By on June 7, 2016

2016 Volkswagen Passat, Image: © 2015 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

Volkswagen can start hauling the first of 800,000 Passat, CC and Eos models off of European streets after a German regulator granted approval to the automaker’s diesel emissions fix.

The Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) says there’s nothing wrong with the plan to bring 2.0-liter diesel versions of those models into compliance with pollution laws. No doubt Volkswagen execs are happy to cross off another thing off their “to do” list.

About 8.5 million vehicles were sidelined by the company’s diesel emissions scandal, but removing their emissions-cheating “defeat devices” has been a slow, painful and wildly expensive process. In the U.S., the automaker plans to finalize a buyback program for nearly 500,000 vehicles by mid-summer.

Unlike most recalled U.S. vehicles, this European crop won’t be spirited away to the automotive afterlife, leaving owners holding a pile of company cash. Volkswagen promises a “retrofit campaign” that allows owners to drive their diesel to a dealer or authorized partner for the fix. They’ll even get a free “mobility option” to get them around while the diesel docs work on their car. (This sounds like a loaner, but being Europe, there’s still a chance they’ll hand you a bike.)

After these 800,000 vehicles clear out, another 2.0-liter recall will begin.

In its official release, the automaker gave few details on its “technical solution,” instead assuring owners that, “Following the retrofit, the cars will meet all legal requirements.”

The U.S. recall taught us that older models were harder to retrofit, and risked becoming slower and thirstier once fixed. Volkswagen doesn’t hint any any of those issues for the European recall.

“The KBA has also confirmed unequivocally that the technical solutions for these models will not result in any changes to the fuel consumption, performance or noise emissions of the vehicles concerned,” the automaker said in a release. “The KBA had previously confirmed this for all of the other vehicles for which the recall has been approved to date.”

[Image: © 2015 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars]

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27 Comments on “Volkswagen Cleared for Big European Diesel Fix; Company Claims No Power or Mileage Loss...”


  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    You guys might have wanted to show a EU-market Volkswagen, instead of the NMS Passat that we have here. But I understand how stock image rights work :)

    But…what’s the difference between the EU-market vehicles and their NA-market counterparts? Why would their vehicles be repairable with no issues when ours are not? Although many TDI owners are excited about the prospect of a buyout or a large wad of cash, I like my car, and if Volkswagen were somehow able to bring it into compliance with no compromises, that’d be an ideal scenario for me.

    • 0 avatar
      karonetwentyc

      “Although many TDI owners are excited about the prospect of a buyout or a large wad of cash, I like my car, and if Volkswagen were somehow able to bring it into compliance with no compromises, that’d be an ideal scenario for me.”

      Speaking as the owner of a 2012 Jetta TDi, you and I are very much on the same page about this.

      About the only acceptable alternative would be for VW to take the car back, say “here’s your 2016 model with the EPA-compliant EA288 engine, fully-loaded like the 2012 you have now,” and… That’s it. For the way that we use our car, replacing it with a gas-engined model really wouldn’t be suitable, and until VW starts putting compliant diesels back on the lots there just isn’t anything we’re interested in from them.

      That said, I am curious as to the differences between EU and US models that would prevent the same fix from being applied. Somehow, I doubt it’s a technical issue but rather a regulatory one, but that is speculation on my behalf.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      The Euro standards are more lenient that the US standards, plus it certainly sounds like there is a wink and a nod going on here to spare VW. It will be interesting to see what happens when an independent person or organization tests one of the “fixed” cars fully.

      It would be nice if they went ahead and picked up or at least borrowed a car and did a fully battery of tests on it before and then once again after it has been “fixed”.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      the Euro standards are looser than EPA, and there seems to be a lot more “wink-wink, nudge-nudge” between EU regulators and automakers w.r.t. “optimizing” test parameters. and the result from the EU emissions non-compliance has been mostly “Right, got you. Here’s a moderate fine, don’t do it again.”

      EPA, on the other hand, doesn’t f*** around. I think VW believed the risk of cheating was as low as it was in EU, and were gobsmacked when it turned out the EPA was ready and willing to drop a ton of bricks on them.

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        Not just Europe, they are doing the same thing here. Other issue is owners could not care less and are holding onto their vehicles
        But this comment by Steph Willems shows how out of touch TTAC writers are
        ” This sounds like a loaner, but being Europe, there’s still a chance they’ll hand you a bike.)”
        Really,? I hope he was joking.

    • 0 avatar
      NickS

      “You guys might have wanted to show a EU-market Volkswagen”

      If you squint and use some imagination maybe that background would look like a German farmhouse with geraniums on the windows …

      (fair warning: I tried it myself and the nms still comes through).

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      Could be possible. EU fixes are fairly straightforward, so see what happens.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Clean, Powerful, Fuel Efficient… Pick ONE.

        The cars are up to 4,000% dirtier than when the cheat mode *kicks in*.
        It depends on what you mean by “straight forward”. Something’s gotta give somewhere.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    This sounds fishy. If a low cost technical solution exists, why did VW go through the effort to develop and install defeat devices in the first place?

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      That, too.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Define low cost. If it was just $1 per vehicle that on the face of it sounds really low cost but multiply that by 800,000 and that is enough money to pay a nice bonus to the person who came up with the idea and still put a significant amount of extra money in VW’s pocket.

      • 0 avatar
        karonetwentyc

        Consider this: the cheat had been sitting on the shelf for close to a decade by the time it was actually implemented, so – from the perspective of emissions software development being a line item in the overall software development budget for the affected vehicles – the money had already been spent. Why spend the development capital a second time when there was an existing solution that could be implemented for next to nothing (and the associated budget redirected elsewhere)?

        Admittedly, where I’m not sure that this argument holds up is in how well 10-year-old code could be brought forward into the affected emissions systems: the costs of updating or translating older code to run on a newer platform could conceivably exceed the budgeted cost of simply developing and implementing a newer version of the software based on the old idea.

        Someone more familiar with ECU architecture would need to speak directly to the implementation aspect, but the idea does seem to be worth consideration.

        • 0 avatar
          NickS

          a lot can be rewritten, but code itself is ultimately constrained by the underlying hardware, i.e., the engine and its controls. the code itself is a model of the engine, and the limiting factor is emissions on one side, and performance, mileage, and durability on the other. If you didn’t hit both after trying at development time, barring any new breakthrough tech discovered since development (and also easily implanted), you cannot squeeze more of everything later on. You need new hardware (engine and other power-train systems) and associated components to get there (i.e., that whole thing about turnips and blood).

          EDIT to above: what do you mean by “updating or translating older code to run on a newer platform” — they are updating old code on the original old platform. They are not adding/changing any hardware of significance, save for that uber-fancy flow straightener. It would be the same as ECU patch on an existing car, which does happen from time to time.
          ——————-
          Also curious to know, how do you use your TDI that a gas engine won’t do the trick for you as a replacement?

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          It really isn’t about the code itself it is about the concept of programing a set of conditions that causes the computer to implement full emissions strategy or not.

          So no the cheat code is not some complex set of algorithms. It is just setting the values required to put the vehicle into full emissions compliance mode.

          The one guy that did a total hack of the system showed that at the heart of it all was a timer and the value of the intake air temp reading. If the vehicle had ran longer than the time it took to do the euro test and the intake air temp was above some incredibly low number like -200 degrees then the computer stopped running the emissions strategy.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    More spin from VW.. Does this fix speak to JB’s article that the Euro spec VW’s are made better than their US export siblings? Or is this some protection from EU enforcers? Def some funny business going on here.

  • avatar
    LIKE TTAC.COM ON FACEBOOK

    How many cars can VW fix in a day? If they can manage a thousand per day, working six days a week, it will still take them over two and a half years just to fix the European cars.
    This self-created mega-problem isn’t going away any time soon.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      A thousand a day is very conservative. There must be that many dealers in Europe, and each has several service bays.
      I’ve also seen “authorized garages” in Europe that aren’t associated with new car dealers but have full factory service support (tools, training, software, parts).

      In other words, the majority of these cars will be updated during regular scheduled service.

    • 0 avatar
      samuelmorse

      I live in Europe and went last week thru the fixing of my 2.0 TDI car. Must confess I was somewhat reluctant since my vehicle performs great and I was concerned about the fix having a negative impact on engine performance or fuel mileage, but was assured that they should not been affected so I drove to the servicing dealer, where they did the fix in one hour. The car performs now exactly like before, so my doubt is if they have really doing anything or by the contrary they have been smart enough to find a cheap and quick way to solve the problem…

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “The KBA has also confirmed unequivocally that the technical solutions for these models will not result in any changes to the fuel consumption, performance or noise emissions of the vehicles concerned…”

    That leaves durability, and/or cost, and/or DEF consumption. Obviously, VW is eating the cost of this repair, and durability is TBD.

    So my guess is that VW cheated solely due to cost containment, which hasn’t worked out so well.

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      Assume DEF consumption doubles. That’s probably conservative. How much would that add to operating costs? I looked up the price of DEF solution and found a 2.5 gal container at Sam’s Club for $11 or about $3 per gallon.
      If you use a gal. a month, doubling DEF consumption would only add another $3 a month running cost. Not exactly breaking the bank.
      Can anyone who owns a VW diesel comment on DEF consumption preferably on basis of volume DEF consumed per 1000 miles driven.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        I do not know how big the DEF tank on my Golf SportWagen is. The first fill-up would have been paid-for by Volkswagen as part of the free minatenance program, but I was at 9,900 miles and was about to embark on a 1000+ mile trip in the middle of the night. I didn’t want to run out on the road. So I filled it up for about $8 at a truck stop. The second fill-up, at 20K miles, cost me $9 at my independent mechanic, and I had that done at the same time as the 20K-mile oil change. The DEF, as it stands, is a complete non-issue.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        The proper dosing is between 2-3% of the fuel consumed, if it is dosing at a rate that gives full emissions compliance.

        So low end is going to be around .4 gallons per 1000 miles and high end ~.75 gallons per 1000 miles.

        I expect to see a significant increase in the number of TDIs going into their version of turtle mode when the real world average fuel economy (and not the one time high that TDI evangelists report) and the “I’ll get to it next week” mentality catches up with drivers and they find them with an empty DEF tank the first time.

    • 0 avatar
      I_S

      I am deeply skeptical of ‘solutions’ with all positives, no negatives. In all likelihood, both fuel economy and power will suffer due to exhaust meddling, and this loss will be compensated by reprogramming the turbo and other powertrain components, leading, as you alluded to, to lower durability.

      I would also be concerned for follow up lawsuits alleging that VW lied about power/emissions change during normal driving after the fix is implemented. While legally they’ll be in the right (EU testing cycle being akin to curing cancer in a petri dish), this is a PR bomb waiting to explode in their face.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Laughable. All TDI Amaroks in Australia have already been “fixed”, perhaps since OZ has the loosest emissions standards this side of the Congo. All they’re doing is removing the “cheat device”, and away they go. Full dirty emissions, all the time.

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