By on October 19, 2015


Reuters reported that sources within Volkswagen and its ongoing investigation have said the automaker created multiple versions of its “defeat device” to cheat emissions tests.

The news agency said a manager within Volkswagen and an official close to the external investigation ordered by the automaker have revealed the multiple programs, which were developed for four different engine types.

If true, the multiple emissions programs could indicate a widespread cheating program — stretching nearly a decade — that could have needed funding to continue, which would be in stark contrast to the “rogue engineer” explanation offered by executives so far.

According to the report, diesel emissions experts said the automaker would have had to adapt its software for multiple versions of its engines, and for lean-trap nitrogen oxides filters (LNTs) and selective catalytic reduction systems.

Volkswagen of America chief Michael Horn admitted in his Oct. 8 testimony that cheat devices in the U.S. weren’t identical to the ones used in Europe, but didn’t elaborate.

“Since the standards are different, my understanding is that the defeat devices in those (European) cars are as well,” Horn said, according to Reuters.

Multiple versions and generations of software could potentially be damning for the company. If executives are implicated in the plot to cheat emissions tests, fines from governments could be significantly higher.

“The more higher-ups that are involved, the more the company is considered blameworthy and deserving of more serious punishment,” Brandon Garrett, a corporate crime expert at the University of Virginia, told Reuters.

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53 Comments on “Report: Multiple Versions of Cheating Software Developed by Volkswagen...”

  • avatar

    If nothing else VW will be in the “Ethical Decisions” sidebars of 2016 edition business textbooks. One wonders if they’ll be in the Chapter 11 restructuring docket as well.

    • 0 avatar

      Are these going to be the very same textbooks that omit the Holocaust, forget that the Reagan tax cuts produced record government revenues, and where 2 plus 2 doesn’t equal 4 unless you can explain all the logic you used to arrive at the answer?

      Of course I could go on. Revisionist history is the rage. And if you can’t add and subtract but you can explain the logic you’re right anyway.

      I’d guess future textbooks will make VW out to be heros. Or omit the whole incident.

      • 0 avatar

        What textbooks are these, specifically, WR?

        Are they still published by Mythical Strawman Publishing Co?

        • 0 avatar

          I’d respond to this but there’s no need. Your own response speaks for itself.

        • 0 avatar

          Actually, the McGraw Hill American History textbook that I have (I own a teacher’s edition- it was a gift from my history teacher) doesn’t reference the Holocaust for more than a paragraph, and it doesn’t mention the Reagan tax cuts at all. It only focuses on the Cold War during his term.

          • 0 avatar

            It could be that there is more than 1 reason, and more than 100 sub-reason for why government revenue hit record levels in 80s. Nothing is simple, and there are always multitude of factors that cause a certain event. It’d be fullish to claim that record revenue came strictly from lowered tax rates

        • 0 avatar

          Does Mythical Strawman publish Howard Zinn’s fabrications?

          ‘Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’ Orwell, 1984

          Of course, business history is subject to PR, real history isn’t supposed to be.

      • 0 avatar

        I recall having an algebra textbook that didn’t mention the Holocaust.

    • 0 avatar

      Speaking of Ethics: If I brought in a Porsche 959, or an early Nissan GT-R, or any Citroen, etc, and didn’t pass emissions, eventually the EPA would come get my car, and crush it.

      This has really happened.

      Now, if I import a half million cars that don’t pass emissions, and get equally caught, will EPA round up and crush them all, or is it going to be like HSBC getting a pass for laundering drug money ?

      If you cheat, cheat huge is the take away here….

  • avatar

    Its increasingly obvious that at VW through the years it became standard practice to “adjust” the software and alter the coding to meet emission standards.

    It was such a standard practice that no one paid attention to the implications of not actually meeting emission standards. By the time it became obvious, the problem was so huge that it was easier to side step it, while initially going into denial mode.

  • avatar

    I think it’s so nice that now that all this VW stuff is out in the open the “rolling coal” crowd has found something for their wives to drive.

  • avatar

    Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.

  • avatar

    Minority Report:

    Clever lads who’ve really tried hard.

    In view of their importance to the to the German economy and the tax base from which refugees will be fed, we recommend all possible clemency.

  • avatar

    Just quit with the death by a thousand cuts and kick them out of the country already. We all know that’s what the EPA/gub’mint wants (I think it’s pretty obvious). Then at least I won’t have to see anymore inane stories about VW’s conniving acts.

    • 0 avatar

      Other than the utterly predictable Congressional hearings (every automaker with any sort of scandal gets subjected to that particular form of pathetic timewasting), the government has been utterly silent. There hasn’t been a peep out of the EPA or DoJ besides the most bare-bones information.

      It’s hardly obvious that kicking out VW is what the “EPA/gub’mint wants”.

      That said, yes, the EPA will extract a heavy fine out of them. The “Defeat Device” was bad enough, and would have led to heavy fines, but contemptuously stringing along the EPA for a year? That’s not exactly going to predispose them towards a lenient settlement. (That’s like trying to argue your way out of a speeding ticket by telling a cop what a bad driver he his.)

      • 0 avatar

        Of course, the money from the fines will go to the government, and not the customers who were cheated.

        VW was definitely very very wrong, but this whole thing stinks like a speed trap cop.

    • 0 avatar

      Nah, the gub’mint just wants their pound of flesh. Kicking them out of the country would unemploy a bunch of data center folks as well as however many work in the Chattanooga mfg facility.

      • 0 avatar

        They started with announcing a large civil penalty.

        I guarantee you that in addition to that there is an ongoing criminal investigation. Those things are not talked about while in progress. The nature and scope of the cheating by VW makes the “rogue employee” claim almost laughable IMO, based on experience in past tampering investigations. One a few years ago involved popsicle sticks in the throttle body during certain testing. This goes so far beyond that it’s very hard to believe management was unaware.

        Guess that Audi Q5 is off my list to consider next time I buy, I was almost ready to go back to Audi but they’ve lost my business.

    • 0 avatar

      While we’re on the subject of Death by a Thousand Cuts, let’s talk about the bigger one that no one has brought up.

      The political left in this country, and around the world, wants to outlaw private automobiles entirely, but they know they can’t just come out and say it.

      So they use the Clean Air excuse, through the agencies of the world’s various States, to gradually make it technologically impossible to build a car that can meet their arbitrary emission standards.

      • 0 avatar

        OneAlpha, I’m both a shameless lefty and a car nut. You’re talking about me, and at least where I and all my lefty friends are concerned, you’re wrong.

        Please explain your own defense of VW: What was wrong with asking VW to meet the same clean air standards all their competitors have been able to meet? Mercedes, BMW and Chevy have all met them with diesels. Every maker who sells in America has met them with gasoline engines. VW wanted the profits that went with diesel car sales in America, without the inconvenience of meeting the same laws their competitors do. So they deliberately broke the law, and to add insult to injury, broadcast the lie in a massive “Clean Diesels” ad campaign that was unfair to competitors whose cars couldn’t deliver the same level of mileage and performance because they obeyed the law.

        How does the blame for this fall on the government or “the political left” rather than on Volkswagen?

        And to your question, why is it bad to use the political process to demand that carmakers’ products emit less smog? Even a rough calculation of the pollution prevented to date by auto emissions laws suggests we have all benefited massively from that reduction. And every step of the way, the automakers have shrieked they couldn’t do it, then gone and done it. What’s so bad about cleaner air?

        • 0 avatar

          I think it is hilarious that people who vote for the war on the middle class constantly proclaim they don’t know what they’re voting for. Maybe it is time to examine whatever assumptions are making the character-bereft vote for their own serfdom. Did you know that Robin Hood didn’t steal from the rich and give to the poor? He rolled the tax collectors, and returned money to those it had been taken from.

        • 0 avatar

          So, tony, if the point is clean air, why be gradual about it? If pollution is a bad thing, why tolerate ANY?

          The advocates of automotive pollution controls never stated a specific end goal at the beginning of their jihad back in the 60s – it was always the nebulous “clean air.” But what constitutes “clean air?”

          The entire operation of the Watermelons has been a gradual tightening of emission standards, as if – as I stated before – they grabbed political power, issued harsh diktats and then, Snidely Whiplash style, shouted “Curses! Foiled again!” when the automakers somehow met their contrived emission standards time after time.

          The greens have been imposing wave after wave of ever-more-restrictive emission controls on the automotive industry, hoping that THIS TIME, the automakers won’t be able to meet their insane demands, and the manufacture of cars common people can afford will finally become legally impossible.

          However, they haven’t been able to do it – yet – because the human knack for engineering always outpaces the totalitarian’s grasp.

          I’m not saying that VW shouldn’t meet the same laws that Chevy, Mercedes and all the rest have.

          I’m saying that the State shouldn’t have the power to impose these laws in the first place.

          It’s too much power to give the State, and as all those people who ran afoul of Uncle Joe could attest, giving the State too much power is at best, a risky idea.

          • 0 avatar


          • 0 avatar

            Green outside, red inside.

          • 0 avatar

            Yes, I’m aware of the colors of–oh. It’s an insult. I get it. When you’ve run out of valid arguments, name-calling always works.

          • 0 avatar

            Correct it is an insult, but in many cases is accurate.

          • 0 avatar

            Regardless of how accurate it is, it’s ad hominem.

          • 0 avatar

            I agree.

          • 0 avatar

            OneAlpha, you contradict yourself:

            “So, tony, if the point is clean air, why be gradual about it? If pollution is a bad thing, why tolerate ANY?”

            Because imposing strict future limits all at once would be unattainable for the carmakers. To accommodate them and recognize that fact, the regulations are being imposed gradually over a period of decades — exactly like the gas mileage regulations, which are being imposed very slowly and gradually with significant delays at the carmakers’ own request. That hardly sounds like a carmaker-extermination plot to me.

          • 0 avatar

            I just tripped across this excellent quote in relation to political belief/debate:

            “Your credibility depends on what you bring to the argument each time, not your team sweater.”

        • 0 avatar

          Agree… it is ridiculous to assert that this is anything but a case of arrogance and laziness (and criminality IMO) on VW’s part. And lest there be doubt I’m a total car guy. But I also like clean air and dislike arrogant cheaters.

          • 0 avatar

            How do you feel about the Patriots?

          • 0 avatar

            28, when actual proof of the Patriots cheating is brought to the light of day, I’ll have a problem. Until that time, let the Tom Brady Vengeance Tour rage on.

          • 0 avatar

            I have him and Edleman in fantasy so I am benefiting but its pretty clear the team/staff employ questionable means on some level.

          • 0 avatar

            28, elaborate please. And give me more than conjecture and false accusations about filming walkthroughs, bugs in the dressing rooms, etc.

          • 0 avatar

            Twice now the team was caught in questionable actions by the league. In the more recent episode obviously it went to Federal court and quoting NYT:

            “In vacating Brady’s suspension, handed down in May after a league investigative report determined the quarterback was most likely aware that two team equipment staff members had deflated balls in an apparent bid to give him a better grip on them, Judge Richard M. Berman of Federal District Court in Manhattan did not focus on whether Brady had tampered with the game balls. He did not question the outcome of the game, a 45-7 Patriots victory over the Indianapolis Colts as the team marched on to win the Super Bowl.

            Instead, he focused on the narrower question of whether the collective bargaining agreement between the N.F.L. and the players’ union gave Goodell the authority to carry out the suspension, and whether Brady was treated fairly during his attempt to overturn the punishment.”


            So essentially the judge didn’t look at the league report or the events of the NFC championship game and in fact ignored them. He looked at a CBA contract and questioned whether the league commissioner had the ability under it to enforce a suspension. The whole event is a circus from start to finish but the icing on the cake was the Federal judge finding a way NOT to weigh on on evidence of cheating lest the Federal court be dragged into taking sides in what is ultimately a corporate matter but to the citizens so much more.

            Then of course the cell phone:

            “The league declined to work with the phone company to retrieve the details of Brady’s cell phone records because it was “simply not practical.” That line and Goodell’s effort to make it sound like Brady’s phone was deliberately destroyed prior to meeting with investigators doesn’t instill much confidence in the the NFL’s ad hoc approach to disciplining players.”


            I’m here to tell you law enforcement has NO PROBLEM retrieving this information and I have no doubt the NFL would have any issue with a simple subpoena from the court system they eventually engaged.

            Here’s what really happened. The team was caught cheating in Spygate and the league had to respond:

            “The 2007 New England Patriots videotaping controversy, widely dubbed “Spygate”,[1][2] refers to an incident during the National Football League’s (NFL) 2007 season when the New England Patriots were disciplined by the league for videotaping New York Jets’ defensive coaches’ signals from an unauthorized location during a September 9, 2007 game.”


            The team again was accused of cheating in Deflategate and the league had to investigate, but probably against its own interests. The league probably found some evidence of cheating, wrote a report, and suspended the quarterback. I maintain the league did not want to do anything and would have preferred to have plausible deniability due to the amount of MONEY involved in football and with the NE Patriots. If the league actually wanted to discourage cheating or other questionable actions, they would have come down harder in Spygate. Clearly they only react because they are forced to act, and in this case their act was a simple four game suspension of the quarterback (and $1 million fine, peanuts) which is atypical of their discipline.

            Mind you in recent years the league:

            -Suspended Michael Vick for 2 years following
            involvement in the Bad Newz Kennels dog fighting scandal and being convicted.
            -Plaxico Burress for 4 years after shooting himself and being convicted in NY
            -Donte Stallworth for 2009 season for killing a pedestrian while driving DUI.
            -Ben Roethlisberger for four games stemming from violation of the league’s personal conduct policy in a rape accusation which was later dismissed.
            -Terrelle Pryor for 5 games for accepting money while being s student at OSU.
            -Chris Cook for the 2011 season for domestic assault charges.
            -Ray Rice indefinitely for beating up his girlfriend.
            -Adrian Peterson for last season for spanking his son and later being brought up on charges.


            So most of the ones I cited made the news, involved either convictions or criminal charges save Pryor and in Roethlisberger’s case the charges were dropped. The league’s typical discipline is some sort of suspension if you look at the list and I would say in the case of anything in the media is almost certainly a suspension. So in the Brady case they chose to suspend him. in a statement they said:

            “On May 11, 2015, the NFL announced that it suspended Tom Brady without pay for four games of the upcoming season for his involvement, based on “substantial and credible evidence” that Brady knew Patriots employees were deflating footballs and that he failed to cooperate with investigators.”


            Releasing such a statement is libelous without something to back it up, and the league’s lawyers are not stupid. Clearly someone is guilty of something somewhere along the line otherwise the league would not have pushed it as far as they had.

            So who wins?

            Nobody really, except maybe the Federal court in deflecting itself from criticism. A team who cheats will continue too. The league’s power is diminished and it could face legal challenges in the future for enacting any discipline. Roger Goodell is probably through. In short a league who from day one I argue didn’t want to know anything because of the massive amount of money involved lost by not going for the throat and enacting a stiffer penalty in 2007. NCAA likes to vacate championships, as stupid as that is the NFL could learn from them. Personally I’d like to see a lifetime ban of either the quarterback or members of the coaching staff because somewhere, somebody has to take responsibility. Hopefully the Hall of Fame will later issue a statement saying either Brady or Belichick will never be inducted due to questionable actions during their careers. The ultimate irony would be for one of them to become football’s Pete Rose.

          • 0 avatar

            Spygate was a wrong doing. No question about it. But the wrong doing was for filming from an area that was not allowed. They were punished for it. Eight years later, a dubious unscientific collection of flawed data of football air pressure was used in pursuit of what was tantamount to a witch hunt by members of the league that are continuously frustrated by a team that has enjoyed unprecedented success throughout the salary cap era. The gauges used to collect that “data” are about as accurate as something I could purchase at Kmart. The Wells report essentially discarded the testimony of the referee as to which gauge he used because it didn’t allow them to draw the conclusions they came to if they didn’t. The fact that two different gauges were used and were obviously never even calibrated in any fashion is as pathetic as not having knowledge of the ideal gas law. Christ I learned that in 7th grade earth science. The intercepted ball that supposedly triggered the entire episode was debunked when D’Qwell Jackson denied ever saying that he thought the ball was deflated. The chain of custody of that ball is highly suspect as it is in fact the only ball that actually measured 2 psi below the allowed inflation. Gee I wonder why that was the case. Lastly, Brady’s performance from the second half of that playoff game, through the super bowl and continuing on to this year is indicative of how ludicrous the entire issue is. This is the same league that has 1)changed the enforcement of the illegal contact rule in 2004 at the urging of the Colts because of the Patriots and 2)made a previously legal offensive formation illegal because the Ravens could not figure out who to cover even when the referee announced over the loudspeaker not to cover Vereen. Could it simply be that a team that is so thoroughly prepared and disciplined to do their job by a highly competent coach and his staff is the reason that they are successful? No that can’t be they have to be cheating. The following website is rather informative:

      • 0 avatar

        Plenty of companies meet the standards. This is about VW cheating and lying, not about the greenies coming to take your car. Geesh.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    While this story looks like raw meat, I’m not so sure.

    “Multiple versions” of software may mean that as little as a single line of code is different for each engine/vehicle. If all code ran through the same software people they could simply add the ‘defeat device’ to each one as needed.

  • avatar

    There is a difference between engineer math and manager math. An engineer thinks 1/2 + 1/2 = 0. His logic is that a half-assed job is worth nothing. Therefore two half-assed jobs also are worth nothing. A manager thinks 1/2 + 1/2 = 2. A half-assed job may be good enough to get by and maybe no one will notice anyway. Plus, the manager will look good for bringing in the project under budget and ahead of schedule.

    VW is supposed to be an autocratic, hierarchical company. I used to work for one. Top management initiated a major project that the underlings soon realized was underfunded and undermanned. Since nobody dared report this, the project was completed by diverting materials and man hours from other projects. Senior management never learned of these shenanigans. The subterfuge did come back to bite the underlings in the ass. Senior management was so pleased with the outcome that they ordered it duplicated.

  • avatar

    Hey, if you’re gonna cheat, might as well do it right! Until you get caught… then uh, oops.

  • avatar

    I just wonder if EPA or CARB have already checked real world emissions on VW petrol engines? I’ts hard to imagine VW cheating on diesels for years (what was easy to guess for any automotive engineer or tech knowing anything about emission systems) and in the same time gasoline engines fulfilling demanding EPA/CARB requirements just due to hard work, heavy R&D and big budget. Could it be, that VW petrol engines in reality need noticeably less fuel than one can find on the sticker?

  • avatar
    Nick Engineer

    It would most definitely have to be several different algorithms or implementations. You have different chassis, different engine families and codes, different exhaust treatment systems, different sensors, …

    At a bare minimum, some at least minimal hand-tweaking would be needed for even minimal differences across vehicles, and that would trigger some subset of testing cycles to be run to verify the changes.

    If the differences go beyond a certain point, the original high-level design of the cheat-mode algorithm will need to be revisited, and re-architected, and that will certainly require re-development. There will be budgets and resources attached to each of these efforts.

    The Reuters piece shows a lack of understanding of software engineering, or how control systems work. I don’t how many of these folks have ever come close to a software developer, but even if they have written a few thousands of Lines Of Code, they could not appreciate the complexity of a system of hundreds of millions of LOC.

  • avatar

    When this story broke I wondered how VW slipped the diesels past on-road testing. Simple: on-road testing doesn’t seem to be a part of anyone’s regulatory scheme. What the…? That’s a hole you could drive a bus, or several million VW diesels, through.

    This is what happens when technically illiterate legislators cook up laws regulating things they know little or nothing about.

    • 0 avatar

      In retrospect that’s true, but lab testing is generally preferred because of the repeatability. You aren’t going to wait for a standard 72 degree, 20% humidity day to test every car.

      • 0 avatar

        Repeatability is sovereign when you’re regulating, to be sure. I’d think that road testing would be mandatory just to backstop results and catch any outliers. I;m very surprised that with VW diesels standing head and shoulders above the others none of the regulators ran a road test just out of idle curiosity.

  • avatar

    There is a way to fix this mess in a way that pleases all parties involved. Surely VW, employer of several hundred thousand can’t be allowed to go bankrupt. Buying and destroying the affected cars will cause a bigger environmental damage than the pollution emitted by them. Shipping them to other countries will only move the pollution elsewhere. Retrofitting urea tanks will not please the owners.

    A better fix would be to estimate the combined NOX emitted by all affected vehicles over the compliance limit and find ways to lower an equivalent amount elsewhere. There are 20+ year old semis and 50 year old locomotives still in service. The companies owning them would love to replace these aging, maintenance money pits. VW could replace these tier 0 trucks, farm equipment, locomotives and construction equipment with tier 4 complaint machines. The companies would receive efficient replacements for free, lower maintenance costs, burn less diesel and lower NOX emissions by 95%. VW will pay for all of it but still cheaper than replacing 500,000 cars for free or pissing off owners by retrofitting their cars. The net emissions will be lower and the EPA wouldn’t have to fine them anymore (maybe a small fine for lying)

    EPA’s decisions even with the best intent are not without consequences. They banned EMD from selling locomotives unless they are tier 4 complaint. GE, the only manufacturer selling a tier 4, cannot make enough of them in a year and this has caused a massive locomotive shortage. Railroad companies were forced to bring back retired tier 0 locomotives into service that emit hundreds of times more pollutants than EMD’s “non-compliant” tier 2 locomotives.

    • 0 avatar

      >> GE, the only manufacturer selling a tier 4, cannot make enough of them in a year and this has caused a massive locomotive shortage.

      That’s not true. Motive Power makes them and I think there are others as well.

    • 0 avatar

      Finally, a creative and intelligent post. Your idea is pragmatic and logical. VW will have to be punished, their car owners will have to be reimbursed, and the excessive and illegal pollution will have to be compensated for. It’s a matter of equity, in the legal sense, while taking into consideration the need to not have innocent employees lose their livelihoods.
      So much more well thought out than the ubiquitious knee-jerk “lefty” bashing that attempts to pass as discourse.

  • avatar

    Glad I did not upgrade from the 2002 1.9l TDI Golf I drive •

    Wish I still had the 1968½ M-B 220D with its 50+mpg (due to extremely heavy crankcase oil consumption after running engine blew a radiator hose in middle of a winter night) — I had to add oil more frequently than diesel fuel •

    Not too many years ago , some chap added an x-53 or x-71 GMC 2-cycle diesel to his ½T pickup truck •

    I’ve no idea of its particle output with the almost #2 heating oil of the era •

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