By on April 20, 2016

Volkswagen TDI

The device Volkswagen used to cheat on emissions tests sat on a shelf for years before the automaker employed it on its diesel-powered vehicles.

Audi engineers created the software in 1999, but it was not immediately used by Volkswagen, according to the German newspaper Handelsblatt (via Reuters).

That changed in 2005, when VW engineers found themselves unable to bring the emissions of their new TDI engines into compliance with existing laws. The German report cites industry and company sources.

To deal with the inconvenient emissions, Audi’s software — which was capable of turning off certain engine functions — was taken off the shelf and employed in the new models. Eventually, a total of 11 million vehicles across the company’s model range were equipped with the device.

Volkswagen and Audi were silent in the wake of the report, citing the ongoing U.S. investigation into the diesel emissions scandal. Law firm Day Jones is expected to publish a detailed report of their findings at the end of the month.

The scathing revelation comes on the eve of a crucial deadline imposed by a U.S. District Court judge, regarding the company’s plan to fix its diesel models. Volkswagen has until April 21 to outline a comprehensive plan to bring the affected vehicles into compliance with U.S. environmental regulators.

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34 Comments on “Volkswagen Waited Six Years to use ‘Defeat Device’: Report...”


  • avatar

    Fraudi.

  • avatar
    Storz

    Be really interesting to see if anything comes out of tomorrow, I am not holding my breath though.

  • avatar
    mason

    Does this mean the ALH platforms could have flirted with 55+mpg? Dang.

  • avatar

    VW is in super DEEP doo-doo. A great strategic move would be for VW to merge with FCA. The US government will NOT allow FCA to shut down here as a result of penalties to the mother company of VW-FCA.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      This idea doesn’t make sense on many levels.

      In any case, VW will negotiate a settlement with the regulators. These things take time.

      • 0 avatar
        BlueEr03

        It doesn’t make sense but, at the same time, it kind of does. VW needs a good SUV, Jeep has got you covered there. Chrysler/Dodge blows at making small cars, well a re-badged Golf will help with that. De-content a little and drop the price a lot, it will be perfect at 0% for 72 months.

        And that would make, what, a total of 50 brands combined in the new conglomerate?

      • 0 avatar
        notwhoithink

        VW has until 8am PST tomorrow to negotiate a settlement with regulators. After that it’s out of their hands and they’ll be headed to a trial this summer. Given how poorly they have done at negotiating a settlement so far (already given one extension to the deadline) there’s little hope that they have an agreement ready to go for tomorrow.

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          Don’t forget that this was going on behind closed for a year or more before the EPA went public and got the importation of the fraudulent diesels banned.

          They’ve failed to negotiate a settlement forgoing on nearly two years. That’s plenty of time to shake out the cognitive dissonance.

          I’m left to believe that VW management is incapable of responding to the problem. With the amount of turnover they had (which failed to create change), I’m left to assume that the problem is with their corporate culture, rather than with individual people.

    • 0 avatar
      USDM2010

      I smell a hostile takeover is in the works.

    • 0 avatar
      kablamo

      Strategically it seems logical, but in reality it would never fly. Chrysler and Mercedes was a disaster, but VW is even more stuck up. Sure FCA is very different now, but the company cultures are still too different. VW would sooner leave the USA than merge with FCA.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    This certainly helps the narrative from the top brass that this fraud was perpetrated by a few select individuals……

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Except that we don’t know why it was invented.

      I would guess that it may have been originally designed as debugging software, such as something that one would install on test vehicles during the development process. Then some years thereafter, someone came up with the idea of using it for a different purpose.

      • 0 avatar
        87 Morgan

        True, I guess I have not considered the idea that the ‘cheat’ was designed to assist in testing or something along those lines and then used at a later date for more sinister applications. I suppose I have decided the defeat was designed in inception for cheating emissions rather than development engineering so to speak.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Yeah, we do know why it was invented. It was clear by ’99, upcoming diesel emissions standards would kill performance and fuel economy of TDIs, if not reliability/longevity. Only a ‘hot’ or “off road” chip/tune could do the trick.

        It’s not like car builders don’t get a heads-up on future standards. Emissions equipment/compliance doesn’t just *happen* on the due date. No doubt OEMs are hard at work on 2025 standards, especially CAFE.

        There’s was absolutely no realistic, or honest reason for the cars to “sense” or sniff out, a test was happening, temporarily kill a “custom” tune and behave like clean running angels for the test cycle, then revert to *dirty* when no one’s looking.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Sorry I do not believe that it would have been created as a debugging device. There is no practical reason for such a thing. Testing would be done to ensure that everything works right in a compliant system, not in one that is non-compliant.

        The most likely reason is purely as a cheat. Fact is the EPA is continually implementing stricter standards. Euro 2 took effect in Jan 1998 while Euro 3 took effect in Jan 2000 and was the first to require control of NOx emissions for diesel vehicles. Euro 4 took effect in Jan 05 with another significant reduction in allowable NOx emissions. So given the timeline it is highly likely that they developed the defeat software to do just what they used it for.

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          @ScoutDude:

          As someone who’s done a fair hit of software development, I find the “debugging device” explanation plausible.

          The conditions required to trigger the alternate mode are just a few lines of if statements. The structure of the code doesn’t change much if the trigger condition is “the wire connected to the big red TEST button in the cabin has gone high” vs “the back wheels of the car aren’t moving and the temperature is 20C”.

          I bet the intent of the early version is crystal clear if you look at the code, though, whichever way it goes.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          The customary approach for testing and debugging computer systems is turn stuff off and on, and then see what changes.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            An ON/OFF button on the dash isn’t exactly software. The *hand-free* ON/OFF or cheat code is what we’re talking about here. No steering input, etc.

            The Defeat Device obviously had to have been laying around long before ’05, and ’99 isn’t far fetched by any stretch. Unless VW was expecting a miracle, it wasn’t hard to tell how tough ’05+ emissions regs would be on TDIs, and how they could have their cake and eat it too.

    • 0 avatar
      notwhoithink

      Except then you question how the offending code made it from Audi engineers to VW engineers without knowledge of it first going up the chain of command.

  • avatar
    aircooledTOM

    It’s Jones Day. Not Day Jones…. Just FYI.

  • avatar

    So, they were even late to market with their own scam chip. Oh, VAG…

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    It vas not us! It was ze, how you say, “bad Germans” over at ze Auto Union! Ve are ze “good Germans” like ze cuddly Sergeant Schultz from your Hogan’s Heroes program.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    The “Easy” button strikes again.

  • avatar
    Storz

    Sense of things to come?

    http://www.autonews.com/article/20160420/OEM11/160429985/vw-to-hike-diesel-scandal-provisions-to-double-digit-billions-of

  • avatar
    NickS

    It doesn’t matter why that software was written initially. Software is always developed with a lot of “instrumentation” code to permit testing or debugging, but as it moves to production-quality, very little of that (if any) is included. There will still be ways to “debug” production code — those are generally standardized, but do not involve altering the behavior of the entire system. They are strictly meant to help create a reproducible test case which can be brought back to a development environment where more and pricier tools and equipment are available to fully trouble-shoot the offending code or component.

    Two more facts:

    a. ECM software is thoroughly tested, and doesn’t generally contain any bugs of serious consequence;

    b. typical engineering reviews of any large/complex or safety-related software such as ECU programming take months and involve many from various parts of the organization scrutinizing every single line of code. This is the most fun-less (painful?) experience for any techie seeing their code off to market.

    If there was a breakdown in the internal processes at VW, there would be tons of other much more serious (dangerous?) flaws in ECU code, and they’d have been discovered in the wild. If they dropped all internal controls just for this cheat to move to production, it was a deliberate act (and at that point it doesn’t matter if it was developed for testing only, or explicitly for use in production).

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