By on October 2, 2015

GM-Emissions-Lab

While working on a story about some very old cars, I stumbled upon something relevant to the latest big story in the automotive world.

I ran into a Model T collector who’s also a powertrain engineer for Ford. Seizing the opportunity, I asked him if he could tell me what he was working on (sometimes they say no). He said that he was responsible for developing computerized engine controls. Because of that expertise, I started to ask him some questions about the software program that Volkswagen apparently used to cheat on the EPA’s diesel emissions testing.

What he was willing to say and what he wouldn’t say intrigued me.

First off, he said that his employer absolutely, positively does not cheat. On that he was as adamant as a person can be, with no tells that I could see. If FoMoCo is cheating on emissions tests, I’d bet that he doesn’t know about it. However, he’s responsible for a lot of the systems that would be used in cheating and he says not only does it not happen at his company, he personally wouldn’t allow it.

When I asked him if they knew Volkswagen was cheating, that’s when it got interesting. He didn’t say no.

He said that his employer regularly tests competitors’ vehicles but that he has nothing to do with the competitive testing department. He stressed that I’d have to talk to someone in that department, and then reiterated that he knew nothing about competitive testing results. I don’t want to say that he was acting like Sgt. Schultz — far from that — but his words seemed to be carefully chosen. Just because you don’t work in a department doesn’t mean that you don’t hear things.

Ford doesn’t currently offer any small diesels in America. However, Ford does offer its Duratorq four-cylinder diesel engines in the Mondeo — the Fusion’s sibling — in Europe. Somewhere in Ford’s R&D archipelago, whether on the streets around their Allen Park engine development center or in Europe, it’s likely that Ford has tested VW’s urea-less “clean” four-cylinder diesels. Ford is also likely not the only automaker to have done so, and car companies have the resources to do real world, on-the-road emissions testing — not just duplicate the EPA test cycle on a dyno. Duplicating the EPA test would activate devices designed to cheat on that test.

If Ford did test the VW and Audi TDIs in question, they almost certainly knew that Volkswagen was cheating.

I’m guessing that at least a few of VW’s competitors knew all about their cheating and may have even reverse engineered the software that effected the cheat. The question I have: If Volkswagen’s competitors knew it was cheating, why didn’t anyone drop a dime on Volkswagen? If you’re confident that you aren’t cheating, and you’re just as confident that your competitor is, what’s the downside to turning them in?

Image: GM

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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118 Comments on “Did Other OEMs Know Volkswagen Was Cheating?...”


  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    Of course the other automakers knew, buy they didn’t say anything because:
    1. The 1% Old Boys Club
    2. The 1% Old Boys Club
    3. The 1% Old Boys Club
    4. The 1% Old Boys Club
    5. Professional courtesy: who knows what you are cheating at, any may get caught at, or may be imitated at cheating at.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      #5 is the actual reason. You don’t want your competitors to out your faults. Everybody has something they’re hiding. It may not be blatant fraud, but every last one has something.

      • 0 avatar
        Tristan

        I agree with this. With all of the regulations, it’s very possible (and maybe probable) to be “cheating” without even knowing about it.

        Another thing to consider is that consumers don’t really care about actual emissions numbers (compared to HP, MPGs, trunk volume, number of cupholders, etc.).

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        Down at the engineer level, the competitor is a potential future employer.

    • 0 avatar
      hf_auto

      The one time I saw something similar (catastrophic failure of a safety test), we sent a letter to the competitor through our legal channels. Of course, the media and general public never saw this.

      As MBella said, narcing them out will just cause trouble. Getting into a pissing match does nobody any good.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        hf_auto – As you have pointed out, there is an obligation to report any problems that may pose a risk to the public. Engineers like any professional body as part of their ongoing licencing is to self-regulate in the name of public safety.

        With that being said, how did VW justify to engineers the need to build a “defeat” device that cheats tests and increases pollution and therefore increases health problems?

        Those engineers could in theory loose their licences.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I’d think that if a for-profit company saw a way to douche over a competitor, they’d drop a dime in about one second flat. Every buyer who would pass on a VW is a potential buyer for a Ford vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        It’s great to think that, but car companies are an oligopoly with a shared supply chain…

        For instance, Ford lobbied congress for the GM and Chrysler bailouts, because they wanted their suppliers to stay healthy.

      • 0 avatar
        mechaman

        Not necessarily. DW would never buy a Caddy, no matter what their competitors are doing: payback is a mother, as the old expression goes.

    • 0 avatar
      Ralph ShpoilShport

      Based in what I see above, Ronnie’s acquaintance seems like he went in to “I’m being audited” mode. He answered the questions directly when he felt sure and dismissed anything he could not verify.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    My MkV GTI was at Dearborn for a week or so. I don’t know what was done to it, but someone liked the steering wheel, how it drove, and the sound it made when the doors closed.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Speaking of Mondeo + GTI.

      When I go for a run there’s a house I always notice, and assume the people living there are into BDSM because their cars are the following:

      Green Contour SVT
      Red Contour SVT
      MKIV GTI

      How do you feel about these choices?

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        They have a dungeon in their basement and have all their BDSM friends come over. Based on how much money it will take to keep those cars running, they must be very well off. I’m sure their sex dungeon has the finest uh…stuff…money can buy.

        Also, I’d take the Contour SVT over that MkIV GTI.

      • 0 avatar
        LBJs Love Child

        I’m pretty much through with VWs, having owned Foxes, Golfs, and Siroccos. Fun, but mechanically unreliable (usually contracted services, like Bosch) and expensive.

        On the other hand, my Contour SVT was the most fun, trouble-free car I’ve ever owned (with the exception of the Bosch ABS module… replaced free at 80K miles).

        I’d say those folks like ‘affordable’ cars that are fun to drive and exhibit Teutonic origins.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          I love the Contour and there were some long lasting examples. My neighbor had a 200k example. However, the Contour and Mystake had a number of issues. Head gaskets, water pumps, timing belt, etc. I’d still take one of an MkIV though. No one should own one of those. Piles o’ crap.

  • avatar
    jmo

    ” If Volkswagen’s competitors knew it was cheating, why didn’t anyone drop a dime on Volkswagen? ”

    That would tend to support the idea that they didn’t know VW was cheating. On the other hand, if they did know, they might have called up someone at the Council on Clean Transportation and said…”You know, it’s very strange that VW is so clean in the US but our tests here show them as so dirty…wink wink nudge nudge.”

    • 0 avatar
      DeeDub

      This. Why would you assume that someone didn’t rat them out? If a competitor wanted to out the news, doing so behind the scenes is exactly how they would accomplish it.

  • avatar

    EVERYONE IS GUILTY

    The only thing that needs to be done is assigning amounts of guilt to individuals.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I would be shocked if they all didn’t know.

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      Indeed, it would be really embarrassing to NOT know the performance of your direct competition. But as to why nobody reported it, the others figured word would get out eventually (which it now has after half a decade or so), plus there was no need to play that card (yet). And ‘revolving doors.’

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Man-oh-man, I have been saying this all week here.

    And it points to the larger issue, not only here, but in all professions.
    I recall when I had my stroke. The hospital I was taken to totally ignored all the people in the ER shouting I had a stroke. The doctor ignored them. They screwed up by not giving me the test. A few days later when my personal doc noticed I couldn’t complete a sentence…another hospital treated me…I was on my way. Many months later NO doctor would publicly state the original doc did anything wrong. Off record…they all were pissed and spoke poorly of his actions.

    Teachers will not report poor teachers. Players don’t report drug cheating.Union employees will not report lazy, shiftless fellow laborers.

    And hell…IF you actually report something wrong in the government, the entire AG and staff gets put against you! Whistleblowers need money to defend themselves against the United States.

    You Go Snowden!!!! Hang in there…

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      My family usually has a few doctors in our circle of friends. They know who not to go to. They tell horror stories about the gross incompetence of a few of their peers, but they don’t do a damn thing to protect the public beyond advising friends about who to avoid. They’d probably be the ones having their careers ruined for outing bad doctors.

      • 0 avatar
        notapreppie

        There’s also libel/slander laws that could get you in a heap of trouble for saying the wrong thing, the wrong way, to the wrong person.

        If you don’t have solid evidence to back up a claim, it’s really expensive to make it.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        CJinSD – um okay.
        The healthcare profession like any other has bad apples. The process of dealing with malpractice isn’t straight froward. Your example is silly since we all know individuals that are better than others at their jobs.
        I can easily rank all of the Doctor’s I work with in degree of skill but same can be said for every other health professional I work with. They all meet the minimum standard. I’m sure that I’m sitting on someone’s internal competency scale as well.

        “They tell horror stories about the gross incompetence of a few of their peers”

        Those “doctors” are violating confidentiality laws, violating their own “oath”, and perhaps may be the ones to watch for if they chose to gossip about others.

        “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour”

        Even the Bible covers that one.

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          One of those surgeons that people bore false witness against accidentally slit my neighbor’s aorta. If you don’t know about 007 doctors then you might be one.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      And we wonder why medical lawsuits exist…

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Because of affirmative action and other diversity initiatives?

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Actually, I think the cause is Internet trolls…so, do us a favor, CJ, and go away and leave the grown up talk to the grownups. Think of it as your own personal form of tort reform.

          • 0 avatar
            tonycd

            Nicely done, Freed.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            Go chase an ambulance. Ever wonder why trial lawyers are always so desperate to justify their existence?

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Well, CJ, I’m not a lawyer, so there are no ambulances for me to chase, I’m afraid.

            But I can guarantee you this: if YOU got screwed up by a doctor’s incompetence, you’d be looking for a lawyer.

            And that’s why malpractice suits exist. Unless we want to start handing out jail sentences for doctors or medical personnel who screw up their patients, money is the only justice.

            A “capitalist” like you should definitely get that, I’d think.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            I’m a much bigger fan of jail sentences for provable malfeasance. I’ve had crummy doctors compromise my health and never sued. I’ve been hit by cars on foot twice and on bicycles twice, each time with injuries. One time was my fault. I sued zero times. Don’t assume everyone shares your sense of entitlement and lack of character.

      • 0 avatar

        Just try to find a lawyer who will take a legal malpractice case.

        • 0 avatar
          TrailerTrash

          ya…tried a little. But for so many years after I was struggling with the natural depression that follows strokes. It comes from a sudden brilliant awareness of your mortality and fragile reality.
          Yo suddenly find yourself not even a smidgen if the creature you =had built up in your mind. You suddenly start discovering the meanness and darker sides that were there but ignored…a struggle to face every day still.

          These years later have come to convince myself of the good that came from the stroke. Weight loss, the discovering of, learning and becoming extremely good at tennis, very good at meditation…true friendships..you know, silly stuff like that.

    • 0 avatar
      Duaney

      I’ve know of Doctors that will examine a mental patient, declare them perfectly normal, then that patient is released and promptly commits suicide, or some other great havoc, and absolutely nothing is ever said about the incompetent Doctor.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        Duaney – Doctor’s don’t have Star Trek tricorders spitting out the degree of mental instability.

        What is the minimum standard of care for that profession and that circumstance?

        Assessing mental health can be very difficult.

        How do you define a shape for what is amorphous?

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          I have to add that there are complications that are part and parcel of medical practice and for surgery. If for example the average complication rate for hip replacements is 1-3% then one has to establish a pattern well above that rate.

        • 0 avatar
          NMGOM

          Lou_BC – – –

          “How do you define a shape for what is amorphous?”

          By 3D fractals and finite element analysis as a function of time.

          =================

    • 0 avatar
      mechaman

      Management covers their butts … you missed this one

  • avatar
    Rday

    Better to let VW sell millions of defective diesels and then let the feds catch them. Imagine what this will cost VW and the other guys can divide up VW’s market. Remember the feds like to catch taxpayers cheating on their returns and they wait several years to audit them because of all the interest and fines they will get to collect. This deceit will cost VW dearly and may force them out of the US market. Win/win for everyone. VW has really poor quality and cheap junk anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      rentonben

      +1

      When your enemy is digging their own grave, don’t interrupt them.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      I believe Volkswagen got away with cheating on the EPA test for years because other OEMs didn’t view what they did as a threat. Ford probably wouldn’t bother to sell small, fuel efficient cars in the US if CAFE didn’t force them to. Diesel just makes the small low-profit cars less likely to make money. It’s not like Ford was going to lose pickup truck sales as a result of this. Let Volkswagen have the US diesel car niche.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Wouldn’t Ford be most interested in how their competitors’ cars perform during prescribed testing? The real world was completely irrelevant until recently. Ford didn’t get into trouble with the CMAX because it performed worse in the real world than they said it did. They got in trouble because it performed worse under EPA testing protocols than they said it did. Ford might not cheat, but they got caught lying.

    • 0 avatar
      Keith_93

      Didn’t CMAX perform much worse in both real world and EPA style testing? I heard of CMAX owners having a tough time getting within 10 mpg of claims.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Yes. The CMAX was so far below projected fuel consumption in the real world that the EPA tested it and discovered that it wasn’t making the numbers Ford said it was on the dyno. Had it passed the EPA dyno test, Ford wouldn’t have been in any trouble over owners getting 33 mpg. Ford didn’t have a cheat mode for the test. If they had, then the EPA would have just dialed up the hybrid correction factor some more, penalizing Toyota for Ford’s antics.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          Yeah, they done messed up when they threw out those 47 MPG campaigns and “used data from the Fusion’s 2.0 hybrid” for the sticker. I don’t know how they thought that was going to work.

          I could have told everyone in September 2012 that they were never going to get 47 MPG in the C-Max.

          • 0 avatar
            dtremit

            They thought it was going to work because it was nominally legal, and they likely didn’t think it would be wrong enough that people would check.

            Real-world certification was a lot more *work* than what they did, which is probably the real issue here. I’m sure there was a lot of pressure to keep homologation costs down for the C-Max program.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I’m sure costs were a huge issue. But someone had to be driving the C-Max around going, “Ummmmmmm, maybe we aren’t close.” However, that person and the person that gets the MPGs from a computer are probably two different people and they thought it would be closer.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            bball40dtw –
            Legally EPA testing allows the extrapolation of data from vehicles sharing the same platform. Ford took a shortcut. Legally they did not cheat since they were complying with literal interpretation of the rules.

            We must remember that companies go on what the “letter of the law ” says not what is morally or ethically correct.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Lou-

            I am well aware of how they did it and why they did it. It was a stretch because the C-Max and Fusion Hybrid aren’t on the same platform but have the same powertrain. However, based on their shape alone, someone should have been smart enough to kill that ad campaign before it started.

            I don’t like that they did it because the C-Max is a great car if you take the promised 47 MPG out of it.

            If I wanted to sell my car, I would be pi$$ed at Ford because the values fall off a cliff. I don’t care because I’m keeping it as long as possible. Between work ($3500), Ford A-plan($2500), Incentive money ($1500), Ford good faith money ($1100), and a free extended warranty ($900), I’ve been given about 9500 reasons to keep the car until it goes to the crusher.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        I have 45K miles on my C-Max and I am averaging 41.2 MPG. It will drop a bit once winter happens. It gets it’s best MPG in spring and fall when I don’t have the heat or A/C blasting.

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          It’s hard to get too upset about 41 mpg in a big, useful car. Maybe Ford should have just rated it what it could do instead of building a marketing campaign around beating the Prius V.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            You are 100% right CJ

            I hate that they went all “47 MPG!!!!” everywhere because it was obvious it was never going to get that. The C-Max is taller, shorter, heavier, and has more HP than the Prius V. There was no way it was ever going to beat it. They should had focused on the usefulness of the vehicle, the reliability of the powertrain, and the good gas mileage. Instead, they’d rather sell you an inferior Escape.

            And that should have been perfectly fine. But noooooo, they had to be fools. At least I got an apology from a Ford engineering exec a few weeks ago. It took 3 years after I purchased the vehicle, a 10 mile run, and a few beers to get the apology though.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Also, you would think that Ford could get Progressive to buy C-Maxes instead of Escapes for their estimator staff. But no, they can’t even seem to do that.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            They were probably worried about CAFE pressure to eek out every last fraction of a fleet average.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    “If Ford did test the VW and Audi TDIs in question, they almost certainly knew that Volkswagen was cheating.”
    _______________________________________________________________

    This makes two assumptions:
    1) Ford tested competitive cars for emissions
    2) Ford tested competitive cars for emissions in the real world, not on a dyno.

    Neither assumption is supported by the limited facts in the story. And “the guy I talked went all Sergeant Schultz on me” doesn’t mean anything.

    Maybe Ford did test, maybe they didn’t, and we have no idea how the theoretical tests were conducted. If they only did dyno testing, then they’d have been hoodwinked, along with everyone else.

    Everything after the sixth paragraph is pure speculation. And, honestly, it’s a pretty weak hook to hang your hat on from a reporting standpoint.

    • 0 avatar
      NeilM

      I’m with FreedMike on this.

      If you were another manufacturer you’d certainly test drive the VW, and you might well run it though the standard emissions tests to see how it compared to your own product. But I don’t see any reason that you’d go to the considerable trouble of measuring on-the-road emissions, since they’re not a compliance criterion either for you or for VW.

      The only reasons you’d do that would be if you already suspected VW of cheating and wanted to confirm it, or if there were a widespread culture of cheating and you wanted to see how their cheating stacked up against yours. Neither of those situation has been shown to be the case, and I very much doubt that they will be.

      This article is nothing more than one of those “I know a guy who knows a guy whose hairdresser’s friend’s gibbon saw a flying saucer in a hangar at Area 51” things. Or as we call them today, Click Bait.

      • 0 avatar

        Click Bait? You mean we don’t want people to read what we write and publish?

        If I can work my way through Ford’s organizational structure I’m going to try to identify and contact whoever is in charge of competitive testing and ask about on the road emissions testing.

      • 0 avatar
        Silverbird

        I would think this would come up when OEM engineers were working to make a EPA compliant diesel engine and no matter what, couldn’t pass.
        Step 2, get a VW that was compliant and see how they did it. Engineers are not stupid, after figuring out that the hardware is similar (if not the same) to what you were testing, you are down to engine management coding. Probably easier to do some on the road testing then to decrypt and start chewing through Motronic ECM code. Oh with enough resources, do both.

        Conclude that there is no way to ethically pass, so don’t bring over existing European diesels and then try to come up with excuses as to why they aren’t being brought over.

        • 0 avatar
          VCplayer

          “I would think this would come up when OEM engineers were working to make a EPA compliant diesel engine and no matter what, couldn’t pass.”

          This is a line of thought they might have gone down. Ford may or may not have, but given the recent interest in diesels, I can’t imagine that at least one OEM selling cars in America wasn’t aware of what VW was doing.

          People talk too. Maybe a Ford exec got wind of something and had the competitive testing folks figure out what was going on? You don’t even have to do all of the testing either, if an engineer was suspicious of the dynamo results they could just look through the programing and discover the defeat device.

          We can’t know for sure if Ford knew, but I’d be really surprised if no one at all knew. Cars get examined and taken apart. Execs say things to their buddies. Engineers switch companies. There’s lots of potential for exposure outside of systematic testing.

          I wouldn’t be surprised though if OEMs are feverishly testing each other’s vehicles right now though for similar shenanigans.

    • 0 avatar

      I was discussing emissions with the guy. He said they do competitive testing. Perhaps it was a stretch for me to assume he meant testing competitors’ emissions, but that was the context of the conversation.

      Of course the article is speculative, that’s why I used words like “bet” and “guessing”.

      I specifically said he wasn’t doing a Sgt. Schultz routine. He seemed genuinely honest but the way he vehemently denied knowing anything about competitive testing struck me as a little bit odd.

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        Having worked for a few major vehicle and construction equipment OEMs (where I personally was involved with testing competitors’ products), it is my personal opinion that there is a 100% probability that they knew. But this is company-confidential information, and wise employees treat it that way.

        Now if it was a major safety issue discovered on a competitor’s product, then the information might be treated somewhat differently (still held confidential, but ‘leaked’ to the right places).

        Let me share a fascinating story with you involving a similar ‘cheat’. For heavy-duty on-road trucks, there are vehicle noise limits that must be met. Since the engine is a primary source of this noise, engine manufacturers have to ensure that mechanical noise emanating from the engine compartment is within limits (per a SAE-outlined test).

        The test is done with a stationary microphone set up on a tripod on the test track, and the vehicle is driven past the microphone at full-throttle, at a certain speed.

        My company was doing durability testing of one of our trucks, and one of the drivers observed a strange behavior of the engine under certain circumstances. We called the engineering department at the engine company. After describing the conditions under which the strange behavior occurred, the engineer asked: “Why are you doing the noise test?” “What in the heck are you talking about?” was our reply. Oh, boy, that engineer inadvertently let the wildcat out of the bag!

        The engine manufacturer, doing the usual cost-reductions, had removed a secondary front engine cover whose purpose was to reduce the amount of mechanical noise coming from the engine. It is important to note at this point that the engine used an electronic throttle pedal, just like all of today’s cars do.

        The “noise test” software cheat written to solve this issue, it turns out, was to blip the throttle in a certain sequence just as the truck approached the microphone. This caused the engine to derate its maximum power temporarily, so the noise from the engine was greatly reduced (but the truck was still at “full throttle”, thus meeting the letter of the testing requirements).

        This was either in 1996 or 1997.

        So using software ‘cheats’ is nothing new. You would recognize the names of all of the manufacturers in this story, but there is no need to mention them here.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          That sounds like gaming, not cheating. If the test procedure didn’t bar you from doing what you did, then you were (ab)using a loophole. The solution would be to modify the test procedure so that it accounts for the accelerator.

          In contrast, the software that VW used violated federal law, as such equipment is specifically outlawed. Not quite the same thing.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        All due respect, Ronnie, but what you have here is your gut telling you something based on what your source said and how he said it. I think you’re right to follow up on that. But when I was a reporter, that was better known as a “lead,” or “a gut feeling.” Sometimes there’s something to that, sometimes there isn’t. You find out by checking facts.

        Perhaps you could have called Ford and asked them if they’d ever tested VW products, and if so, how they did it. THEN you’d have a story – either it’d be “Ford says it had no idea VW was cheating,” or “Ford never tested VW cars for emissions,” or “Ford refuses to comment if it ever tested VW cars.” Or it could be “Ford tested VW cars on a dyno and got hoodwinked like everyone else.” But those are all stories based on fact checking.

        What you have right now is just conjecture, and all that does is raise suspicions when there might not be anything suspicious going on. Doing that without at least trying to get something from the manufacturer isn’t terribly responsible, in my opinion.

        Take that input as you will.

        But if you think you have a lead on this, I’d follow it.

    • 0 avatar
      dtremit

      #1 doesn’t seem unreasonable to me; they might well have thrown a VW on a dyno to check how they got those emissions without urea.

      #2, though, seems really unlikely to me — I can’t think of a reason Ford would need or want to do field emissions testing of a VW.

  • avatar
    wsn

    When I did my MSc. thesis, I would of course review existing published work of others. The thing is, I couldn’t get the great results they claim to have got. Did I report these researchers? No. There is no personal benefit to me by doing this.

    • 0 avatar

      Why not just publish the diverging results? Isn’t that the way science is supposed to work? Experiments have to be reproducible, otherwise the results are meaningless.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        Nobody gets funding for replications.

        Your tax dollar savings at work!

      • 0 avatar
        VCplayer

        Unfortunately this leads to lots of poor conclusions in scientific fields. Unless someone wants to stand up and make a fuss about it you can get all sorts of garbage past a peer review process.

        Scientists are as vulnerable to social pressure as any other group of professionals. There are some fun books out there on bad science though that make for good reads.

  • avatar
    mcs

    If Ford just performed an EPA test, wouldn’t the software have done it’s job and fake them out? They would have needed to run the car up and down Enterprise Drive to test and record the failure? Then again, as engineers they might have been suspicious and may have done just that.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      Unlike the EPA, Ford engineers would have been very curious about engine power output along with emissions under the EPA test. Guaranteed that the engineers would have done “how much power will it put out” tests on the dyno and those results wouldn’t match the also inevitable “drag race” acceleration tests. Engineers are overwhelmingly male and human males can turn any activity into a contest.

    • 0 avatar
      VCplayer

      They could have also just examined the emissions software. No need to actually drive the thing at all if they were suspicious in the first place.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        >> They could have also just examined the emissions software.

        Even with a disassembler, it would be a bitch to figure out what that code was doing and very time consuming. I doubt they would have been allowed to spend that much time on trying to figure out if a competitor was cheating.

  • avatar
    mchan1

    In many cultures, it’s bad to ‘rat’ (i.e. snitch) someone out.

    The problem is that it really depends on the POV as it is contradictory at times.

    One wouldn’t snitch.
    But others want you to snitch.
    Contradictory? Yes!

    One has to get “some reward” for snitching and that’s generally some sort of ‘personal gain’.

    It’s the SAME attitude and belief of “Not in My Back Yard!”
    which makes life very difficult.

    There’s no such thing as “doing the ‘right’ thing” anymore.
    What is the “right” thing? Who’s POV?

    One company wouldn’t necessary call out one of its competitors esp. IF that one company has ‘skeletons in its closet’.

    Perfect examples….
    You can have professionals like doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc…
    They will NOT out another of their kind because it WILL make Them look bad EVEN IF the Outed party really IS BAD (i.e. Incompetent)!

    NOTHING you do or say will affect the perception that IF you outed them (i.e. Incompetent people), nothing will change and you’ll be the ‘bad guy’ and ‘always be known’ as a snitch!
    Also, you may then be subject to a libel suit nowadays!

    Amurica!
    If you can’t win or don’t like things, then sue!

    Very SAD!

    The losers: consumers/general public!

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      Then the general public should think of a way to reward whistle blowers to make their effort worthwhile.

      I heard that in certain jurisdictions, reporters on tax evasion do get a share of the reclaimed tax.

    • 0 avatar
      VCplayer

      It unfortunately seems human nature to go after whistleblowers. Even with the head of the agency giving orders not to let it happen, VA whistleblowers are STILL facing retaliation for calling out the shameful behavior of that organization. There was a story earlier this week about the Secret Service wanting to leak the confidential records of a congressman who was investigating misconduct in the agency.

      Do the right thing? That takes a lot of courage.

  • avatar
    PeterKK

    Who else is cheating? That’s what I want to know.

  • avatar
    Polishdon

    If they:

    1) Tested it with equipment and procedures outside of the federal test. 2) Disassembled and got into the computer code and looked for it.

    They probably wouldn’t have known.

  • avatar
    mitchw

    Any OE that had shopped Bosch diesel parts had to have known about the software, since Bosch wrote it. It’s also hard to believe that the Honda and Mazda engineers trying to do their own diesel didn’t carefully study the VW stuff. Also hard to believe that no one from within VW spoke up.

    • 0 avatar
      jthorner

      The reporting out there says that VW modified Bosch’s engine management software:

      http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/10/07/us-volkswagen-emissions-software-idUSKCN0S12GY20151007

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    The OEMs that knew about the VW “cheat” tune were probably hanging back to see what became of it. And likely considering the use of one too, if they need to. .

    Or they did tip off the EPA after they knew all about it. Or the tip fell on deaf ears, them being government workers just trying to collect a paycheck/bennies and get out of there by 5.

    But I think there’s definitely a “code among thieves”. And the auto business is too intermingled with suppliers.

  • avatar

    Somebody leaked. Eventually all do. You might call if a stroke of genius to wait for 7 years for Volkswagen to dig itself way deep into this diesel money pit, then blow the whistle. Competitors are used to take apart each others cars and engines. Perhaps Suzuki did. Or BMW.

  • avatar
    korvetkeith

    Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. When working in large companies you usually only have in depth knowledge of the microcosm that is your job. If the guy did not work in competitive analysis and was removed from that group at a level higher than an engineering manager, he probably would not have known a lot about it.

  • avatar
    GS 455

    GM ignition switch scandal, Takata airbags, exploding Jeep gas tanks, Ford gaming IIHS crash tests, dieselgate, they all cut corners or cheat in one way or another.

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      Sure, but don’t discount plain incompetence and the obsession to cover up said incompetence, as with Toyota spaghetti code.

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      GS 455 – – –

      “…they all cut corners or cheat in one way or another.” Yup.

      Don’t forget to include Toyota’s unintended acceleration and floor-mat crisis, which they fought.

      ==================

  • avatar
    dtremit

    Ronnie, I suspect you may not be anonymizing your contact as well as you think — I suspect the Venn diagram between “Ford powertrain engineer” and “specific model of antique car enthusiast” doesn’t have that big an overlap.

  • avatar
    Steve Lynch

    Ex-GM honcho and professional blowhard Bob Lutz said he was suspicious of VW even though he retired in 2009.

  • avatar
    fishiftstick

    There’s cheating, and then there’s cheating.

    Regulations say you have to pass the test, but the test is unrealistic and engineering involves trade-offs. Making a diesel pass the test and run clean in the real world would make it even more expensive/slow/thirsty–and, worse, uncompetitive.

    So all OEMs “cheat” by making their cars pass the test, but run dirty in the real world. But if you did happen to drive their cars as the test specifies, they would pass. The difference in VW’s case is that even if you drove that way, the car would run dirty because it’s not on a dyno.

    Ford probably knew VW was doing the first kind of cheating. A big stink about that would only result in a tougher test–no advantage there. And even if Ford isn’t doing the same thing with diesel emissions, it is definitely doing something very similar with “Ecoboost” fuel economy.

    But if Ford knew the real nature of VW’s cheating, I find it hard to believe they would not at least have instigated a leak. Would they really pass up market share for the old boys’ network?

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      If Ford, or any other carmaker knew VW was cheating, maybe doing nothing was the perfect move. They had to figure that at some point, VW would get caught, but that the longer the cheating went on, the bigger the ensuing scandal and reversal of fortune for VW.

      If Ford knew in 2010 and blew the whistle then, this scandal would be small beans and easily covered by one quarter’s earnings for VW.

    • 0 avatar
      VCplayer

      Ecoboost isn’t really a good comparison. The EPA test for milage is only meant to give a benchmark for regulators and consumers. It’s a given that milage varies in many ways, everyone knows that. The Ecoboost might game the test somewhat, but there’s literally nothing stopping you from driving with the same acceleration as is used on the EPA dynamo. I mean, other than annoying people behind you, but you can just pretend to be on your phone—people understand that.

      The VW only runs in “clean mode” for the test, the results are not achievable in any situation BUT the test.

      This is like the difference between stealing pitch signals from second base and using a corked bat.

  • avatar
    walleyeman57

    Harry Markopolos told the SEC that Bernie Madoff was running a Ponzi scheme for 9 years. Madoff had friends in high places that papered over the facts on a regular basis.

    I would venture that it was reported that VW was cheating but it took 7 years to get to where we are now.

  • avatar
    Omnifan

    The basic laws of physics (and chemi9stry) must be obeyed. All of VW’s competitors are smart guys and know that you can’t go without urea on a diesel.

  • avatar
    jerouy

    >If Volkswagen’s competitors knew it was cheating,
    >why didn’t anyone drop a dime on Volkswagen?
    Well, you know what, Toyota had just done that.

    Not sure if there is any English version but I happen to read Japanese and came across this:
    http://business.nikkeibp.co.jp/atcl/report/15/110879/093000094/

    Basically it says before all these scandal started Toyota had gone through a lot of tests on both their own and VW’s diesel cars. They came to a conclusion that given the claimed performance/fuel efficiency, it is not possible to achieve the claimed emission. They reported their findings to European regulators saying “we suspect something is not right” and as you guess, nobody gave a damn … until what we all know happened today.

    I am living in Australia where diesels are fairly popular. Toyota is long criticized for its relatively weak diesel engines compare to European providers have to offer. Now we all know who to blame.

    /Jeremy

  • avatar
    pdq

    In a large corporation it’s not wise to “go rogue” and do something that hasn’t been approved by senior management. A great example of that is Luc Donkerwolke, former Bentley design chief who called out Lincoln in social media and accused them of copying Bentley when they designed the new Lincoln Continental.

    It wasn’t too much longer before he was out the door. And this was a guy who was reportedly in line to become the next VW Group design head.

    If I were an upper level engineer with Ford and I discovered VW was cheating, I’d notify my superiors and go on about my job.

    • 0 avatar

      Interesting. Question remains: why now, after 7 years of VW heavily leaning on diesels in the U.S.? Was it a lonesome researcher / environmentalist? Or a competitor who decided it was time to hint at the suspicious software? Nobody needs to know, which sets is apart from the Bentley vs Lincoln case… Btw, the “now” is relative. As it seems, EPA and VW were going back and forth about the discrepancies since 2013.

      • 0 avatar
        dtremit

        It was caught by researchers at West Virginia University who were doing emissions research, and couldn’t figure out why their test VWs were polluting so much on the road:

        http://www.npr.org/2015/09/24/443053672/how-a-little-lab-in-west-virginia-caught-volkswagens-big-cheat

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          One thing that they noticed is that NOx readings were constant, whether the car was hot or cold. That doesn’t make much sense, of course.

          I don’t know the EPA testing procedure, but that makes it sound as if the NOx emissions are being measured based upon the car’s software, rather than with some sort of tailpipe test. That would suggest that the software was simply programmed to lie; it wasn’t changing the car’s performance, but lying about how it was performing.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Agree the C-Max is a great car. There are two fleet cars I have access to, a 2013 C-Max and a 2013 Focus sedan. The Focus is rough, uncomfortable, and gets 35 mpgs. The C-Max is a much roomier and smoother vehicle and gets around 40 mpgs. I realize the C-Max is a more expensive vehicle but it is just a better vehicle overall and does not sacrifice comfort and economy.

    As for VW their cars for the most part are not competitive. Many bought VW diesels not just because of mpgs but because of the promise of being more eco-friendly.

  • avatar
    Frylock350

    I always suspected GM knew about dieselgate.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    Consider how much VW is part of German economy, I’d imagine they don’t want to piss off the government and get retaliated for that.

  • avatar
    BrunoT

    Why include the bit about him being a “model T collector” unless you wanted his employers to be able to identify him as speaking to you about this?

    You guys are a bunch of weasely Richards.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    Interestingly enough, Valvoline got into it with ExxonMobil a few years when Valvoline’s test of Mobil-1 showed it not meeting the standards ExxonMobil claimed it met. This was one of the few times I’ve seen the results of issues found in competitive product tests make the light of day. Mobil-1 fanboys threw all kinds of shade at Valvoline and in the end I don’t think is did Valvoline any good.

    Check it out: http://forums.noria.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/616604995/m/7851063282

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