By on January 10, 2016


Engineers at Volkswagen have proposed fitting a catalytic converter to more than 400,000 cars in the U.S. to comply with emissions, the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported Sunday (via Reuters).

The costly and lengthy fix could bring into compliance cars that Volkswagen admitted cheated diesel emissions test through an illegal “defeat device” that reduced nitrogen oxides by up to 40 times during test cycles.

Officials at Volkswagen didn’t comment on the report.

Volkswagen and officials from the Environmental Protection Agency have struggled to agree on how to fix more than 500,000 illegally polluting cars in the U.S. Last week, the Justice Department on behalf of the EPA sued Volkswagen for the cars, seeking up to $48 billion in damages and penalties. In announcing the lawsuit, EPA deputy Cynthia Giles said Volkswagen had not “produced an acceptable way forward” with its proposals to fix its cars. 

German newspapers have reported that Volkswagen may be preparing to buy back more than 100,000 cars in the U.S. if they couldn’t be repaired.

According to the Bild am Sonntag report, the catalytic converters would only be fitted to cars equipped with Volkswagen’s EA 189 engine. In testimony to Congress, Volkswagen of America CEO Michael Horn told officials that newer cars would only need a software update to bring those cars into compliance with the law.

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35 Comments on “Report: Volkswagen’s Fix is New Catalytic Converter...”

  • avatar

    Oh good, a more restrictive (hotter!) exhaust system, just what a turbocharged vehicle needs.

  • avatar

    On its own this will not work, ie; without urea, and a urea catalytic injection system will be too complex to mount. Therefore a new catalytic converter on its own, while fitting into the current exhaust systems, would have to be very restrictive and also require some compromised electronics settings, perhaps less restrictive than testing mode. The end result without urea is much worse performance and fuel economy.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      You don’t necessarily need to have urea injection with a catalytic converter with a diesel engine. There are also cats for diesels that are as effective as urea injected cats. These use metals in lieu of ammonia injection.

      • 0 avatar

        @BAFO – The non urea injection TDIs came with the very restrictive cats. They don’t meet emissions. Whether the “new and improved” catalytic converter does satisfy emissions without urea, remains to be seen.

    • 0 avatar

      The EA 189 engine used a lean NOx trap, not SCR.

  • avatar
    I've got a Jaaaaag

    For those of us with only a passing interest, what model years had the EA189 engine? Also how many different engines are involved?

    • 0 avatar


    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

    • 0 avatar
      Lack Thereof

      2009-2014 VW’s and Audi’s with 2.0 TDI’s are the big offenders. That’s the EA189 in mostly golfs, beetles, jettas, passats, and A3s.

      There’s 11 million of them worldwide, but only about a half-million of those are in the US. The rest are mostly in Europe where a different fix is proposed (due to different emissions regs)

      Also involved are 3.0 TDIs from 2009 to the present, which are v-6 diesels installed mostly in large Audi’s and VW’s unpopular SUV. There’s only about 65,000 of those engines in the US, so very little attention has been focused on those.

    • 0 avatar

      So if (um, hypothetically) I’ve got a 2010 Golf TDI…?

      I see that a commenter in the Jalopnik thread is drawing a distinction between cars with 1 piece CATs and those with 2-piece CATSs, that the switch-over to the 2-piece version came sometime in 2010.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Correct. The 2009 Volkswagens are the only ones that had the CBEA with the single-piece exhaust system. The 2010s and later all had the CJAA with the dual-piece. There were, IIRC, some very late 2009 Golf TDIs, and I don’t know whether they had CBEA or CJAA. The Audi A3 did *not* switch from CJAA and used CBEA with for the entirety of the model run…2010-2014…so maybe stay away from that one.

        A 2010 Golf should have the CJAA.

        • 0 avatar

          Correct ! The CJAA has a two part Diesel Particulate Filter, and the Cat is separate. This is so when (not if) the DPF craps, your replacement cost is $2400, not $4k.

          Up until recently, I had a 2010 TDi. VW didn’t cover my dead (physically broken) DPF, 2k out of warranty, but paid 1/2.

          Almost broke even with the “Goodwill Package”…

          Liked the car overall. If I had a wayback machine I’d just check off GTi, not TDI. I knew the car was a bit of a science experiment, and was willing to take a chance on the technology-but when the DPF cracked at 72k of highway use, and there is a TSB on the exact issue, and they only covered half……

          Oh well. My new FE3 CTS is fun too-and I can pass on two lane roads again. I’m glad to be watching, not playing the game.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I’d expect this “fix” by VW will be global. Remember some in the EU and elsewhere are not very happy with VW.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I vaguely recall reading that the engineers could not get these engines compliant and NOW someone proposes the idea of CC AND it works to get the emissions compliant with some quick testing. 10 years of engineering stalemate is magically solved with a solution fresh from 1973. I call BS.

    They can’t be made compliant. Ever. Otherwise they would have done so in the first place. All of this is lipstick on a pig to show an effort being made to regulators that a fix is ‘in the works’.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      It’s not that these engines can’t be made compliant, ever. They can’t be made compliant at a price that was agreeable to VW at the time.

      The numbers are different now. VW can either spend a lot fixing existing cars, or spend a lot more buying them back. I suspect that the fines will also be much larger if they can’t fix the cars, but that’s still up for negotiation.

      • 0 avatar

        It comes down to a price/performance/fueleconomy tradeoff. The engines can be made compliant without massively negatively affecting at most two of the three.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          Well that and states like California would make them warranty the emissions equipment for another eight years. If they don’t think that’s viable—which is a warning sign—they might buy back those cars.

          • 0 avatar

            In my 90k of mostly highway use, the car ate an exhaust flapper valve, which sits about mid stream of the exhaust, and modulates back pressure. This was fixed by VW and the car given a 120k warranty on that part. Someone allowed the return spring to be uncovered, and if you live where salt is used, you need to remember to clean it and hit it with lube when you do an oil change. (someone saved money by not covering the spring) The DPF also died, as above. My long term plan if I’d not had a bad day on the road was to Test Pipe and Malone ECM reflash….since the car doesn’t pass pollution anyway…..and everything south of the turbo is a kludge ….

            No, I Do Not see VW wanting to give these cars an 8 year full warranty….it would be cheaper to buy back.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      It does seem overly simple.

      I suspect heavy handle is right, and VW is in for a very expensive and painful road ahead.

      If they’re unable to make some cars compliant, they’ll face heavy repercussions when consumers are left needing a replacement vehicle.

  • avatar

    The EA 189 Gen 1 for Golf, Jetta, Audi A3 from 2008/9 to 2014 has 3 (three separate) catalytic converters.

    1.The HC oxidation CC which also includes the Diesel Particulate Filter, which runs into
    2.The lean NOx converter, which runs into the
    3.H2S converter, which farts into the external world.

    Which one of these 3 is VW proposing to make bigger? No info.

    The EA189 Gen2 for the Passat has SCR, using urea injection a la AdBlue system VW, BMW and Mercedes cooked up.

    The EA288 which was sold for the 2015 model year is an entirely new engine, with a bigger converter of the type 1 above, and SCR reduction. This one probably just needs to use more urea in normal driving, which a software update could effect.

    Real detail, not some journo dorking on about this and that, is at:

    • 0 avatar

      It’s obviously the 2nd one. The only exhaust issue is NOx, not HC particulates and not H2S.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        It’s the first one, and there are two different variants for that engine, one (CBEA) with a single-piece CAT that includes the NOx trap and the DPF, and one CJAA with a multi-piece CAT that has the NOx trap and DPF as separate components. Only the 2009 Volkswagens had CBEA; 2010 and later versions had CJAA. The Audi A3, however, had CBEA from 2010-2014.

        • 0 avatar


          None of the sites I’ve found show the HC/DPF combined with the NOx converter, except as a single in-line unit on the 2009.

          After that they went to the three separate items I mentioned above

          Here’s actual photos, noting that the link title is only partially correct.

          So the solution for 2009 VW and perhaps all the A3 TDI (all 23 of them) will be different from the 2010 to 2014 units. I suspect if there are buybacks, it’ll be these single unit (well all combined into one piece, anyway) models.

          I look at these marvels of ingenuity and think, no wonder I hate diesel. My friend’s 2010, used almost exclusively for long highway runs each weekend to his country home, had DPF problems. It was on lease, so he figured VW should pay to fix it; they refused. At the end of the lease he handed it back and told them to sue him for the DPF light if they wanted to, because he wasn’t going to pay.

          Now drives a Mazda3 on the same duty cycle, same mileage, lifetime 6.2/100km, and raves about it.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            That’s exactly what I said. The 2009 models with the single-piece unit and some or all of the A3s are more likely to be purchased back, because retrofitting them is a pricier proposition; they are also (for the Volkswagens, at least) the oldest cars under this campaign.

  • avatar

    I think owners should spring for the TruCoat while their car is in for the emissions fix. I mean if they don’t they’ll get oxidation problems.

  • avatar

    As a side point, this underscores the extreme hypocrisy of the EPA.

    Last year, due to carelessness, and shortcutting, EPA released 3 million gallons of toxic water into a Colorado River tributary. They didn’t notify locals along the river till later.

    If this had been a private corporation, there would have been millions or billions in fines, very possibly jail time.

    But… no one was jailed, no one was fired, indeed as far as we know, no one was even demoted. Sucks doesn’t it.

    Yes VW did screw up big time. But we see two different scenarios depending if the government screws up or others do.

    [Similar to user data hackings. Companies get fined hugely, but the government has had some of the worst hacks of all… business as usual.]

    • 0 avatar

      This one really cheezes me. Yes, the EPA made a mistake. Yet, the EPA didn’t make the pollution…it was left behind by a company who no doubt did quite well from the enterprise.

      Yet, as usual, the principals are shielded by corporate structure. Run a red light, you will be fined. Leave a brownfield behind and suddenly it is the taxpayer’s job to clean up after your private company.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s so easy to besmirch the EPA with a half-mention of the story. This happens in so many places online that it makes you wonder… The truth is as you said – a polluter created the problem, and an EPA contractor was in charge when the spill occurred. Yes, the buck stops at the EPA, but that is certainly not the whole picture.

    • 0 avatar

      Pro tip: if you want to make a political point about the toxic spill, the EPA or the gubmint, private v public sector accountability, Congress, etc, you may want to reconsider posting on an article that has nothing to do with any of that.

      Bonus tip: opinions are a dime a dozen.

  • avatar

    Most likely the cat will need to be replaced often, thus becoming an expensive fix, this is a band-aid solution for a bog problem

  • avatar

    I think the other issue that VW has to deal with, how long do they have to warranty the new parts, this fix is rushed at best and most of these cars are at least 5 years old already and pretty high miles, tdi tend to have more miles on them, does vw want another ten years of possible head aches.

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