Did Other OEMs Know Volkswagen Was Cheating?

Ronnie Schreiber
by Ronnie Schreiber
did other oems know volkswagen was cheating

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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2 of 118 comments
  • BrunoT BrunoT on Oct 06, 2015

    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.

  • Jthorner Jthorner on Oct 11, 2015

    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

  • Dawn Maple They haven't even fixed the airbag issues and recalls completely, so why waste more time and money on another "safety feature" that removes choices from the driver? We would be safer getting in a car driven by Helen Keller. Oh wait with driver assist, all she has to do is find her car and turn it on.
  • Lorenzo I'm out. I'd never find it in the dark.
  • VoGhost Minivans don't sell well, and the market has been declining. And while the entire 'range anxiety' myth is mostly a big oil propaganda designed to scare the weak minded, minivans are often how families travel to grandma's house, so that will be a concern, unless VW can gain access to the Supercharger network. I could see 50K units at peak, declining to 25K/year after a couple of years, unless VW can price competitively with Tesla.
  • VoGhost Glad you're healthy, Tim
  • VoGhost 20 years ago, Sportage was the bottom of the barrel, a joke. Kia's come a long way.