By on May 19, 2016


Volkswagen must be enjoying watching its rival squirm on the end of the same hook.

German regulators have singled out GM’s Opel division over carbon dioxide emissions from some of its vehicles, but the automaker says it isn’t in the wrong.

Facing accusations that it used a ‘defeat device’ to shut off emissions controls, Opel must now submit information to an investigating committee. During a meeting yesterday, Opel executives admitted that the popular Zafira model has software that shuts down exhaust treatment systems at high speeds and altitudes.

Every automaker does it, claimed Opel, but the country’s transport minister wasn’t buying it.

“The investigating committee has doubts about whether this practice is completely justified by the protection of the engine,” Alexander Dobrindt told media after the meeting.

A slew of European vehicles were tested using more accurate emissions-measuring equipment after Volkswagen’s diesel scandal put suspicion on all tailpipes. Of the 53 vehicles tested, only Volkswagens contained software that recognized when emissions tests were occurring.

Still, GM has 14 days to prove to German officials why it’s perfectly okay to shut down the Zafira’s emissions controls at certain times.

“I reiterate that our engines conform to the law and do not use illegal software,” Opel CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann stated after the meeting.

[Image: General Motors] [Sources: Wall Street Journal, Reuters]

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29 Comments on “GM Under Fire in Germany; Company Denies Installing ‘Defeat Devices’...”

  • avatar

    I’m not disappointed in you for cheating.

    I’m disappointed in you for getting caught.

    What’s being done to the automotive companies makes me sick. Watching exciting vehicles be neutered into soul-less, self-driving econoboxes. 4-cylinder engines on steroids attempting to pull 4500 pound vehicles.

    This is not the free market. This is tyranny.

    I see what’s coming. More lawsuits with useless, unproductive members of the oppressive legal system waiting with their hands out – ready to profit – after setting up restrictive regulations THEY KNEW no one was prepared to meet.

  • avatar

    This is the same company that killed 100 of its owners and has no moral obligation to payback the $33 billion (and growing) that they made off with tax and interest free!

    This company has no morals. They’d cheat you if they could and sell a truck in 2016 that they call new when it is essentially the same truck they built in 1999 with engines that have added electronics but which aren’t new.

    And they have a new transmission.

    They once employed Heir Yutz – the biggest liar and resume padder in the industry.

  • avatar

    BTSR, I wish she had said that…

  • avatar

    The haters are coming out of the woodwork.

  • avatar

    All I can say right now on this subject is…
    I really like that minivan in the photo.

  • avatar

    “has software that shuts down exhaust treatment systems at high speeds and altitudes”

    There you have it, unless the Zafira is mounted to the nose of an ICBM.

    • 0 avatar

      A good engineer could explain why an engine running flat out or in high altitude needs a free flowing exhaust, and what might happen if that exhaust is too restrictive, but nobody is willing to listen. Facts get in the way of the witch hunt.

  • avatar

    I bet if Opel goes down for this, more will follow. Its a system begging to be rigged and you can bet Opel isn’t the only one gaming the system. I don’t think its a coincidence that they picked government motors to go after. Would love to see Mercedes and BMW brought into this as well if Opel is going to take the fall.

    • 0 avatar

      Yup. It’s like trying to ban traction control from race cars/bikes. As long as there’s computers making decisions, the computers will be programmed to optimize for the environment the vehicle is operating in. As “clean” as possible when that environment is a smog test, as frugal as possible when it is a mileage test, and as powerful as possible when it is being hooned, is towing etc.

      You just have to obfuscate it a bit better than VW did. Say, build in some “wear and tear,” so things slowly move from max clean to max power over a time or mileage extending past when new cars are tested. Should be quite simple, as the tests are handed out beforehand. Everyone “knows” engines get more powerful with break in already, right?

  • avatar

    I think the auto industry is put under a lot of scrutiny. But they also need to be watched when GM has ignition switches that don’t have strong enough springs to remain in the running position over a bump and they quietly hope no one notices, or VW has software that lies to both the owners and the government in hopes of not getting caught. The environment IS a concern, even as an auto enthusiast, I find it understandable.

    As for HOW the auto makers handle these demands, it could be better. Perhaps if they had a better track record of being honest with consumers and keeping quality and safety a priority, things might not be this way.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I suppose now is the time for General Motors to feel the heat for cheating. This shows that these issues aren’t only related to non US concerns.

    False FE figures, non cheating cheating software ……

    I do hope the next target will be from the EPA regarding vehicles that are designed pass EPA testing and when driven in the real world their FE goes up, which means emissions.

    Most of the regulations set for emissions and FE are a joke. GDI engines can emit more particulates than a diesel semi or bulldozer for example.

    The playing field needs some transparency and leveling, globally.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      Big Al, your statement “GDI engines can emit more particulates than a diesel semi or bulldozer for example.” can’t possibly be true in the case of off-road diesel bulldozers. Without the diesel particulate filter, diesel engines produce very visible clouds of particulates and GDI engines do not.

  • avatar
    George B

    The article is confusing. Is GM accused of cheating on smog-related real pollution like maybe Carbon Monoxide and oxides of nitrogen or is GM accused of cheating on fuel economy/Carbon Dioxide? The output of Carbon Dioxide is the inherent result of clean combustion of fuel so cheating on this and fuel economy numbers would involve doings things to improve efficiency that can’t be replicated on the product consumers can buy. Cheating on the real pollution products like oxides of nitrogen involve running pollution control systems more aggressively during the pollution test than they are road conditions. If manufacturers could simultaneously boost efficiency, lean air-fuel ratio for example, and meet the oxides of nitrogen pollution limit, there wouldn’t be much reason not to use this test setup all the time.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      George B
      Emissions can be broken down into two parts. These two parts make it awkward for the manufacturers to meet goals. To top things off we want powerful vehicles to loiter around in.

      Carbon Dioxide; is one emission we are trying to reduce and is directly linked to Climate Change. Just because the word emission is used does not denote toxicity. Carbon Dioxide is directly linked to FE and power. So, we want powerful vehicles, we then must emit more CO2.

      Diesel is fantastic at reducing CO2 emissions, better than gasoline. With new diesel tech diesels are now producing reasonable power for light vehicles.

      Other Toxic Emissions; Particulate emissions are a major problem with diesel engines, so particulate filter are used. GDI engines are the same. An filtered diesel will emit far more particulates than GDI. The difference is the particulates from the diesel are larger and do cause less damage to our respiratory system. Still bad sh!t.

      GDI engines, from the data I’ve read can emit between 10-1 000 times the particulates than a filtered diesel, which is regulated. GDI particulate emissions are not regulated ……… yet, but this will occur.

      Diesel has another problem, Nitrogen Oxide emissions. This is created by heat, diesel’s are notorious NOx emitters due to the compression ratios required for ignition. Remember pressure equals heat. So, a this day and age diesel engines have a compression ratio of around 15:1, not 24:1 like “Olden Age” non turbo diesels. This has greatly reduced NOx. But the diesel still generates more NOx in comparison to a gasoline engine.

      In the never ending quest to gain more power from gasoline engine compression ratios have been rising, again increasing NOx production from the engine.

      We then come down to fuel quality. Some will again try and shot me down over this comment, but until they can show otherwise STFU. This is highly variable across countries. US diesel is of a “lower” quality, this also impedes the lowering of diesel engine compression ratios, below 15:1 required to run cleaner diesels like the Skyactive from Mazda. US diesel also has a higher scar rate, which means it’s more abrasive. US diesel can also contain up to 50% more sulphur than EU diesel. More sulphur also means higher NOx levels.

      I have read that it will cost around $100 per GDI engine for a GPF. I had also read here in Australia they figure urea injection/DPF and DPF will cost around $500. But as we know in real life that $500 is $3 000. So I figure the GPF will cost the consumer $500=$1 000.

      Imagine if all US cars went up $500 to $1 000 dollars to clean up GDI engines? This is why I laugh at these technical barrier labelled emissions regulations. Bias in promoting gasoline in the US is like diesel is in many EU nations.

      They are a joke…..globally and not just in the US. Protectionism.

  • avatar

    If the emissions limits are going to be applied at any point during any circumstance of the engine being in operation (high altitude operation, extended full throttle acceleration, other situations where a lean A/F condition could cause damage to the engine, etc), then why does the EPA administer an elaborate, difficult-to-reproduce test procedure with narrow operating parameters to determine the vehicle emissions?

    My current understanding of most emissions rules are that the vehicle needs to pass the agency-determined test. The manufacturer doesn’t need to go above and beyond in its engineering- there’s no honors class or special sash at graduation- it just needs to pass the test. The entire US education system currently works this way…

    Are the manufactures actually breaking a rule or law? Did the EPA and industry do a poor job of writing the rules or they did they instrument an insufficient test procedure?

    • 0 avatar

      Well according to the German interpretation of EU emission regulations they did

      • 0 avatar

        The claims I’ve heard was that it wasn’t needed at ~80mph and the software stops meddling with the engine at ~90mph (the regulations and software are of course done in metric). No idea if the Germans are claiming that they subroutines were supposed to keep doing whatever they were supposed to be doing, but nobody really cares about the results.

    • 0 avatar

      Face the fact that the EPA is trying to slowly strangle the internal combustion engine through regulation, and it’ll all make sense.

      The EPA tried to set a single national air pollution standard for particulates because they didn’t want to see exceptions cheapen the standard. It turned out that a reasonable standard for Manhattan is impossible for Montana, even if there were nothing in Montana but air pollution detectors. Something called erosion and prevailing winds off the Rockies made it impossible for Mother Nature to meet the standard.

      Adherence to the standard at high speed and at altitude would make the car virtually undrivable, but to the EPA (or rather, radical environmentalists within) that’s not a bug, that’s a feature.

      • 0 avatar

        I wonder if any of these people who’ve been trained to be so anti-EPA have a clue as to what life was like 40-50 years ago. When kids were getting poisoned by all the lead in gasoline. When the smog was so thick you could barely see across a football field in Los Angeles. When cars belched out exhaust so nasty that you had to avoid being near the back of a car when it was turned on.

        But I guess it’s trendy now to be anti-government. I get it. “Damn, Daniel, you rockin’ the anti-EPA rant today?”

        • 0 avatar

          I wonder if any of these people who’ve been brainwashed to advocate for an end to the constitution’s limitations on the powers of government have any idea why those limits were established in the first place. I hope they enjoy eating their pets like the last bunch of puppets to go socialist to our south.

        • 0 avatar

          ” you had to avoid being near the back of a car when it was turned on.”

          Unless you and your brothers were playing with the cool burble you got by holding an empty coffee can up to the end of the tailpipe!

          But then the older brother who owned the car had to go to work because there were decent jobs for kids & dummies back then.

  • avatar

    Currency War -> Trade War (US vs VW, Germany vs GM) -> World War

  • avatar

    So first we learn VW/Porsche/Audi diesels turn off emissions controls when not being tested. Then IIRC we learn Mercedes-Benz diesels turn them off when it’s under 50-odd degrees F “to protect the exhaust system”. Then we learn Fiat diesels turn them off if it’s under 63 degrees out–that’d be much of the year in much of Europe (why has that not been story on here, did I miss it? it’s huge). Then we learn that Opel diesels turn them off for the opposite reason–higher temperatures.

    Problem limited mostly to Europe? Maybe not, because then we learn that GDI gasoline engines, promoted as eco-savior in the US for their MPGs, are actually filthy particulate factories.

    Maybe it’s time to put the ICE on ice. I’d love to see a governor commit to putting fast-charge stations at every highway rest stop, and make their state a model for how to make the damn transition to EV power already.

    • 0 avatar

      Well depending on your age you might see it since something on the order of 20 or so states (IIRC) are pledging to ban the sales of fossil fuel burning vehicles by 2050. I’m sure as EVs become more popular and it becomes an easier pill to swallow more states will follow.

      If your looking for something more massive and immediate I doubt you’ll see it, especially in as,little as a decade.

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