By on October 14, 2015


German magazine Der Spiegel reported Wednesday that at least 30 Volkswagen insiders and managers had knowledge of the illegal “defeat device” and there may be more.

The claim would somewhat refute to what Volkswagen of America chief Michael Horn testified in front of a congressional subcommittee last week when he told representatives that “a couple of software engineers” at Volkswagen in Germany were responsible for the the scandal that has cost the company billions of dollars.

Volkswagen hired U.S. firm Jones Day to conduct an external investigation while the company inquires internally how engineers installed software on 11 million diesel cars that would cheat emissions tests.

Spiegel quoted a Volkswagen engineer who said that managers should have been leery of any diesel engine that engineers claimed could pass emissions tests without expensive exhaust controls.

The claim for an LNT-equipped clean diesel should “have to make any engine developers leery,” the magazine reported.

New Volkswagen CEO Matthias Müller will address top management Thursday on the investigations, Reuters reported.

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25 Comments on “Report: Volkswagen Scandal Involved At Least 30 Managers, Not ‘Small Group’...”

  • avatar
    Jack Denver

    Hindsight is always 20/20. In retrospect, what Madoff claimed to do was clearly impossible, but lots of very smart people believed him at the time he was doing it. Now all these geniuses can say that meeting the standards without urea was always impossible, but nobody was skeptical at the time. Nobody from the other car makers dropped a dime on VW at the EPA, nobody from the EPA itself questioned the results, etc. In fact it was NOT undoable – when in “test mode” the VWs themselves met the standards. Maybe in test mode they didn’t have quite the mileage or power that VW wanted, but they did meet the emission standards.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s true, but I think people also suspected that the results must be legitimate because being caught cheating would result in the catastrophe that we are seeing today, and no sane organization would be stupid enough to risk this. This is especially true when they just let it ride over the years, producing over a million these, happily taking all the “green car of the year” awards, etc…

      “The bigger the lie, the more they believe” — Bunk Moreland, The Wire.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        Volkswagen got away with cheating in the US because they were a minor player in a niche market nobody else wanted that badly. Other OEM engineers probably thought Volkswagen got some vehicles to pass EPA certification with some combination of creative use of loopholes and government ineptitude, but there was no financial incentive for another passenger car manufacturer to dig deeper. Would have assumed elaborate, convoluted plausibly legal cheating instead of a clear violation. People designing diesel engines for trucks would have had financial incentive to dig into the details of how Volkswagen passed EPA tests, but no incentive to turn in a non-competitor.

    • 0 avatar
      John Marks

      I think that you fail to give Madoff enough credit. His scam was beyond brilliant. YES, any competent quantitative analyst could demonstrate that the well-known trading strategy Madoff claimed to use could not possibly deliver those results so consistently for so long–there simply was not enough liquidity in the Western financial system to enable a sufficient number of split-strike trades, each gaining at best pennies a share per trade, to deliver those results.

      No no no, my young friend. The GENIUS of Madoff’s scam was that in retrospect it became clear that most of Madoff’s victims who bothered to think things through came to the conclusion that the claimed trading strategy was merely a smoke screen, and what the were really getting the advantage of was sub-silentio insider trading made possible by Madoff’s former role with NASDAQ.

      Madoff’s results were impossible by split-strike trading–hedging your losses caps your gains. But Madoff’s results WERE believable if you assumed that the management fees you were paying were paying for illegal inside informtion.

      The cosmic fuck-you and crowning irony being, Madoff never broke the law on insider trading, it was just a Ponzi scheme, one for which he loathed his victims for being so DUMBASS to fall for.

      Someone should write a psychological biography of Madoff. I detect bad parenting plus lousy self-esteem. And the usual urological shortcoming usually ascribed to Porsche drivers…

      See you in Paradise,

      johnny puddles.

  • avatar

    One question occurs to me…when the diesel cars were tested for EPA mileage, was the car in “test mode”? If so, that might explain why the cars exceed the EPA mileage ratings by so much.

    • 0 avatar

      Test mode REDUCES mileage, by running rich (using more gas) to reduce combustion temperatures and NOx emissions.

      • 0 avatar

        I could be wrong, but from what I got from the news, the EPA don’t test mileage and emission at the same time. We know that the car had good emission and poor mileage during emission test.

        Now GTL was asking, was there another defeating device that pumps up mileage during the mileage test.

        • 0 avatar

          No, I was asking if the test shows up LOWER mileage during the test than in real driving.

          My Passat is EPA rated at 30/40 mpg, but I average 42 on my daily commute, have gotten as much as 46 on the highway and my worst tank was 38.

          All the TDIs get better than the EPA rating; was the defeat device part of the reason?

          • 0 avatar

            Meeting advertised mpg might be the only mitigating factor for VW in this mess.

            From what I’ve been reading, most all VW TDI owners are exceeding the advertised mpg. Once the “repair” is made, I’d expect mpg to drop, but to the advertised levels.

            Let’s see.

  • avatar

    The rest of the engineers, one assumes, were “only obeying orders.”

  • avatar

    Remember how that other Zjerman movement also started with just a couple of key persons knowing about it? Today it is diesels. Next time it is world domination… Oh I forgot, VW’s ambition to become #1 already was.

  • avatar

    “”… a couple of software engineers” at Volkswagen in Germany were responsible for the the scandal that has cost the company billions of dollars.”

    Lots of scapegoats at VW!

    Bet none of those engineers had the actual or implied authority to decide the final decision to include the software in the ECU and to let it be mass manufactured for production.

    Many of the engineers were most likely “doing their jobs” as told by Management to meet the EPA standard for the diesels to be sold in the US market. If you complain, either you’d be shifted to a dead-end position for the rest of your VW career or be fired.

    THAT would’ve been Upper Management’s authority NOT the engineering departments. It’s NOT surprising that No Other management types, except the ones already left, were Named!

    VW has lots more than an Image problem!

  • avatar
    Dan R

    I hate to say it but these explanations reminds me of the Nuremberg defense. That the crimes were the work of a few demented people when in fact the whole state machinery was dedicated to the operation.

  • avatar

    I’ll say it again. As anal retentive as Winterkorn was known to be, I find it almost impossible that he knew nothing about this decision. Years to develop an engine that couldn’t pass emissions and he knew NOTHING of it? Winterkorn? A lot of CEOs I could believe that, but not the Herr Doktor.

    As they climb up the tree if they find the right set of nuts to squeeze hard, the veneer of plausible deniablity may start to crack.

  • avatar

    This is really just going to come down to VW trying to avoid the costs and additional complexity of UREA/DEF injection. Saved them money (at least initially) and made it easier to market diesels by not requiring it. A massive understatement at this point but a gamble that did not pay off…

    DEF systems are easy to live with now (I have a RAM 1500 EcoDiesel and DEF is available at the pump for under $3/gallon at multiple truck stops near me).

    They are going to most likely end up installing DEF systems after the fact at a much higher cost with the re-engineering/retrofitting.

  • avatar
    Nick Engineer

    Having only a handful of people (let alone 30) keep a secret about a Trojan horse inside a released product is unimaginable for any engineering organization of a large corporation I have ever worked for.

    All the times I have worked with European (and more specifically German) teams, not a whole lot of significant differences came out, except in two very stark ways: diversity of careers, and of teams.

    How many of the senior managers and officers at VAG are German? How many have only had one employer in their entire careers? Does VAG reflexively assign a German at the helm of any company they acquire?

    • 0 avatar

      I can’t imagine how it would be kept secret. There’s obviously controls and internal auditing around new products, where everything has to go through hurdles before it goes out the door.

      You’d think something like this would require quite a massive collusion.

      • 0 avatar

        Me neither. The more people in on a “secret”, the harder it is to keep that secret. I still think it was just a couple people who really knew it was a defeat device, the others who knew probably thought it was a brilliant engineering solution that should be guarded as proprietary, but never understood that it was illegal in the US.

  • avatar

    The walk of shame continues. Large newspaper ads in which Volkswagen says sorry. That sounds more like the sort of sorry for getting caught. Otherwise you wouldn’t have placed the software in the first place.

  • avatar

    Don’t ask, don’t tell. If you were in on the scam, you kept quiet. Anyone outside the “pass emissions” department wouldn’t know as it would be outside their area (the guy who specifies triple squares for major suspension and brake parts, for example…thanks, and if I ever see you at Oktoberfest, I’m buying you a big beer and dumping it over your head).

    The team (s) who do the certification had to know, the team leader knew. Above that it might be CYA memos all the way up the chain.

    I’m sure others knew, but it was never in writing.

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