By on November 8, 2015

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A number of Volkswagen engineers cheated on tests used to determine carbon dioxide emissions because goals set by former group CEO Martin Winterkorn were too demanding and difficult to achieve, reported German outlet Bild am Sonntag.

The report was “broadly confirmed” by Volkswagen, stated The New York Times. It’s believed goals set by Winterkorn, which would have made Volkswagen vehicles cleaner than required by European regulations, pressured the engineers to manipulate the tests as they were afraid to admit they could not meet those goals.

The engineers pumped up tire pressures to reduce rolling resistance and put diesel in motor oil to make the vehicles more fuel efficient, thus producing less carbon dioxide. The practice “began in 2013 and carried on until the spring of this year,” reported Automotive News.

Group CEO Matthias Müller, who replaced Winterkorn, admitted November 2 that Volkswagen misstated CO2 emissions levels for its vehicles. Some 800,000 Volkswagen cars are included in the admission, which could cost the company $2.1 billion more in penalties.

On Friday, Volkswagen said it would foot the tax bills of those who owned affected vehicles, reported Reuters.

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41 Comments on “Volkswagen Engineers Blow Whistle, Admit to CO2 Cheating...”


  • avatar
    APaGttH

    So Lutz was basically right?

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      About what? Link to his statement would be great.

    • 0 avatar
      993cc

      Lutz laid the blame more with Piech, but yeah.

      What I don’t understand from this article is how a practice that “began in 2013 and carried on until the spring of this year,” could have affected the 2008-2012 models.

      • 0 avatar
        Lack Thereof

        This is concerned with EU CO2/fuel consumption testing, not US NOx testing. US NOx cheating began in 2008 (as far as we know), while EU CO2 cheating began in 2013.

        VW has been cheating on several tests simultaneously, it would seem.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      No he wasn’t.
      He was blaming the cheating on the meanness and the brutality of his leadership.
      But the cheating was the engineers.
      Their excuse for cheating is like students cheating because a teacher pushed them to hard to meet a higher standard.
      There is never an excuse to cheat or do harm because you were worried about your job or career.
      Babies….

      • 0 avatar
        RideHeight

        “There is never an excuse to cheat or do harm because you were worried about your job or career.”

        That would have been a doofus thing to say 50 years ago, let alone amidst today’s crumbling professions and communities.

        • 0 avatar
          TrailerTrash

          RideHeight..you are kidding, right?
          You simply cannot be excusing actions such as cheating on saving your job, can you?
          Can you possibly see what you are saying and advising?
          Do you have children you teach as such?

          no the doofus thing to say is it is OK to cheat and blame it on being worried about yourself.
          This is the same excuse used by Germans during the take-over of Germany by the Nazis. It is the same reason people stand by and watch harm being done to others.
          It ain’t them and they have their own to worry about.

          Erikstrawn
          I not only expect managers to do this..the great ones do. Perhaps they do it with more personality and understanding…but they push. They bring out the best and break molds.
          The fact that his personality frightened or bullied…big crap.

          I will bet these cheaters accepted every raise given to them upon completion of their cheats. They didn’t refuse, and say no…just doing (saving) my job…they took the money.
          They hang.

          This excusing cheating is boorish and reflects the insanity surrounding our kids today.

          Good job.

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            “You simply cannot be excusing actions such as cheating on saving your job, can you?”

            Excuse to whom or what? You think somebody’s watching us?

      • 0 avatar
        Erikstrawn

        Are you arguing that it’s acceptable for management to set a goal they know is unattainable with the resources you have in order to try and drive employees to innovate? In that environment you have to foster creativity AND respect for ethical behavior. I once worked at an auto dealership where the managers were expected to improve their numbers every month. It led to a lot of monkey business. One of the service writers I worked with did a lot of stuff I considered shady.
        One day I asked him, “How do you sleep at night?”
        “On a full stomach.” was his reply.
        Since then I’ve held the belief that most of the evil in this world is committed by people just trying to make a paycheck. It’s management’s responsibility to ensure the methods are ethical.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      Looks like it!

  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    This is a generally known fact. Go to VW website in Germany and you see gasoline (not diesel!) Golfs with 4.5 l/100 km, which is 52 mpg. Anyone who thought this is an accurate number must have been a fool.

    Not to defend VW, they probably went above and beyond. But the European CO2 “test” (CO2 level directly related to consumption and accounting for diesel having more carbon than gasoline per volume) already shaves off CO2 for assuming renewable fuel (ethanol etc.) as they assume it is CO2 neutral. They also allow OEM to use skinny pumped up tires (tires that are not part of any trim level), to pre-warm the engine, to put tape over all joints…. an all those are the legal workarounds. they basically allow cars to be tested going downhill, with tail wind and the engine shut off if you will… with these legal loopholes, who needs illegal cheating?

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Do the Reg’s really allow, or just fail to prohibit? There’s a lot of space between the two.

      I’m pretty sure the regs don’t prohibit the vehicle from receiving a tow or push during testing, but this is quite different than allowing it.

      VW acted massively in bad faith and totally institutionalized abuse of a self-certification system based on honor, truth and trust.

      • 0 avatar
        HerrKaLeun

        the tests (also the ones of the EPA) are based on a lot of lobbying effort (you can guess which industry spent all the money on lobbying here…). It isn’t the inability of the EPA (or europena counterparts) to create a realistic test… I’m sure they have really smart employees capable of creating better tests. but they the directives from politics.

        I don’t know every single loophole, but the assumption a percentage of fuel is assumed to be renewable (= not contributing to CO2) plays an official role in meeting the 100 g CO2/ km etc standards. Also the turning off of AC (in Europe, EPA now uses AC), using of skinnier tires (tires not normally available to car buyers), pumping up the tires, and adhering tape over the body gaps are legal methods. Add some unlikely acceleration and speed scenarios and starting with warm engine. there probably are more detailed LEGAL tunes for the European test cycle. the EPA cycle is much more realistic (and I always get EPA mileage). that is how every BMW, Mercedes, VW etc. gets sold with 50+ mpg and 60 mpg for diesel. Unless the car buyer buys a new car, replaces the tires with skinny ones, puts tape on all body gaps, keeps the engine heated, never uses AC, or heaters, or radio, and never really accelerates, one never can achieve official mileage. and that all is legal.

        This disgusts me especially because the Europeans are so snobby and blame the US for all environmental mischief. Same way it disgusts me how VW always snobbed at Toyota and claimed hybrids are useless and they can do it all better with some better diesel fuel injectors.

        VW is getting what they had coming, at least in the US. nothing will really happen to them in Europe. Some slap on the wrist if at all. their documents ahven’t even been seized, they are allowed to do internal investigations (= destroying all papertrails and finding soem pawns in case the DA would ever decide to raid the HQ)

        Who knows, maybe crash tests were fake as well? Only way to find out is to have a crash.

        • 0 avatar
          wmba

          How, may this skeptic ask, are fuel consumption tests on a dynamometer affected by taping over body shutlines? Or all the other gimmicks that commenters here repeat as rote/old wives tales while not even looking up the reality of testing?

          The Society of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers in the UK has a web page devoted to dispelling such myths. How did I find this? Google.

          http://www.smmt.co.uk/2014/09/myth-busting-nedc-fuel-consumption-test-cycle/

          So virtually all the speculation I read here is invalid.

          Gaming the fuel consumption (CO2 figures) by VW engineers has to be something other than by this dynamometer method. One such is that computer simulations for other body styles, like Focus to BMax for example) are allowed.

          People are going to have to come up with more than the simplistic comments I read here as to how VW gamed the system, considering that a government rep is on hand to prevent cheating.

          And enough of the holier-than-thou praising of US testing methods. Both Ford and Hyundai have been fined for overstating mpg in the US. The criticism that can be levelled at the NEDC testing procedures involves the outdated tests themselves which give ridiculously low consumption figures.

          If someone here actually knows that the SMMT is lying about how the tests themselves are conducted, then post a contradictory link that has some authority.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            The EPA requires the tests to be performed in a lab.

            The New European Driving Cycle allows testing to be performed on roads. That’s where the gaming comes in handy.

            Lab testing is really the way to go. The key is to create a good test for the lab, something that the NEDC is not.

          • 0 avatar
            niky

            The testing itself is done in laboratory conditions, with proper tire pressures and no body modifications (as they wouldn’t help, anyway)

            Determining the coast-down values for cars (“road load”) is done on the road. And that’s where having taped shutlines, high tire pressures and even slightly downhill tracks (since you’re given a tiny percentage allowance for that) helps. Even the type of paving affects that number.

            This is where the NEDC falls woefully short of the EPA… which prohibits *most* of that funny stuff on those coast-down tests… which is why Hyundai and Ford got bagged for muffing up the numbers there… while manufacturers get away with it in Europe.

            And let’s not get into the “free recharge” hybrid-electrics get, where you can completely drain a battery on the NEDC tests without having to account for where the electricity comes from.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    “It’s believed goals set by Winterkorn, which would have made Volkswagen vehicles cleaner than required by European regulations, pressured the engineers to manipulate the tests as they were afraid to admit they could not meet those goals.”

    I speculated from the start that this was the result of underlings who were unwilling to admit that upper management goals could not be achieved on budget. That is symptomatic of a corporate culture that shoots messengers instead of listening to them.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Germans, just following orders since 1933….

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Pch101,

      What you posit very well be the case.

      It is also possible that the initial cause and effect were reversed until a vicious cycle began and the shiny-guy show-up the colleagues before the boss led the boss (doing insufficient due diligence) to publicly announce unobtainable goals.

      In either scenario, this couldn’t have happened without an abundance of yes men and a dearth of whistleblowers.

      Personally, I think Piëch is the head on the top of this stinking fish. Press his C-suite and board appointees enough and theose pips will squeak too.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        My point was that senior management may not have known about it but created the conditions that would have inadvertently encouraged it. The top dogs may have been in the dark, but that doesn’t get them off the hook.

        And the Germans don’t have a monopoly on this sort of thing. American corporations are filled with brown nosers and many others who are afraid to say anything. Many managers don’t know how to manage people.

        • 0 avatar
          Robert.Walter

          Totally agree. (I’m of the Deming, Drucker, Gundi school of management… Close parentheses

          In the Cavett on Watergate one hour special, well worth the watch, one of the historians makes a apropos’s comment:

          “There’s a debate as to whether Nixon actually precisely ordered the watergate break in. But it didn’t matter whether he actually precisely ordered it. He created the climate. He wanted data, he wanted a lot of it, and he didn’t care how his people got it. He created expectations that could only be fulfilled through illegal activity.”

          This is the moral and legal responsibility the VW management has, or any management carries, for creating a culture and climate Space heavy on top down authoritarianism and weak on detection and enforcement.

          • 0 avatar
            George B

            Nixon and Volkswagen also compounded their problems with a coverup. Volkswagen might be selling 2016 TDI models today if they hadn’t lied to the EPA and done an ineffective software update a year before the scandal became public. Nixon might have avoided resignation if 1) key Watergate participants had been fired ASAP and 2) Nixon hadn’t become personally involved in the coverup.

    • 0 avatar
      John

      “That is symptomatic of a corporate culture that shoots messengers instead of listening to them.”

      Kind of like a culture that forces whistleblower Edward Snowden to flee to save his life.

  • avatar

    If this is true, have Winterkorn leave VW without the usual golden parachute. Pay him hist last salary and be done with him.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      Still it makes Winterhorn a ” clean skin” , but his brutal methods the culprit. I suspect for that reason management did not cheat, but the rest of the organisation did to meet company goals

  • avatar
    Von

    How deep does this rabbit hole go?

  • avatar
    geo

    Admitting that you cheated because your job requirements were unreasonable isn’t exactly “blowing the whistle”. It’s incriminating yourself and then blaming someone else for your actions.

  • avatar
    greyjohn

    but can we talk about putting diesel fuel in motor oil though? whaaaaa?

    • 0 avatar
      Lack Thereof

      To thin it and reduce rotating resistance. At the expense of premature engine wear, of course, but it only has to last an hour or two for the testing.

      A trick like that might gain you a couple tenths of an MPG. Every little bit helps.

  • avatar
    George B

    There’s a difference between cheating and gaming the system and that difference is 1) not breaking explicit rules and 2) not hiding the test conditions. If the tires are inflated to less than their maximum pressure, that defensible. If the motor oil viscosity and level fall barely within vehicle specs, then that’s allowed unless explicitly not allowed. Taping over body gaps or using skinny tires looks like cheating to me, but if you disclose it to regulators and they allow it, no foul. What you can’t do is break an explicit rule and lie about it.

  • avatar
    Scott_314

    The thing about life events is that often things happen incrementally, and it’s only in retrospect that it’s black and white. People probably should get fired / charged, but it’s worth having a little bit of understanding. I’m an engineer, and it can be really tough.

    Management says “what’s the highest level you can get.” Engineer says “well under certain conditions I’ve seen us to get to 11. But I recommend we assume 9”.

    Two days later the same manager says “I spoke to upper management. We’ve carried 11 in our assumptions, but we need you to get us to 12.” Engineer says “well to do that it’s gonna require we sacrifice this and that”. Manager, not fully understanding what the engineer just said, says “do it.”

    Six months later the prior engineer has moved to another position and a new manager comes to his replacement. “Mr Engineer! Your predecessor did a great job and got us to 12! You can do one better!” Engineer says “not likely, but I can try”.

    And on it goes. Blame is shared, at the time it seemed SOMEWHAT reasonable, and now the SHTF.

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