By on October 9, 2015

Michael Horn

Update: Official statement from EPA.

During his voluntary testimony for a congressional committee Thursday, Volkswagen of America CEO Michael Horn announced the company would withdraw their application for emissions certification for 2016 model year Volkswagens powered by 2-liter diesel engines.

However, the reason for that withdrawal is not directly related to the “defeat device” that’s been at the center of the ongoing diesel controversy.

In his his prepared statement, Horn said:

In Volkswagen’s recent ongoing discussions with the regulators, we described to the EPA and CARB that our emissions control strategy also included a software feature that should be disclosed to and approved by them as an auxiliary emissions control device (“AECD”) in connection with the certification process. As a result, we have withdrawn the application for certification of our model year 2016 vehicles. We are working with the agencies to continue the certification process.

(Emphasis mine.)

Also is the key word in this paragraph, as in “in addition to” the defeat device. Therefore, the auxiliary emissions control device is another component — whether legal or illegal — that must be declared to the Environmental Protection Agency on the application for certification. Since the AECD was not disclosed, Volkswagen must withdraw their application.

So, why did a number of outlets attribute the withdrawal of the application to the defeat device? Well, it’s a little complex.

By its definition, according to the EPA at least, a defeat device is an auxiliary emissions control device that “reduces the effectiveness of the emission control system under conditions which may reasonably be expected to be encountered in normal vehicle operation and use.” However, not every AECD is a defeat device.

Auxiliary Emission Control Device means any element of design which senses temperature, vehicle speed, engine RPM, transmission gear, manifold vacuum, or any other parameter for the purpose of activating, modulating, delaying, or deactivating the operation of any part of the emission control system.

What exactly is the auxiliary emissions control device in this case? Only Volkswagen knows for sure at this point. It could be software used to manage fuel delivery to the exhaust system to heat up the catalytic convertor for the purpose of reducing emissions.

Currently, the EPA knows as much as we do.

“Volkswagen did very recently provide EPA with very preliminary information on an auxiliary emissions control device (AECD) that Volkswagen said was included in one or more model years. The U.S. EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) are investigating the nature and purpose of this recently identified device,” an EPA spokesperson told TTAC. 

If the AECD is a legal piece of software, Volkswagen must simply declare it and resubmit the application. This scenario is the most likely possibility. It would also allow Volkswagen to, at some point in the near future, sell model year 2016 diesels in the United States.

However, if the software device is illegal, Volkswagen may have some re-engineering and re-explaining to do.

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37 Comments on “Volkswagen’s Withdrawal of EPA Application Is Not Because of ‘Defeat Device’ (Update)...”


  • avatar
    WhiskeyRiver

    HAHAHAHAHA! Hilarious! Michael Horn should try stand up comedy after his career at VW ends.

    Frankly, he should consider that new career sooner than later.

  • avatar
    mitchw

    Upper management needs to keep a close eye on those two lone engineers. Those guys are unstoppable!

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    AECDs aren’t anything special; they’re mostly stuff like bumping up idle rpm to run the AC compressor.

    The VW cheater software amounts to an *undeclared* AECD, which makes the cars not in conformance with the applications VW submitted. In this instance, that bit of software is an AECD that EPA will never approve, so VW has some work to do on both the paperwork and the cars (or they could just throw in the towel for ’16 and ship the cars trapped in port to Dubai or somewhere).

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      You make sense except that the software in question in this article isnt “cheater” in nature, its just something that is not illegal unless it isnt declared. So, as mentioned, all they should have to do to comply in this case is resubmit the paperwork revised to show it has this particular item. That’s the point of the headline.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        The basic requirement related to certification is say what you do and do what you say. If Volkswagen could receive certification by simply resubmitting the paperwork with proper disclosure, they wouldn’t give up on 2016 certification. A reasonable interpretation is that the cars wouldn’t pass the test with the current emissions control hardware and software.

        • 0 avatar
          pragmatist

          Not necessarily. However since this behavior had not been declared, the cert process would need to be re-done. It may still be legal if the over all effect keeps it within legal bounds.

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    Can’t think of the movie right now, but to paraphrase, if you look directly at him, you can see a red light, which is his bullsh– meter going into overdrive!

  • avatar
    Nick Engineer

    My reading of the testimony excerpt quoted here is that they are now for the first time having to state the existence of this AECD (the cheater software) during the certification process. They didn’t before. So, in a roundabout sort of way they are saying that “well now that everyone knows, we need to list the cheat algorithm as an AECD and to seek certification for it.” They also imply that since there is no chance in hell they can get approval for this AECD they won’t attempt to bring in these 2016 models.

    By the way, I think it is unclear what they mean by “In Volkswagen’s recent ongoing routine discussions with the regulators”. VW and most car makers have ongoing discussions with the EPA. VW now gets to have extra “discussions” with the EPA and CARB folks, but they may be purposely vague enough to come across as showing extra sensitivity to do a voluntary withdrawal, rather than admit they were going to try and sneak one more model year in, and that the EPA is forcing them at the point of the gun not to. The EPA is holding out determining the size of the fine to see what cooperation they get. These public statements by Horn are meant to shape public opinion in a less negative light. It would be really bad PR if Horn said that the EPA is holding a gun to our head and that’s why we can’t bring them in.

    Of course, I could be completely wrong in my reading of this. But I do like the detail-oriented analysis presented here. It may very well be correct.

    • 0 avatar

      @Nick … before I wrote this, I was torn about it but for different reasons.

      If there is an AECD included in MY16 cars, is it also in cars from MY15 and before?

      A source told us this AECD and the defeat device are different devices. Also, based on the EPA statement and how Michael Horn mentioned that the EPA would need to “approve” this AECD, I believe this AECD is in addition to the defeat device detailed earlier and also legal if it were declared. However, nobody has said — simply, clearly and on the record — that this AECD definitely is not the defeat device.

      We will have to wait and see.

      • 0 avatar
        Nick Engineer

        @Mark — it looks like your sources are correct about a second undisclosed AECD:

        http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-10-09/epa-s-new-volkswagen-probe-may-reveal-failure-to-disclose

        “VW did very recently provide EPA with very preliminary information on an auxiliary emissions control device that VW said was included in one or more model years,” EPA spokesman Nick Conger said. The agency, as well as its California counterpart, “are investigating the nature and purpose of this recently identified device.”

  • avatar
    dantes_inferno

    It appears other automakers may be joining the emissions scandal party:

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/oct/09/mercedes-honda-mazda-mitsubishi-diesel-emissions-row

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      From the Guardian: “There is no evidence of illegal activity, such as the ‘defeat devices’ used by Volkswagen.”

      Not the same issue. Volkswagen violated US law. The Guardian is pointing out the findings of yet another group that claims that the European emissions tests are easily gamed.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    A’int software grand! This sounds like a Clintonian exercise in narrow definitions of the language.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    Purely coincidence.

    Yeah.
    Right.

  • avatar
    dusterdude

    He will regret saying ” a few engineers”… And I believe it will be proven sooner rather than later

  • avatar
    probert

    “However, the reason for that withdrawal is not directly related to the “defeat device” that’s been at the center of the ongoing diesel controversy.”

    There is no controversy – they broke the law on a massive scale and recent estimates put the deaths caused at over 100. No one is arguing this.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    This AECD could be the control for a rainbow dispenser, with VW’s current situation everything goes under the microscope.

  • avatar
    Robbie

    Meanwhile, there is now a $2000 customer loyalty incentive in my area for VW owners buying a new VW.

    • 0 avatar
      mshenzi

      As a pissed-off 2010 Golf TDI owner, I have to wonder if anyone at VW really thinks that $2000 on the hood is going to get me in the door? Their offer really amounts to a request that I spare them some coin from the higher cost they will bear to fix it once the recall starts. Even if that total doubled, (and it effectively might: a local dealer mailer offers to do a trade-in based on pre-scandal valuation, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s even more dealer money on the hood beyond the VWoA money), that scamming company would still fall way short of interesting me in any ‘loyalty’ to them. At this juncture I’m planning on making them fix it and, figuring that its resale value is sunk, driving it until it stops being mostly reliable. (Yeah, I know, but mine has been great on reliability so far). Then I’ll turn elsewhere for my next car.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      While the loyalty incentive is the first attempt to blunt some of the damage VW has done to itself, it isn’t only for current TDI owners. If the VW brand is going to survive in the U.S., I think they’re going to have to do it without Diesel. If this loyalty program gets some current owners to give VW another chance and into its newer, better, cars, it will be a good first step.

  • avatar
    Nick Engineer

    Thanks for updating the story.

    I see now what you mean. The prepared statement was written by a lawyer for sure.

    Related to the issue of uncovering defeat devices, Bloomberg reported that CARB had to go into the source code to confirm the defeat device. I wanted to know more about this but haven’t been able to find more details. What do your sources say about that?

    If CARB and the EPA have access to the source, that would make the whole scheme even more stupid than it already is (a bit like VW expecting to win while knowing their opponent can see their cards any time they want to).

    Lastly, it is ironic that Horn talks about VW’s emissions control strategy. I wouldn’t call raising the middle finger to environmental regulations a strategy.

    PS. And CARB today notified VW they have until Nov 20 to find a fix. Those “two software engineers” had better forget about wings and rainbows for a while.

  • avatar
    jimbob457

    Yoicks! This is really serious. VW is prepared to walk away from the North American market to the possible ruination of its dealer network. VW has become the GM of Europe.

    • 0 avatar

      There’s the Wolfburg edition, and the Launch Edition:

      May I propose the Recall Edition ?

      A Golf or Jetta or Passat, with the sport suspension, kitted up inside like the equal TDi, but a gasser.

      Drop your TDi at dealer. Get Recall Edition.

      Never gonna happen. The 2k “thanks a lot” credit for a new purchase is the sort of mush VW will provide.

      I feel bad for my local VW stealer…they just built a separate building for VW…to corporate specs….looks like Ikea and a BMW Center mated….paint is still fresh.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    VW can’t offer the engines with the defeat devices because that would violate federal law.

    VW can’t offer the engines without the defeat devices because their emissions would be too high (which is why the defeat devices were fitted in the first place.)

    The fact that VW has struggled for this long to come up with a solution strongly suggests that this is not an easy problem for VW to fix.

    • 0 avatar
      jthorner

      If there were a retrofitable fix there wouldn’t have been any good reason to lie and cheat in the first place, especially for the miracle cars that didn’t “need” adBlue!

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        There certainly is a good reason to lie and cheat. Making the vehicles emission compliant all of the time will result in lower fuel economy. It is also likely that it will cause a drop in driveability/power in certain operating conditions. Emissions components actually being used all the time will likely lead to shorter life of those components.

        The vehicle’s inability to consistently beat the official MPG ratings and any loss in driveability could result in lower sales. Emissions components that fail because they are being used can increase the warranty costs. So there are $everal thousand reason$ that cheating would be more profitable than playing by the rules.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          “Making the vehicles emission compliant all of the time will result in lower fuel economy.”

          I wouldn’t assume that. The likely issue is the additional cost of more robust catalytic converters, urea systems and other filtration devices. It isn’t possible to pass on the cost to consumers, so every additional dollar/euro spent is an another dollar/euro of lost profit or additional losses.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      I see no indication that VW has struggled with the fix, only that they want to cheat to gain an unfair advantage.

      What I have read about the update that they did to some of the vehicles that were equipped with SCR was that they just extended the time that the vehicle will run in cheat mode. It appears that they thought that CARB would stop the test after it was proven that it continued to meet emissions after running longer than the length of the previous cheat code.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    I think VW is wasting a lot of time because they are not willing to face a fundamental fact: There is not any reasonable way to make these vehicles emissions compliant while also maintaining reliability, performance and fuel economy. Therefore, the only answer is to buy them all back and to do so in such a way as to remove all financial downsides from their present owners.

    Think of it as the mother of all lemon-law buybacks. VW is well versed in the mechanics of how to do lemon-law buybacks, they just have to run a similar process on about half a million vehicles instead of the smaller number they deal with routinely.

  • avatar
    pragmatist

    Reading this article, there is a lawyer pop up ad at the top “TDI recall compensation”.

    The vultures are out in force.

  • avatar

    German prosecutors raided VW offices three weeks after the cheating came out. Plenty of time for VW managers to cover things up, make evidence disappear. Read in a Dutch newspaper that American members of Congress found Horn’s testimony that managers weren’t aware until recently rather incredulous. IMO, there is some vengeful thinking in VW feeling entitled to all sorts of fiscal arrangements in its battle with EVs and hybrids. If it wasn’t going to get any the normal way, special software had to make sure it did.

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