Volkswagen's Diesel Fix Actually Makes Emissions Worse, Consumer Group Claims

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
volkswagen s diesel fix actually makes emissions worse consumer group claims

A software fix designed to bring sidelined 2.0-liter diesel Volkswagen models into compliance just made the vehicle dirtier, a European consumer group claims.

According to Reuters, the Italian consumer group Altroconsumo tested an Audi Q5 that underwent Volkswagen’s technical fix, only to find that nitrous oxide emissions were 25 percent higher than before.

The Q5, like the bulk of the 11 million recalled 2009–2015 TDI models, was equipped with the EA189 Euro 5 engine. Volkswagen’s European fix for that engine relies on software only, while the Euro-market 1.6-liter TDI requires a piece of mesh to regulate air flow as well as the software fix.

European Union emissions regulations aren’t as strict as those mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but they aren’t lax, either. Several million of the recalled vehicles are being called back to dealers for an approved fix. In response to the test, the European Consumer Organization (BEUC) issued a statement calling the fix “a fudge.”

“This is another blow for EU consumers and a new dimension of the VW scandal,” stated Monique Goyens, general director of the BEUC. “This test by our Italian member clearly demonstrates that VW’s solution to deactivate the defeat device is not reliable.”

She went on to criticize the company for not offering European owners any compensation for its scandal. Stricter emissions laws in the U.S. meant a pricey mechanical fix was required to bring the EA189 engine into compliance. The company agreed to a buyback and compensation program amounting to more than $15 billion.

“Volkswagen justifies compensation payments to US consumers with the argument that their cars cannot be as easily fixed as in Europe,” Goyens stated. “This excuse now seems to be built on sand. VW must compensate European consumers. This is the only possible way forward for VW to make up for this ongoing consumer detriment.”

The EPA has yet to agree to a preferred fix for U.S. owners who want to keep their vehicles on the road. According to the settlement, 85 percent of affected vehicles must be bought back or repaired by June 2019 or the automaker will face penalties of $100 million for every percentage point below that number. In total, 475,000 2.0-liter VW and Audi TDI models are affected by the settlement.

The 2015 model year brought a new 2.0-liter TDI engine — the extensively revamped EA288. That mill is outfitted with an AdBlue urea injection system designed to scrub NOX from the vehicle’s exhaust, making it arguably easier to bring into compliance.

(This story has been corrected. It originally stated that the recall rate for the fix option must meet 85 percent of the vehicles not bought back by the manufacturer. That is incorrect, and the copy has been updated.)

Join the conversation
2 of 29 comments
  • Pwrwrench Pwrwrench on Jul 08, 2016

    "Of course, the tractor driver is not affected – its everyone behind them." Unless there's another truck or bus from the 70s, or even the 60s, in front of them. Yep the air in SoCal was much worse in the 50s and 60s than today. However there were also many more heavy industrial plants around then. Steel mills, cement plants, tire factories and others put a huge amount of particulates, Nox, and hydrocarbons into the air. Most of those factories are gone now. That production has moved to Asia or Latin America and is one of the reasons for the dirty air there and the cleaner air here. Certainly the emission controls on autos and trucks has also been a part of better air quality in Socal and many other areas as well. Many parts of Commiefornia do not meet the Clean Air Act standards, and likely never will. Unless there's a big earthquake or some other event that causes 70% of the population to go somewhere else or disappear. And don't get me started on MTBE.

  • Jimal Jimal on Jul 08, 2016

    We're still debating the buyback versus the fix for my wife's Passat. At this point we're leaning toward keeping the car, taking the cash, and waiting to see what happens. Either they come up with a fix that is acceptable and we keep the car, the fix is not acceptable and we dump the car... Or, as the deadline approaches, if Volkswagen can't come up with an approved fix and they need more cars to meet the 85% threshold, they end up doing a second buyback (minus the fix cash) for those of us who stuck it out.

  • The Oracle The Spyder and Ryker platforms are great for folks who want an open air experience but may not want it on 2 wheels. I’ve had a Spyder RS-S since new in 2012 and it’s a fun machine with the manual transmission. When ridden hard, fuel economy goes well below 36mpg, but 2-up riding is great and the frunk is great for running errands.
  • The Oracle These pricing pressures have been around for decades and the traditional ICE supply base is about to be upended.
  • Druni Thanks. Great.
  • NaMiNo Thanks for the recap, Tim! It's always interesting to get a glimpse of what's happening at auto shows. The focus on EVs aligns with the industry's growing shift towards electrification. And optimism about the future, along with more vehicle debuts, is a good sign for the automotive world. I always go to site here for more writting ideas for my blog. Your photos tell the story beautifully, even with auto-show lighting challenges.
  • Ajla I wanted one of these a lot back when they were new.