      “Over the highway big rigs manage to work in the real world, but VWs cannot due to too many variables. Utter BS. ”

      not to mention BMW and GM, which apparently stay clean on the road even under EPA’s more stringent limits.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I…did not…have sexual relations…with that woman.

    Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and can delivery them to the United States in under 20 minutes.

    We really didn’t have cheat software on our engines to fool emissions testers technically.

    VW is creating an amazing case study on how not to manage a crisis.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      There is no “there” there…

      It depends upon what your definition of “is” is…

      One would think Bill & Hillary spin doctors are running the VW PR show now…

    • 0 avatar
      hf_auto

      Reminds me of another favorite:
      “You asked for trucks and we complied with our contract and it is immaterial whether the trucks were operational.”
      – Custer Battles, attempting to justify why 34 of 36 trucks sent to Iraq didn’t work. That didn’t end well for them.

  • avatar
    probert

    Perhaps these arguments would be better made as an appeal after the top executives are extradited, charged and sent to prison.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Perhaps the arrogance of VW’s recent arguments will be motivation enough for theDOJ to realize that the culture of cancer still runs VW and it will only be excised with indictments, and fat penalties for execs and the companies respectively.

      • 0 avatar

        Is anyone really going to do that when the global implications are massive? You start extraditing German execs and sooner or later, the EU’s going to want to yoink U.S. execs in future situations. You know, turnabout and all that.

  • avatar

    Volkswagen already redacts ~8 years of history from its corporate timeline, what’s another 2 or 3…?

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Definition of cheat in English:
    verb

    1 [NO OBJECT] Act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage:
    she always cheats at cards
    MORE EXAMPLE SENTENCES
    1.1 [WITH OBJECT] Gain an advantage over or deprive of something by using unfair or deceitful methods; defraud:
    he had cheated her out of everything she had

    French[edit]
    Etymology[edit]
    From Middle French tromper, from Old French tromper ‎(“to tramp, trump, delude”, literally “to play on the trumpet”), from trompe ‎(“trump, trumpet”), from Frankish *trumpa ‎(“trump, trumpet”), akin to Old High German trumba, trumpa ‎(“trump, trumpet”). More at tramp, tromp, trump.

    Pronunciation[edit]
    audio
    MENU0:00
    IPA(key): /tʁɔ̃.pe/
    Hyphenation: trom‧pe
    Verb[edit]
    tromper

    (transitive) to deceive, lead astray, mislead
    (transitive) to trick, dupe
    (transitive) to cheat on one’s significant other
    (transitive) to distract oneself from
    (reflexive) to make a mistake
    New York est la capitale des États-Unis. Ah non, je me trompe, c’est Washington.‎
    New York is the capital of the United states. Wait, I’m wrong, it’s Washington.
    (reflexive, with de) to mix up
    On est en retard parce qu’on s’est trompé de route, mais on ne s’est rendu compte qu’après une demie heure.‎
    We’re late because we took the wrong road, and we only realized after half an hour.

    German[edit]
    Etymology[edit]
    PIE root
    *dʰrewgʰ-
    From be- +‎ trügen.

    Verb[edit]
    betrügen ‎(class 2 strong, third-person singular simple present betrügt, past tense betrog, past participle betrogen, past subjunctive betröge, auxiliary haben)

    (transitive) to cheat; to swindle
    Meine Frau betrügt mich aus verschiedenen Gründen…
    My wife cheated me due to different reasons…
    (transitive, law) to defraud
    (transitive, marriage) to deceive

    Dutch[edit]
    Etymology[edit]
    PIE root
    *dʰrewgʰ-
    From Middle Dutch bedriegen, from Old Dutch bedriegan, from Proto-Germanic *bidreuganą, from *dreuganą.

    Pronunciation[edit]
    Rhymes: -iɣən
    Audio
    MENU0:00
    Verb[edit]
    bedriegen ‎(past singular bedroog, past participle bedrogen)

    to deceive
    to cheat on one’s significant other

    Spanish[edit]
    Etymology[edit]
    From Vulgar Latin ingannāre, present active infinitive of ingannō, from Latin gannō.

    Verb[edit]
    engañar ‎(first-person singular present engaño, first-person singular preterite engañé, past participle engañado)

    to trick or deceive

    Japanese[edit]
    Etymology[edit]
    Wasei eigo (和製英語), from English cunning. Cf. Korean 커닝 (keoning)

    Noun[edit]
    カンニング ‎(romaji kanningu)

    cheating (e.g. on a test)
    Verb[edit]
    カンニングする ‎(romaji kanningu suru)

    To cheat (on/in a test, quiz, etc.).
    彼かれは歴史れきしの試験しけんでカンニングしているところを見みつかった。

    โกง is a Thai translation of the word deceive (“trick or mislead”)

    Greek[edit]
    Noun[edit]
    απάτη • ‎(apáti) f ‎(plural απάτες)

    deceit
    deception
    fraud, hoax

  • avatar
    BerlinDave

    Let us not forget that Germans do not make mistakes.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Sounds like VW really needs to clean house and get rid of all of the Piëch-ites. That is very much a Piëch answer…and it’s the wrong one, too.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    Reminds me of Bill Clinton’s quibbling over the definition of “is”.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Remember the words of North Carolina criminal defense attorney Larry L. Archie: “Just because you did it, doesn’t mean you’re guilty.”

    What you have to realize is that this is legal posturing. What seems to us to be something innocuous, or even slightly illogical can, in court, be turned into a loophole big enough to sail a cruise ship through. No use trying to figure what the lawyers are saying, through Willis, they’re not talking to us.


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