GM Under Fire in Germany; Company Denies Installing 'Defeat Devices'

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
gm under fire in germany company denies installing defeat devices

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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  • George B George B on May 19, 2016

    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.

    • Big Al from Oz Big Al from Oz on May 19, 2016

      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.

  • Binksman Binksman on May 19, 2016

    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?

    • See 5 previous
    • Old Man Pants Old Man Pants on May 21, 2016

      @VoGo " 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.

  • Krayzie Krayzie on May 19, 2016

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

  • HotPotato HotPotato on May 19, 2016

    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.

    • Raph Raph on May 20, 2016

      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.